Never have I known a player to cause such divide by one set of fans. Rafael Van see Vaart was hailed as the signing of the season last year as the Dutchman emphatically parachuted into North London, signing on the dotted line moments before the close of the transfer window.
Those who had gone to sleep earlier than anticipated were shocked to wake up and see that Spurs had signed a player of his outstanding quality with some pondering whether they were still dreaming.
His arrival boosted confidence around the lodge and within the Spurs faithful, many fearing the squad hadn’t been strengthened significantly prior to the beginning of the new season.
Nonetheless, a player of his exceptional talent signed for as little as the reported £8m fee was enough to convince the fans that’s another 4th place finish was on the cards.
And the goals started flowing from the former Real Madrid midfielder as himself and the now departed Peter Crouch linked up to detrimental effect and although Spurs weren’t playing with the same fluidity as the previous year, the team were still grinding out the wins that propelled them up the table.
However, that is where the problems began to arise, Redknapp had to switch his formation from the effective and 4th place gaining 4-4-2 to the rigid and unspectacular 4-4-1-1 with Van der Vaart sitting behind either Crouch, Jermain Defoe or Roman Pavlyuchenko.
All of sudden, Spurs were struggling to hit the back of the net on a regular basis as the strikers confidence dried up, so did the goals. Yet, it was hard to drop a player of Van der Vaart’s class and unless he was injured, he would be one of the first names on the teamsheet.
This is where the divide began in camp Van der Vaart. Some felt he was a bargain, a steal even, at £8m and his 15 league goals go someday to proving that. Others, however, feel there was a reason why Real Madrid released him for as little as £8m, many pointing to the ‘luxury player’ tag being the sole reason why he never quite made it as a Madrid player.
Yes, he is a luxury player but he is one of exceptional quality and his ability and experience on the pitch can be pivotal at the best of times.
Yet, his arrival has disrupted the rhythm of the starting XI with the 4-4-1-1 not being a ‘Spurs’ formation. The fact is, we didn’t have the strikers to play a 4-4-1-1 and for all the individual strengths of Defoe, Pavlyuchenko and Crouch, there weaknesses were evident whenever they played up front on their own.
However, the arrival of Emmanuel Adebayor has given Redknapp the option to select a player who has all the attributes needed to succeed up-top on his own.
The problem that remains is still whether or not to stick with the 4-4-1-1 or revert back to the 4-4-2. Yesterday, Redknapp was forced back into the familiar 4-4-2 following Van der Vaart’s hamstring injury with Defoe partnering Adebayor up front.
2-0 away from home and both strikers scoring, you can’t ask for much more especially against an in-form Wolves side at Molineux. But will Redknapp stick with his formation of choice?
That remains to be seen, as exciting as will to see Van der Vaart and Adebayor link up may seem, 4-4-2 is Tottenham’s best formation. The only other option would be to switch the Dutchman from the ‘number 10’ role out to the right-thing.
Aaron Lennon has excelled in the role for over a year now while Niko Kranjcar didn’t exactly do enough to suggest the role is his own. Van der Vaart played their last year in the 3-3 draw with Arsenal but it’s his fitness and inability to track back that worries me.
It’s a known fact that from the ‘number 10’ role, he can’t last the full 90 minutes so from the wing, he won’t last beyond 60 let along 90.
So, it’s a predicament facing Redknapp of how to accommodate the flying Dutchman but hasn’t that been the case for a year now? It will be interesting to see what Redknapp plays when he is back. Here is hoping for the re-emergence of the 4-4-2.