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The Incredible Huddlestone


Deconstructing the Tottenham midfield conundrum - Part III


Incredible or just plain ordinary?

The supervolcano under the Yellowstone Park has been fairly consistent, erupting on schedule every 600,000 years or so. Considering the caldera is the size of the park itself, when it’s erupted in the past, to say that it bestowed apocalyptic disaster upon Gods green earth is putting it mildly. It's been 640,000 years since the last time it coughed up lava, so we are due another one pretty soon if you go on its timetable from the past three million years. Although geologists don't actually know with any certainty if it will happen again because apparently the molten below is cooling off and the reoccurring eruptions might have reached the end of their schedule. If so, it might be a million years or more before Mother Nature wakes it up. It might never erupt again.

Tom Huddlestone is a supervolcano.


He's big, doesn't move much but when he does he melts the oppositions defence with devastating consequences. But it doesn't happen often. You might be lucky to witness this marvel once every 10 games or so. When the next one is due, I couldn't say.

Actually, scrap this particular analogy. I've no idea where it's going, and I'd rather limit the amount of Partridge-isms I'm guilty of from one week to the next. So let's try this again.

Tom Huddlestone is a fat Glenn Hoddle.


Tom Huddlestone is like a lighthouse. Stationary, but manages to light up all before him.

No, no.

Tom Huddlestone is our Dr Manhattan. Big and powerful, but understated and misunderstood.

No, no, no!

Ok. Analogies scrapped. Stick to facts.

Tom Huddlestone is not the most mobile of players.
Tom Huddlestone is a very decent passer of the ball.
Tom Huddlestone has a cracking shot.
Tom Huddlestone is technically good.
Tom Huddlestone is versatile.

But is Tommy too slow, cumbersome and defensively a liability? Or is that an unfair description for the player, where his strengths are of a more offensive nature? If you stick him in the middle of the park and the Spurs midfield are under pressure, can he step up and get stuck in, much like the maligned Jenas is capable of doing (when he's on song) by running up and down the pitch and hassling opposition players?

It's the job of Palacios or Zokora (shudder) to bite the ankles of the opposing players and break down their attack or reclaim possession. But that doesn't mean other players shouldn't pull their weight (ouch). Lennon is superb at times, in nicking the ball back for us. It's not so much a case of getting stuck in though, is it? He's played centre-back in the past and he's got involved turning defence into attack, with a touch here and a 30 yard pass there. You can defend brilliantly by sending the ball across one side of the pitch to the other with the outside of the foot, releasing your winger or forward and giving the defence time to re-organise.

But what happens before the ball is back in our possession and we are on the backfoot? And there are questions around consistency. There is an argument that Tom does put in a shift, it's just that compared to others, it doesn't resemble one.

The problem with Tom is that he is far less dynamic than many players of similar ilk (creative/playmaking midfielders). Which means he is far weaker in less offensive areas than any other midfielder we have. Carrick could defend well, wasn't exactly fast, but was mobile. Pace, or more so mobility, is important. He doesn't have any. Or more to the point, to quote about a thousand websites, he turns slower than the QE2.

Tom is quite similar to Jermaine Jenas in the way of potential. Both highly rated as youngsters, both possessing qualities that are admirable. But are both over-hyped? Or do they excel in some areas, but not enough in others to be considered complete?

Tom is a regular for the U-21’s and performs well, chipping in with a goal every now and again. But he’s not a regular for Spurs. But does chip in with plenty of assists and a few goals when he does turn out in Lilywhite. Why? Just because he can deliver clever balls and Hoddlesque passes, does this warrant an inclusion in our starting line-up? And if it does, what would it mean to the structure and balance of the team? Well, for starters, the team would have to be built around him. Or at least compensate for his deficiencies. So Palacios responsibility would be to clear the area allowing Tom to play Quarterback.

Now, this might work if, let’s say, Tom was as talented as Hoddle. To make a player the main creative outlet of the team he has to be something a bit special, and I’m not sure he’s that good, potentially or otherwise. Comparing anyone to Hoddle is blatantly unfair, so to re-word the above, I'd say that to build the team around one player they have to be, unquestionable, class - if not 'world class'.

Not to say I would not like to see him given a chance. But it’s asking a little too much for someone like Tom to 'carry the team'. It’s a bit like asking us to build the team around Bent by playing football like Charlton Athletic did in the days they resided in the Premiership - just because we all know he can score goals when on the break. Bent has a knack of doing so, but doesn’t offer enough to slot into a variety of forward roles which is required depending on the opposition. He’s a bit one dimensional. But what of Huddlestone? (not one dimensional, I'd go with a beefy 3D figure, tbh).

Even little Modric (did take his time to adjust which is understandable) gets involved with some of the dirty work – but he’s no defensive midfielder. So unless Huddlestone actually has an overwhelming negative influence on the team, there is no reason why he can’t play centre-midfield in a role that takes full advantage of his vision and skills.

Yes? Or no?

It’s a conundrum this one for the simple fact that he doesn’t play often enough. Let’s say Jermaine Jenas did not exist (I’ll give you a moment to climb down off your desk and pull your pants up and compose yourself........). Huddlestone would possibly get a more sustained opportunity to impress. The more games, the bigger the confidence, the better the communication on the pitch is with team mates. Coming off the bench, he’ll always be a decent impact player simply because of his sharp passing. But from his personal perspective, he’d want more than that. I want more than that. We all do.

Imagine if you will (I'm in fantasy mode today), Tom Huddlestone in Claret and Blue. Easy now. It's just a fantasy. He’d probably play every single week. That’s just an opinion, and West Ham fans might accuse me of over-rating him and that he’d never get into their team. Maybe. Possibly. But I guess that’s the point. He’s good enough, but good enough for whom? He is definitely good enough for someone. At some point in the next year or two, he'll need to be far more involved otherwise his progression will stagnate. Unless of course, what you see is what you get. Maybe there is no improvement coming. So, would you argue that his passing is that good, we can't afford to lose him? Or that the only thing he has is his passing ability and it isn't enough to claim a centre-midfield pairing - arguably one of the most important positions in the team.

Tactically, a manager will want his strongest 11 starting every week. Let’s say that includes Palacios and Jenas in the centre. If Jenas was unavailable, would Huddlestone slot in and give us the same type of thing, or more to the point, would he give us something that amounts to the same positive for the flow of the side?

Much like Jenas, he is good at some things, and not so good at others. Much like, well, most players. The trick is to maximise his abilities, getting the best out of him which will benefit the team. Harry has managed to do this with Lennon, a player who had an outstanding season, followed by a low-key one, and his now back to the type of form his potential has been screaming out for.

So how do we maximise Tommy boy?

Huddlestone - the quarterback? Sat in the middle laying off balls to both wings or dinking them forwards, with Wilson in the role of fullback, protecting him. Sounds immense on paper. And we've seen it in patches. I remember, when he first really started to push for a place at Spurs I considered him and Cesc Fabregas as the brightest midfield talents in the UK. Compare the two now. Ok, so Fabregas is a horrible arrogant piece of classless muck, but his ability as a footballer is unquestionable. But sadly the difference is fairly astronomical. The mucks influence is superior as is his general mobility. But one plays every week (when fit) the other is not first choice and excels (much like Jenas) against lesser opposition. But has done epically against the bigger teams too. Just not as often as, let's say, the scum that is Cesc.

Our midfield has always lacked spin. Palacios has brought us that. Lennon outstanding on one wing, Modric covering the other. So does Huddlestone - passing abilities aside - give us enough strength and assurance down the middle? Can he adapt to the pace of the game and the quality of the opposition? When he dictates, he is superb. And its those moments that have us asking the questions about his worth to the team. When the emphasis is with the opposition, that's when the concerns creep in.

If Huddlestone is around 60% of what we need from a player and Jenas is about 68% , then possibly both are nothing more than squad players and that we need to look at bringing in a more complete player, someone who is around the 80% mark and above. Someone like Carrick who gave us more than enough of everything. Or someone better. That’s no easy task. So an option would be to stick him in the team and run with it and just see where it takes us. If the talent is there and needs developing then first team appearances will answer the questions.

There’s also the option of playing Modric in the middle. But if we did, how would this improve on a Palacios-Jenas combination or a Palacios-Huddlestone pairing?

More on this in Part IV.

In conclusion, Hudd does offer us something but if a player doesn't scream out 'FIRST TEAM REGULAR' just by looking at him, and you have to pose questions, then it's likely that he isn't quite what's required - simply because of the doubts. To counter that, if a player isn't given a chance, then he won't be any nearer to proving he can do the job. Sometimes players do not fit into certain teams because of the way the team plays. Which is why Tommy is as a luxury.

If Jenas and Zokora can play so often for us and be considered first team regulars - with all the doubts and concerns around their abilities (or lack of) then maybe it is only fair to give Tom a chance.

If it was the 1980's, he'd be a superstar.

Deconstructing the Tottenham midfield conundrum - Part I

Deconstructing the Tottenham midfield conundrum - Part II

Reader Comments (15)

I'd play him. Can't be any worse than Jenas.

Mar 20, 2009 at 4:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Don't think Huddlestone is the answer much like I don't see Jenas be a prominent player for us in the next 2-3 years. Both have something to give, but not enough to warrant a first team place. I'm sure if we can replace Zokora with Palacios we can do the same with Jenas and maybe keep Hudd as a second option. Jenas wont sit on the bench and will be sold (as the hype will result in money for certain). You never know. Maybe Inter might bite our hands off :)

Mar 20, 2009 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I like Tom. Brilliant passer of the ball, more than decent vision and is a handful. Want him to link up with Defoe again. I think he needs to play more often. Cant come off the bench every now and again. But I do think the tempo of the game is something he hasn't adapted too, which is why he doesn't get selected more often. Sometimes he gets lost in all the commotion .

Mar 20, 2009 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterfilthy

I think the JJ 'blame game' is very tedious. Ok he's hardly mr consistency. BUT his work rate without the ball (as showcased against Villa) and is often invaluable. No question he needs to concentrate on his passing but he is (at present) the most natural partner for Palacios that we have. I actually think Palacios and JJ are forming quite a good pairing in midfield. so to slag JJ off at every opportunity is harsh.

Hudd - I just wish he's put a shift in and get involved. Ok, he's not fast and he's not mobile BUT why does that have to stop his development? Hudd needs to realise that his career is in HIS OWN hands. He relys on his passing to carry him through games, that alone will not bring him 1st team football. Hudd needs to realise that and get involved when he gets his chance. It would be a huge shame to see his talent go to waste.

Mar 20, 2009 at 4:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I'd love to feel we can find a place in midfield for the Hudd, but it'll always mean somebody else covering for his failing in certain areas of his game. His biggst asset is his passing range, but his weakest area is his mobility. We'd have to build the midfield around him and that would mean sacrificing creative players already in the side such as Modric - who offers more of an all round option and is every bit as crative and helps to force the pace of our game.

Mar 20, 2009 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterparklanedan

Huddlestone... My favourite player. I completely agree with most of what has been said,and I do believe he needs to add more to his game, such as mobility, speed and reaction speed. but these are all qualities that must be bred into this player. He is at one of the richest clubs in the world, that spends a lot of money on training facilities and personal player fitness. Why is he not being singled out to have each of these traits embeded into his game, both mentally, and more importantly physically. I think the club should invest in hiring Glenn Hoddle to come to the training ground to give him personal direction 1 or 2 days a week. Lord knows Glenn would most likely be interested, because as it is, he can barely even get any pundit work.

I personally can't think of a better striker of the ball at the moment than Tom, and I think he has the most tallent at his disposal of any playmaker type players in our league right now.

Lets make it work, and make him everything that he could be.

Mar 20, 2009 at 7:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterOllie The Yid

Waaaaaay better than Jenas in that he actually offers something. Remember the 4-4 against Chelsea last season? Hudd replaced JJ at half-time (JJ was shockingly bad, but then I guess we weren't playing Derby) and bossed the midfield. Takes something special to stand out amongst Essien, Ballack and Lampard. He's a lot more mobile than he's given credit for, far more capable of that final killer ball than Jenas and can tackle.
Just needs a run of games. Unlikely to get them until we're safe though.
As for not fitting in because of the way the team plays, 3 managers in two years suggests that the problem is not his.

Mar 20, 2009 at 10:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Harry needs to give Tommy at least one game alongside Wilson....I feel that they will complement each others game. Until we have actually seen them together it is all speculation.

Mar 21, 2009 at 12:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I'm going to go out on a limb and say Hudd should start every week. He's got the magic and just needs the opportunity to own the midfield. I'm with Harry in that he cant afford the luxury of Tom this season because its been such a disaster but come on-THE HUDD HAS TOTTENHAM IN HIS BOOTS.

Johnny Cheshunt

Mar 21, 2009 at 12:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Lennon was thrown into the deep end and he has come good in a big way (after a slight blip). I agree. Play Hudd with Wilson.

Whats the worst that can happen?

Mar 21, 2009 at 1:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterWest Stand Bagel

The Hudd is much better than Jenas. The biggest problem is that he's not played enough. The more games he plays, the better he'll get. With Wilson and Jamie, these 3 should be the choice for the centre Mid. They may surprise us by how good they could be!

Mar 21, 2009 at 8:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Oh come on get real - is this 2007? Huddlestone is simply not mobile enough or hungry enough to be Spurs midfielder. Sure great passing etc but I cannot think of a more laid back midfielder in the premierleague than him - sell him while he still has value and get a proper 'box to box' player.

The days of AMFs & DMFs went about 10 years ago - if you want success you need a midfield 4 who can do the whole package without the need to restrict players to attack or defence.

Sorry Tom - like everyone I saw you as the next Carrick but you gotta get some pace & application.l..

Mar 21, 2009 at 9:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Hudd just needs to learn to read the game better and then mobility won't be an issue. Teddy wasn't very mobile but inteligence and experiance taught him to be in the right place at the right time and the rest as they common knowledge!

Mar 21, 2009 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Anonymous 9:32: since when did Carrick have pace? His game is all about making space to create and anticipation in defence both of which are evident in Hudd.

Mar 22, 2009 at 1:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

This is the first time visiting this website, and I'm aware I'm over a year late, but the World Cup has been so boring so far I've returned to club issues. I think, after this season, Huddlestone is good enough to start. There have been 'supervolcano' moments, like the screamer against Bolton (I think...), but he has also been more of a grafter - there's no way we could have beaten Arsenal and Chelsea without a shield for the defence, considering Palacios was injured/booked for both games.

Jun 15, 2010 at 4:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamo

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