In a summer that hasn’t brought about a great deal of change for Tottenham in regards to new players, they will once again be calling on their top performers of last season to fight for a place in Europe.
One major area in which they flourished last year was the midfield, spurred on by the fantastic form of Rafael van der Vaart. Whilst a lot of the talk recently has been surrounding Luka Modricwith a possible move away from White Hart Lane, one of most important pieces in the first team jigsaw still has to be the Dutchman.
Harry Redknapp recently admitted that he felt rather short in central midfield with the injuries to Sandro and Huddlestone, and with Wilson Palacios still returning to fitness. It appears that Spurs are looking for a central midfielder as Harry said ‘That’s an area we need to strengthen’. Rumours are currently going around of them having bids for Lassana Diarra rejected and it is believed that the chairman, Daniel Levy, will find cash to spend if necessary. But for me the struggle lies in the goalscoring department. With none of their front line really firing on all cylinders last season, it may once again be up to Van der Vaart to chip in with goals from attacking midfield and reproduce the form that saw him finish as their top scorer in the League last season.
With Robbie Keane looking set to depart before the end of the window, this leaves them with Roman Pavlyuchenko, Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe up-front. On paper this seems fine, but Redknapp wasn’t happy with Defoe last season and often left him out of the starting line-up, and Pavlyuchenko doesn’t appear to be able to produce consistent goalscoring form.
One option which perhaps hasn’t been so favourable in the past, could be to re-introduce Giovani dos Santos to the line-up which could add some invention and energy. But to me it seems like the cash set to be made available for a central midfielder could be better spent on a 20-goal-a-season striker who Spurs can rely on to stick it in the onion bag week in week out. There were rumours of a bid for Porto’s Hulk, which although pricey would make more sense to me.
There’s no doubt that Tottenham are blessed with quality players who can assist in the goalscoring process, with the likes of Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Steven Pienaar. None seemed to be more prominent in the League last season than Van der Vaart, who surprised many people with just how quickly he was able to have an impact at Spurs.
His awareness, quick feet, passing and movement was often key in the build up and execution of attacking moves and flowing football. Not only that, but the way in which he added goals of his own affirmed him as a very confident and accomplished attacker or even support striker. At times he epitomised the ethos surrounding the ambitious and attractive football that Spurs were capable of producing and his presence was sorely missed when he had to spend time on the sidelines due to injury.
Now with the top teams in the division only appearing to get stronger, it could be a tough season for Tottenham as they see more direct competition for European places. There will seemingly be no easy games against anyone from at least 8th and upwards in the league, and they will have to have players who can create chances out of very little as well as finish them clinically.
Van der Vaart appears to have this in his locker, but he can’t do both at the same time, and needs team mates with the desire and persistence to carve out these opportunities and convert them into goals.
The problem for me is that the strike force doesn’t seem to be totally together as a unit, possibly due to an uncertainty in the pecking order. There is often speculation as to who is going to start up-front and not as much cohesion as with the top clubs.
Bringing in a world class striker who can be guaranteed to perform every week would change that and instil confidence and consistency, without so much reliance on the midfield. However I fear that once again, although it makes him look very good, Van der Vaart will be employed to do somebody else’s job next season as well as his own in the attacking third.
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