Martin Jol has challenged Dimitar Berbatov to recapture the form that he showed in his debut campaign at Craven Cottage.
The Bulgarian striker scored 15 goals for the Whites last season but has just two strikes to his name from nine appearances in 2013/14, and his Manager is keen to see him find the net on a more regular basis.
“Dimitar, of course, should do better than he did before,” Jol stressed. “He’s always been a player who will score one in two or one in three, but don’t forget that he had to do a different job for the team; he had to play in the hole and he’s probably more like a number nine who likes his freedom.
“Of course, he’s not a real box player like the big target man in England, but he’s certainly a goalscorer. He wants to do well every time. Last season, if he wasn’t here then we would have had a problem as he was our main goalscorer. Berbatov knows that he’s an important player to us but he must come up with the goods. In his style, he works hard. If you look at his stats, against Crystal Palace for example, they’re good.
“It’s hot and cold. Sometimes, if we get a good result like we did against Palace, everyone says he’s the best on the globe and five days later against Southampton he’s walking in the park, he’s strolling, they say. There’s always room for criticism; if we don’t have a result, Berbatov will be the main man who will be criticised, and he knows that.”
With Brede Hangeland still out with a sciatic nerve problem, Berbatov will lead the side against Manchester United on Saturday, with Jol confirming in his press conference: “My second skipper is Berbatov. He tries to do a bit of talking but don’t forget that he wants to lead by example.
“He might give one or two sentences, and that’s a lot for him! If you know him, he’s very quiet. He carries an authority and that’s why he’s my second skipper, because they look up to him.”
A win over Berbatov’s former team at Craven Cottage would see the Whites move to within a point of United in the Barclays Premier League table. It’s not been an ideal start to the campaign for either side, but Jol has urged calm with plenty of matches still to be played.
“People probably stretch their imagination; it’s not as bad as it seems, nothing is as bad as it seems,” he said. “We’ve got 10 points, it’s not great, we should have had 12 at least. I still feel that one or two good results will bring us back to business and then you’re in the right position, maybe 10th or 11th. We are 14th now and it’s not that bad but we should do better.
“I want to be focused and I tell the players all the time that they need to be free but they have to be focused as well, and you can’t fault us for application. If you saw my team, for example, against Leicester City they did everything to come back into the game. So it’s about balance, it’s about quality and you need goals at the right moment, like we scored against Crystal Palace.”