The news that Fulham’s Bryan Ruiz will be out of action until the New Year with his hamstring injury might not be of great significance to some football observers. Indeed, the Costa Rican has not enjoyed the most distinguished of spells in England to date since his big-money move to the Cottagers from FC Twente in August 2011.
However, most Fulham fans will today be cursing their luck that one of their best, most improved and most inventive players this season, will now be ruled out of action for a crucial period due to an injury picked up on international duty.
After scoring only two goals in a disappointing, injury-hit campaign last season, much more was expected by both Cottagers’ supporters and manager Martin Jol from the man who was once being touted around Europe’s top clubs after almost single-handedly delivering Steve McClaren’s Twente side the Dutch title ahead of heavyweights Ajax and PSV Eindhoven.
While this season may have started slowly once more, Ruiz exploded as Fulham did in October and early November with some sparkling displays and fantastic long-range strikes against Reading and Everton. Indeed, his performance in tandem with Dimitar Berbatov at the Emirates in the Cottagers’ dramatic 3-3 draw with Arsenal gave rise to rave reviews from Jol, supporters and pundits alike.
Thus, with the Cottagers lacking a win since mid-October, without even a goal since mid-November and both their form and league position rapidly deteriorating, Ruiz’s absence for potentially the next five league matches at least could prove to be a monumental blow for the West Londoners.
The 27-year-old undoubtedly has his faults. His work-rate, much like Berbatov’s, can leave much to be desired while his lack of physicality can often hinder him in the rough and tumble of the Premier League, particularly away from home. However, when at Craven Cottage and particularly when on the ball, Ruiz has that all-important ability and technique to conjure something out of absolutely nothing and win a match almost on his own.
With three of Fulham’s next five Premier League games coming at home against Newcastle, Southampton and Swansea, Ruiz is exactly the sort of player Fulham need for those occasions.
Additionally his partnership with Berbatov, while not initially appearing to be the perfect match in terms of both their languid styles on and off the ball, had begun to pay dividends with both Reading and then Arsenal simply not being able to control the talents of the two maverick forwards.
In Ruiz’s absence, Jol can call upon the likes of Mladen Petric and Hugo Rodallega in reserve, two strikers of contrasting abilities, with Petric more in the creative Ruiz-mould and Rodallega a more conventional striker. The Dutchman will need both to firmly step up to the mark in the coming weeks if Fulham are to overcome Ruiz’s absence and rise up the table once more.
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