Friday, 28 October 2011
Rafa: we need the eggs
The big question ahead of Sunday's game is a strange one: will Rafa start?
Yeah, Rafa, the guy that slotted two fine goals and won us three points away at Blackburn. That Rafa. Our leading goalscorer, you know the guy.
It was the big question this time last week, as well, with much debate as to whether/where he should fit into the line up. And when he was announced ahead of Defoe, there were some dissenting voices. One of them sounded suspiciously like mine. In fairness, though, I am an idiot.
And yet, questions remain. Not about Rafa's quality as a player. But how he fits into our meat-n-potatoes system - and how much we're prepared to change, adapt, sacrifice in order to accommodate him.
So, let's look at the options. I don't think he should play in goal. Not unless it's a straight choice between him and Gomes.
Let's rule out the back four as well. And assume that in midfield we have Bale on the left, with Modric and one of his minders (Parker or Sandro) next to him.
That leaves the right of midfield, up front, or just off the striker.
If we play a nominal 4-4-2, then playing him wide right is a risk, as he is a free spirit/law unto himself and will go looking for work/abandon any sense of defensive responsibility (delete according to generosity of spirit/levels of Rafa fanboyism).
If you play him up front or 'just off', you negate the possibility of Adebayor and Defoe striking up a proper partnership. You could play him with Defoe, but I don't think that works; our wandering star leaves the little guy too isolated. The worst (best?) example of this was last season's home game against West Ham where we ended up playing, essentially, with one up front, at the Lane, in a must-win game against a not great side.
Finally, of course, you could play him with Pav... okay, no, you absolutely couldn't. Jesus, as a pair they'd have the work ethic of Cheech and Chong.
So, the riddle of Rafa. It's a bit like a joke told by this blog's patron saint, Woody Allen, in Annie Hall. He's discussing how love is so infuriating and irrational, whist also being the only thing worth living for. He tells a story of a guy who goes to the doctors and says 'Doc, my brothers crazy, he thinks he's a chicken'; the doctor says 'Well why don't you turn him over to a psychiatrist?'; the guys says, 'I would, but we need the eggs'.
Rafa: he thinks he's irreplaceable, he thinks he can win games single-handed, he thinks he'll score every time he takes to the pitch. We could, of course, dismiss all this vainglorious nonsense and just drop him. But, well, we need the goals.