Think of Adel Taarabt and your mind instantly flickers to the petulance that he has displayed during his time in England. Since landing in the capital to sign for Tottenham back in 2007, the Moroccan has kicked up a stink wherever he has gone. But beneath the irritable exterior is an extraordinary football player. The 24-year-old has shown glimpses of why he has such confidence in himself at such a high level and why he refuses to accept that he is a second division player, but amid the guile and creativity is a sense of wasted potential. One man who believes Taarabt is still a worthy investment, signing the player on a season-long loan deal, is the man who first introduced him to the Premier League, Martin Jol.
Fulham have never been the most exciting team in the country, nor have they ever been overly complimented regarding their style of play. But Taarabt is arriving at a club assembled of technically gifted outlets. The one man who stands out, of course, is Dimitar Berbatov, who has established himself as one of the most gifted and stylish players in the league. His nonchalant approach to the game is admired by plenty, but he is not afraid of grafting for his team when needed. The former Manchester United man made an average of two defensive actions per game last term for the Cottagers, while scoring 15 goals and creating 46 chances going forward.
Another of Jol’s inventive outlets is Bryan Ruiz, who surpassed his entire roster of team-mates when it came to carving out opportunities last season. Ruiz also chipped in with five goals, but it was very much his link-up play that had the Fulham fans purring.
Although Jol prefers his side to operate in a flat 4-4-1-1 with Berbatov the focal point, structuring those three mentioned behind a different main striker – perhaps Darren Bent, who has been linked with a move from Aston Villa – in a more conventional 4-2-3-1, means you have an attack which has the ability to out-gun the majority of offensive units in the league. Failing that, having Damien Duff and Taarabt either side or Ruiz just behind Berbatov is just as exciting.
The move, understandably, has been welcomed with a sense of caution from Fulham fans, but they will be quietly looking forward to seeing the forward strut his stuff at the Cottage, especially as they’ve nabbed him off their west London rivals.
The Moroccan’s 76 chances created eclipses anything a Fulham player mustered last season, and his urgency to drive forward will also be a welcome addition to the squad. Fulham often lacked a certain bite in attacking areas last season and sometimes struggled to penetrate defences, but with Taarabt entering the frame with his treasure box of tricks and his ability to shoot from distance, a snappier, more dynamic attacking unit is likely to emerge next term.
The move, on paper, looks a shrewd one. Plucking a relegated side’s main threat for a year in a low-risk deal, knowing that he will enhance a key area of your squad. However, it is very much the goings on behind the curtain that the success of this deal will hinge on, and I don’t envy Jol trying to keep this bad apple shining.