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Parker return offers another selection headache for Andre

When you look at Spurs’ starting XI, it is particularly difficult to pick out a weak spot. All across the squad there is competition for places, none more so than in the centre of midfield. Sandro and Dembele are currently first choice, but where does that leave the returning Scott Parker? Connor Jipps investigates…

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Things have been looking up Tottenham Hotspur recently. Wins over Reading, QPR and Manchester United have restored unanimous faith in the players and management, and as a result; the confidence on the pitch is clear to see. None more so than in the centre of the park, where Mousa Dembele and Sandro have formed the most dynamic pairing since Chas and Dave.

Power and technical ability are not always attributes that go hand in hand. Fortunately it appears that Spurs have come across two men of which both come naturally. An understanding has been steadily growing every time the duo have stepped out on to the green grass, culminating in an outstanding resilient display when under the cosh in the historic 3-2 win over United.

Such an impact the two have made, that many have barely recognised the absence of arguably our best player last season, Scott Parker. With his return imminent, Andre Villas-Boas will be licking his licks at the tools he’ll have at his disposal in the centre of the park. Proven players like Parker and Tom Huddlestone wait in the wings to step up in the case of injury, backup that would complement even the likes of United and City’s respective squads.

Injury has sidelined Parker since his involvement with England at Euro 2012, where the midfielder’s right Achilles issue reared its ugly head, flaring up a problem that had been existent back in February, taking him out for a large chunk of the latter half of the season. It was during his absence that Sandro began to cement his place in the first team with dominant and destructive displays.

Parker’s return now raises many currently unanswered questions. Let us not forget that he is yet to play under Villas-Boas so will be forced to adapt to a completely different setup to Harry Redknapp’s methods. Firstly, can Parker and Sandro play alongside each other? Secondly, will Scotty be able to replicate such a slick and fluid central partnership as he previously held with the departed Modric? And finally, will his age count against him in a system that thrives on high energy movement and counter attacking play?

In answer to the first question, early evidence has suggested not. In games where the two have started together, the opposition have been given a license to push forward, safe in the knowledge of there being lower risk of Spurs hitting on the counter and penetrating with the probing balls that Modric could pick out. Nevertheless this does not mean we should write it off. As Sandro has displayed in the initial stages of the season, an all round game is beginning to emerge in which the Brazilian is able to join attacks with much more purpose and intent to previously. If he continues his progression there is no reason why he couldn’t thrive from the freedom attained by Parker’s defensive presence.

The second question is equally as up in the air and an answer we will only know when Parker returns to the team line-up. While Dembele is an excellent player, his attributes are very different to Luka’s and alters the style of play. However, to suggest that Scott cannot adapt to this before seeing him in action is an insult to a player who has excelled at many clubs playing in various different setups and systems. 

And finally the age concern of which many have questioned the older member of our squad in such a system as Villas-Boas employs. It is purely a myth that once players hit the 30 mark it is all downhill, as Parker has shown over the last few seasons for Spurs and West Ham before that. The Spurs head coach has also indicated that age doesn’t matter if you’re good enough by continually selecting William Gallas in the side. Going for Parker regarding age will be the influence of the legend Steffen Freund. The German was playing for Spurs at a similar stage of his career, and similarities couldn’t be stronger between the two. 

When you add up all that Parker has to offer – Tenacity, leadership and commitment to the cause – it is a no brainer that he still holds a vital place in the squad dynamic. What Redknapp was often criticised for last was a lack of rotation, leaving the players tired in the latter stages of the season; Parker is a player that any rotation plan would be complimented by having at its disposal. Even if Sandro and Dembele are our future and prove undropable, in the late stages of tight games when energy has been spent, there is not a better option to bring on to shut up shop and protect the defence.

However Villas-Boas decides to handle the situation, one thing is for certain; Parker will not be rushed back before he is ready. With a midfield currently excelling it would be unnecessary and unwise to do so and Villas-Boas will know this. Patience is the key to his return at this stage. And when he does return, Andre will have yet another major asset added to a very strong and capable squad.

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