Harry needs to decide what to do with VDV and Defoe as Tottenham Hotspur seek a return to the promised land of the top four...
Draws, particularly picked up away, are sometimes hard to process. Midway through yesterday’s second half at St. James, I tweeted: “I’d rather excitedly rip your arm off for a point right now.” Naturally, Jermain Defoe then rifled home and suddenly the prospect of a draw felt weekend ruining. Sure enough, because Spurs are Spurs and Sebastien Bassong continues to play like a contestant on Most Haunted, the inevitable second equalizer arrived.
Once the adrenaline and mild fury from our mini-collapse had ebbed away a bit, I was coaxed by fellow Tottenham sympathizers (and a girlfriend tired of me hurling abuse at Luka Modric) into accepting that, yes, it probably was a decent point. Hardy, robust Newcastle sit unbeaten for two reasons: a fairly welcoming opening set of fixtures and a line-up built on common sense and work rate. Everybody just fits. There’s a nice central midfielder and a mean one. Renaissance man Fabricio Coloccini now marshalls the backline with rare calmness. Demba Ba’s doing a very serviceable Didier Drogba impression (West Ham would surely have avoided the drop had they signed him six months earlier) and Hatem Ben Arfa will provide a nice X factor.
Regardless, Shola Ameobi’s wonder goal still smarted, big-time. Going forward, there appears to be one big issue for Harry to resolve (even beyond the incredibly girly lavender kits). Who’s going to win out: Rafael van der Vaart or Jermain Defoe?
Redknapp’s admitted he now faces a straight call between the two. And despite three goals in three Premier League games and undoubted world class offensive abilities, the pendulum of support seems to be falling the way of Defoe. I’ll admit: I’m a huge Van der Vaart defender (odd seeing his name so close to “defend”). A soppy sentimentalist in the worst Spurs tradition, I’ll always fall weak-kneed for an exotically-named maverick with an ability to weave magic. Of course, there are always downsides to these heartbreakers. Otherwise, Rafa would still be in Real Madrid’s first team. But you persist with these characters for good reason. Rafa scored a quarter of our league goals last season and assisted another eight. He’s got a beautiful fondness for scoring against Arsenal and yesterday was his third in three. Much like with Jurgen, it still feels quite nice that someone so recognised internationally turns out for us.
Spurs tend to look a bit lifeless with the sole striker isolated, Van der Vaart often an agitated spectator and the wingers too, well, wide to create a fluid attacking “3” that most 4-2-3-1s thrive off.
But, and it’s a titanic but, there are the Rafa negatives. The entire team has to fit around him. Which means 4-4-1-1, or if Tottenham are feeling cavalier, 4-2-3-1. It certainly doesn’t mean a 4-4-2 with Van der Vaart sulking as a right wing liability. Now, perhaps Spurs lack the subtlety of coaching required to tease the best out of a 4-2-3-1. After all, better teams than Tottenham manage to remain potent attacking threats with just one “proper” striker. But Spurs tend to look a bit lifeless, with the sole striker isolated, Van der Vaart often an agitated spectator and the wingers too, well, wide to create a fluid attacking “3” that most 4-2-3-1s thrive off. So the majority of Spurs fans call for a good old-fashioned 4-4-2.
Avoiding these calls was easy last season. Our strikers were rubbish, injured or both. But now, joyfully, Defoe is back in the living. Despite riling Adebayor quite spectacularly with his last minute shot-greed yesterday, the JD/Ade partnership complements each other nicely. The big man, little man combo is a Redknapp staple, and certainly at White Hart Lane, fits the crowd’s ambition. It also now feels like Defoe’s got one big season left in him before he plateaus, and it’d be irritating to stifle it. Like most strikers, he excels as a regular.
So, who to pick? Both are scoring, which eliminates one simple demotion criteria. Redknapp faces much criticism for selecting based on reputation and he’s yet to ever drop an even vaguely fit Van der Vaart. But it feels like it’s coming. Quite how Rafa reacts will be fascinating and potentially, dressing room threatening. Frankly, I fear the worst, but hope I’m proved wrong. And in selecting the best man based on fixture and opposition, hopefully Redknapp’s detractors will be proved wrong. Because that seems the best way to overcome this “pleasant” problem. May the most prolific man win.
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