The final piece of To the Lane and Back’s midfield puzzle comes in the shape of Rafael Van der Vaart.
The Dutchman parachuted into White Hart Lane in the dying hours of the 2010 summer transfer window, signing on the dotted line with just seconds to spare and when the deal was finally confirmed by the FA the following day, a collective sigh of relief was breathed around North London.
For only £8m, Daniel Levy had really made the signing of the summer for a star as illustrious as Van der Vaart’s. Harry Redknapp claimed that Bayern Munich had attempted to sign him for £18m the day before Spurs’ offer was accepted and regardless of whether that was true or not, the club had found their new superstar.
His career in his new surroundings started off brightly, hitting three goals in four league appearances, along with a goal and an assist in the Champions League matches against Werder Bremen and FC Twente, Van der Vaart was beginning to strut his star quality throughout White Hart Lane.
He finished his maiden campaign with Spurs as the clubs top scorer, hitting the back of the net 13 times while laying on a further eight goals for his team-mates. Again starting the new season brightly, the Dutchman currently has two goals his name, one of those coming against Arsenal of which his record currently stands at four in three against the Gunners.
Nonetheless, despite an impressive scoring record for Spurs, Van der Vaart has caused a split opinion with the fans. Some believe he is a world class player and the fact he is at Spurs shows just how far the club have risen in status in recent years. Yet, others feel the Dutchman is no more than a luxury player which has forced Redknapp into altering his formation all too much to accommodate the Dutchman.
In the 2-1 win over Arsenal two weeks ago, Redknapp started the former Real Madrid ace on the right and even though he opened the scoring on the day, his inability to play on the wing was evident in the win. Cutting inside too often, thus leaving Kyle Walker exposed at right-back, proved to be a turning point in the fixture. Instead of positioning himself on the right, Van der Vaart was caught in-field leaving Alex Song the chance to break down the left and pick out Aaron Ramsey for their equaliser.
Yet, when replaced by Sandro, the squad looked more balanced with the Brazilian in the midfield rather than the Dutchman on the right. After the game, Van der Vaart even admitted he doesn’t like playing on the right because he doesn’t enjoy the defensive aspect of the game, insisting once again that his favoured position is in the middle. It is this statement that has seen Redknapp admit he has to choose between Van der Vaart and Jermain Defoe over which one starts.
Unfortunately for Defoe, it is the former that gets the nod in this formation with it being clear that a 4-2-3-1 is looking like the best system to fully utilise the players at Redknapp’s disposal. Nonetheless, it isn’t like the England hit-man won’t get the minutes and his playing time will be increased due to the Dutchman’s inability to play more than 65 minutes every game. Nevertheless, his 65 minutes have proven to be fruitful in the past and his 15 league goals in just over 30 league games is testament to his ability to score from the midfield, a type of player that Spurs have been crying out for since the days of Gus Poyet.
Behind a striker like Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko, Van der Vaart still managed to regularly cause the opposition back four trouble, with a decent striker like Emmanuel Adebayor in front of him, Spurs fans may be about to see the best of the Flying Dutchman this coming season.