Saturday, September 11, 2010

How Van Der Vaart will fit in at Tottenham?

Harry Redknapp managed to squeeze through the deadline-day deal just in time, and few would argue that at £8.7 million, Rafael Van Der Vaart was difficult to turn down.

Redknapp's tactics on the pitch might have been called into question on several occasions. No so, his transfer dealings. Transfer market moves for Peter Crouch, Younes Kabul and more recently William Gallas have proved to be particularly shrewd, as has luring Jermain Defoe back to White Hart Lane.

The general consensus among Tottenham fans is that the club sorely needed a striker, not another name to clog up a already bursting crop of talented midfielders.

But could Van Der Vaart nonetheless prove to be another stroke of Redknapp transfer market genius? Or will he just unnecessarily unbalance the Spurs squad?

How the Dutchman will fit in at White Hart Lane.

Playing strengths

Van Der Vaart is a creative player, who revels in the playmaker role just behind the strikers.
He is a highly skilled player, who can decide the game with a moment of genius. He can set up as well as score goals – finding the net 11 times in 68 games for Real Madrid and providing nine assists. He is also a free-kick specialist.

Most importantly for Redknapp, and in all probability a huge factor in his decision to snap up the Dutchman, is his versatility.

Van Der Vaart can play on the left wing if needed, and this flexibility could be priceless to Redknapp as he bids to challenge on the domestic and European fronts.

Playing weaknesses

Van Der Vaart is not physical player, and this shortcoming could be exposed more in the Premiership, rather than in the Champions league.

He doesn't have the strength or work ethic of other top attacking midfielders, and could get found out, particularly in the frenetic  Premier League.

He will certainly need to improve on the physical side to his game, or he will quickly lose the at-times fickle Spurs fans.

He lacks pace and is also very one footed - his reluctance to use his right foot is a major flaw in his game.

Essential experience

Van Der Vaart is seasoned international. He has scored 16 goals in 83 international caps  - not a bad return for a midfielder. He also has vital Champions League experience, something few Tottenham players can boast.

And in European competition, experience is not to be scoffed at, with naiveté so often proving to be the undoing of talented teams, particularly away from home (remember Manchester United's nightmare in Istanbul all those years ago?)

Tottenham nearly found this out the hard way at Young Boys Bern in the Champions League playoff. It was Spurs who looked like the boys, and they were lucky to avoid a hammering. Much of this was down to the midfield, which at times appeared clueless against their pressing and dynamic counterparts, and seemed to lack cohesion and positional sense.

Tottenham won't be so lucky in a tough Champions League group including Inter Milan , Werder Bremen and FC Twente Enschede , and an experienced head in the middle might just be what Spurs need.

Tactical compatibility

Redknapp has been renowned for rotating his midfield at Tottenham – and has so far just about managed to keep everyone happy. Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon appear to currently be sure starters on the flanks, and Redknapp will be reluctant to drop the stylish Hoddle-esque Tom Huddlestone after he was conspicuously absent for most of the first half in Switzerland.

With Luka Modric out until late October, on the face of things, the battling- but-careless-in-possession Wilson Palacois, Niko Kranjcar and now Van Der Vaart will be vying for that fourth midfield spot.

Nevertheless, this could be where Van Der Vaart's versatility comes into the equation.
Particularly in European away games, Redknapp may choose to play Van Der Vaart as a support striker, behind Jermain Defoe or Peter Crouch. The Dutchman could slot into the midfield when Spurs lose possession to ensure Redknapp's men aren't outnumbered there, and he could provide a vital link between the midfield and the front man when Tottenham have the ball.

In home games, Redknapp could choose to give Van Der Vaart a free role behind two strikers, and dispense with one of the midfielders– most likely Palacios. From there he would be difficult to pick up and could complete a dangerous attack, which could potentially be devastating when Bale and Lennon are surging forward.

On the other hand, Redknapp could choose to use Van Der Vaart on the left of midfield. This will push Bale to left-back, probably at the expense of Benoit Assou-Ekotto . And Van Der Vaart's tendency to cut inside could pull opponents out of position and free up space for Bale to work his magic.

Defensively though, this could leave the left a little exposed, and is something Redknapp is no doubt thinking about.

Modric's return could complicate things even further, as he is most similar to Van Der Vaart in terms of his primary and secondary playing positions.

Redknapp will have to use all his player juggling and man management skills to keep everyone happy.

However, in a grueling season with expected  injuries and suspensions, the midfield competition may prove to be a "good problem" for the Spurs boss.


If Van Der Vaart introduces a bit of toughness to his game, he will prove to be a top acquisition for Spurs.

And the 27-year-old could be an outside bet for the Premiership's top scoring midfielder.

However, don’t be surprised if his arrival unsettles some Spurs players – notably Palacios and Kranjcar – and they start looking for January moves.


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