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Fulham: Jol’s band of brothers need to bond

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A look at any of Fulham’s recent teamsheets would leave you with inspiration for winning a game of Scrabble.

Ashkan Dejagah, Alexander Kacaniklic, Giorgos Karagounis, Urby Emanuelson and Stanislav Manolev have all made appearances for the Whites in recent weeks, and whilst we are yet to see midfielder Eyong Enoh in action, football writers can only breathe a sigh of relief at the fact that reserve goalkeeper Csaba Somogyi hasn’t got further than the bench yet.

Regardless of the names, what has been apparent is the changing nature of the Fulham team.

Now incredibly reliant on Dimitar Berbatov, Martin Jol’s side appears to be built solely to get the best out of the Bulgarian.

Gone the days of a resilient Fulham based on the consistent performances of the likes of Danny Murphy, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Zamora, the current side is set up solely for their forward. The results have been mixed.

Berbatov has scored just three goals in his last 14 Premier League games, and almost as a direct result Fulham have only won three of their last 18.

Currently six points above 18th-placed Reading, Jol and his 12th-placed side have work to do in order to join the teams who already appear to have done enough to secure Premier League survival – namely those from West Bromwich Albion in ninth and up.

Relying on the enigmatic talents of Berbatov is always going to produce both good and bad days, and Fulham have had plenty of those during a season in which they’ve once again shown themselves to frequently be soft touches on the road. They’ve won just two of 13 away games.

As the season heads towards its climax Jol will be looking to his unlikely band of brothers to offer Berbatov more help, to become more than just new names on those Fulham teamsheets and to step into their own limelights.

The apparent returns of old heads such as Mahamadou Diarra and Simon Davies in the matches to come will certainly help matters, but it is those players around Berbatov who really need to step up.

Dejagah was a Bundesliga champion with Wolfsburg in 2009. Kacaniklic was highly-rated during his youth career at Liverpool. Karagounis was a European champion with Greece in 2004 and has played in a string of Champions League games for clubs of the quality of Panathinaikos, Inter Milan and Benfica. The same can be said of Emanuelson at Ajax and AC Milan, whilst Manolev has played 29 times for Bulgaria.

These are not rookies.

These are players who have the experience and the quality to step up and perform for the team, and when added to the efforts already put in by the likes of Mark Schwarzer, John Arne Riise, Brede Hangeland, Aaron Hughes, Steve Sidwell and Damien Duff then a solid platform should be assembled. Bryan Ruiz and Mladen Petric add quality, whilst Berbatov is their matchwinner.

Results need to be picked up sooner rather than later though, as Fulham strive to avoid becoming that one team who everyone waits to see get sucked into the relegation mire in the coming weeks.

On paper they have names to ensure that doesn’t happen, but games aren’t played on paper, they’ll be played against Stoke and Sunderland in the coming week and a half; two matches which look crucial to Fulham’s hopes of pulling away from any danger.

To do that plenty of Jol’s players will have to become more than just multinational names on a teamsheet, and instead become names that the Fulham fans can remember and trust that they can lead their team to safety.

They should do just that, although football does have a habit of making fools of us all – just like Scrabble.

@Mark_Jones86

The Gameweek27 Preview is now available:

Gameweek 4 preview: Tevez to rule Britannia

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Just under half of you reading this can skip the next few paragraphs.

It’s not the traditional approach to the start of a piece that I’m usually hoping that you’ll read all the way through, I’ll give you that, but there isn’t much point in telling a lot of you what you already know.

Carlos Tevez (now £9.8m after a rapid price rise since the start of the season) can currently be seen in 48.9% of Fantasy Premier League teams, a staggering amount and testament to both the Argentinean’s low price at the start of the game and the form which has seen him score a goal in each of Manchester City’s three matches so far whilst racking up three assists too.

These may be famous last words, but Tevez looks focused, fully fit and prepared to stay away from South American golf courses.

His ‘lost’ campaign of last season is now forgotten about, and he now – admittedly aided by the injury to Sergio Aguero – has re-established himself as the focal point of City’s attack at the beginning of his side’s defence of their Premier League crown. He simply cannot be ignored by Fantasy bosses.

He can, however, be overlooked by his national manager Alejandro Sabella, who left Tevez out of his Argentina squad for the World Cup qualifiers at home to Paraguay and in Peru in the past week. Such words should be music to your ears.

Tevez will be fresh for Manchester City’s trip to Stoke on Saturday afternoon, a match that always carries its own levels of difficulty but one that Roberto Mancini’s side should emerge victorious from.

If they take the points from the Britannia, then expect Tevez to be picking up more than a few points of his own.

Elsewhere – 48.9% of you can come back now – it looks to be a big scoring Gameweek for players from Arsenal and Manchester United given their respective fixtures.

Unlike United, Arsenal have been solid at the back in their opening three games and there looks to be nothing to suggest that that solidity will stop when they entertain Southampton at the Emirates. However, before considering bringing in the likes of Thomas Vermaelen (£7.0m) and even cheap option Carl Jenkinson (£4.8m), Fantasy bosses should bear in mind that the Gunners’ next two fixtures after they play the Saints see them head for Manchester City before hosting Chelsea.

Perhaps it will pay to be more forward-thinking then, with the addition of Santi Cazorla (£9.1m) sure to increase the creativity within your team, and Lukas Podolski (£8.4m and still cheaper than Olivier Giroud) no doubt ready to impress after scoring his first goal for the club at Anfield last time out.

At Old Trafford the usual suspects will be eyeing goals with the visit of Wigan Athletic, but with selling the family silver now required if you want to afford Robin van Persie (£13.4m), perhaps a gamble on Danny Welbeck (£8.4m) could prove fruitful. Midfield options are also plentiful, and with Shinji Kagawa (£8.6m) reportedly suffering a knock on international duty with Japan, Tom Cleverley (£6.0m) could be thrust into the more forward role we saw him occupy for England over the past week.

It is a man who left United behind who could prove the most astute addition for this Gameweek though, with Dimitar Berbatov (£6.9m) looking terrific value ahead of what is sure to be his first Fulham start against West Brom at Craven Cottage.

The forward – whose retirement from international duty leaves him fresh for the weekend – will only see his value rise, and so it might pay to get in early.

Just as it did with Tevez a month ago.

@Mark_Jones86

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