Sunday, 12 June 2011
Spurs - an idiot's guide: Rafael van der Vaart
The original plan was to finish with 'The Strikers', but, in a pleasingly apposite summation of the man himself, I just couldn't figure out how to work in Rafael Van der Vaart.
Should he have made a fleeting appearance in the Central Midfield post? A wholly unconvincing one in the Wingers section?
Basically, is he actually a striker? Now then, I know Crouch, Defoe and dear old Pav have all prompted this exact same question at various points in the last 12 months, but with Rafa it really isn't pejorative, it's just a puzzle.
Let's answer an easy one first: Is he a great player? Absolutely. He's shown moments of real class, weighed in with goals and also has a big match/winning mentality that can only help our attitude to the big time leap from 'Ooh, thanks for inviting us' to 'What the fuck are you looking at?'
But, at times, he also unbalanced our side or, depending where you stand on the Harry debate, been poorly deployed to the detriment of the team as a whole.
Part of the problem is that he was apparently deemed undroppable. Small club in awe of big player, perhaps? Redknapp getting star struck?
Another factor seemed to be that either he wasn't keen on adhering to tactical and positional instructions - or he simply wasn't given any.
So, when he played out wide, we'd end up with one flank more or less unmanned and if he played up top he'd drop deep and look for the ball, sometimes taking it directly off the back four or just getting in Luka's way.
At home against West Ham, when he was partnered with Defoe, because they did a good, snarling job of shutting us down, VdV felt the need to drift back to try and spark something, meaning we effectively played against one of the worst teams in the league with just one (very small) striker.
A friend of mine rebutted all this with the argument that 'he's one of the best players we've ever signed, we got him for a bargain price, don't start wishing him away'.
Fair point. Also fair to highlight, again, the goal tally that (considering how many matches we won by slim margins) probably made the difference between a massively disappointing mid-table meh-fest and THE GREATEST SEASON EVER.
And, yes, it'll be interesting to see if a proper pre-season means he won't fade in the second half of the campaign (and the second half of most matches) this time around.
But if he stays, we've got to use him better, play him like a attacking 10 behind a razor-sharp striker and in front of a midfield four that should pick itself; he's got to be part of our system not a lavish adornment to it.
Or, y'know, someone who knows what they're talking about can work it out. I couldn't even write about him and JD in the same post, let alone play them in the same side.
Or, if someone offers us £20m, just take it and admit he doesn't suit our system.