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Entries in rafa v jd (3)



There continues to be much debate about the Rafa van der Vaart conundrum. He brings in-balance to the side. He can't last the full distance. He's a selfish egotist that places himself above others including the club. His lack of conforming to formational positioning can lead to goals conceded. He scores goals, but what else does he do? One trick pony they say.

Okay, so, I'm highlighting various arguments in isolation and if you wanted to be pedantic about it people who are overly pro-Rafa completely ignore his weaknesses and the strengths of others. Welcome to the headaches of football management. But get this...all players have weaknesses, imperfections.

Not everyone is complete in what they have to offer. Modric is good on the left wing, very good when he cuts in from the left wing. But place him in the middle and let him recycle possession with ample doses of Barcelonaesque push and run touches and he's great. But he doesn't get into goal scoring opportunities often enough and his shooting boots are not always polished. Yet he has been known to score a corker or two. Then again, why should he be expected to score a bundle when he's primary responsibility is to play make from deep? Still, get enough Spurs lads in a room and they will still argue and shout about the negatives rather than simply embrace the positives.

I'm not suggesting that Rafa doesn't have any negatives, just that perhaps all the hype around his role in the team tends to be lopsided towards the fact that we are supposedly better with two up front.

Jermain Defoe is in form, in that when he's played recently he looks zesty and has that burst of pace and shot that usually results with a goal. He blows hot and cold and there's a solid argument that when he
blows hot we should make sure we use him effectively before the icicles return and leave him frozen in a permanent state of offside.

Hindsight is the usual tool dusted off post-game to argue the merits of either players. Now you might want to perhaps look towards Harry Redknapp and question if he is strong enough to handle the personalities we have at the club and controlling tactics to the teams best interests rather than accommodating players for the sake of it. Harry might not be the most tactically astute. He might wing it from time to time. But his track record would either suggest he does know what he's doing or that the sheer abundance of quality we posses means we rarely get unstuck. More fine tuning and we might elevate ourselves further.

But removing the managerial element and simply looking at van der Vaart as a player - he is pretty much
undroppable. In my opinion, you cant drop a player in form (more so in form than Defoe) who can't stop scoring.

In fact, he's practically a forward with his ratio of goals scored. He's a born winner that wants to play, always wanting to play and always wanting to lead. Something we have lacked many times in the past. I've used the word 'galvanise' one thousand times before and I'll use it again because that's what he does.

Dropping Rafa to make room for Defoe doesn't equate to logic. Perhaps sometimes he goes missing and he might not defend as brightly (if at all) compared to other players. But check this out: He's a flipping attacking midfielder, he attacks. He attacks the penalty area, he attacks space, he looks for assists and looks to get on the end of assists. He's a forward focused machine, be it one that runs out of gas and needs to be parked up but then having to make a substitution late on in a game is not a strong enough reason to leave him on the bench to start with.

He does cover a fair bit of ground too. Drops deep. This is where you might question how much influence Harry has over Rafa and if he is instructed to go on a wander or if he does so because that's what Rafa likes to do. If played out on the wing, much like Modric, he probably doesn't fit in as effectively. Imperfections. Maybe Rafa does defend more and work harder than we give him credit for. A forward focused attacking midfielder who drops back into deeper positions. If he didn't drop back so often he might not be as effective.

There is valid reason for us to sometimes start with two forwards up top. Long season, plenty of games,
players need to be rotated to retain freshness. With Rafa, at the minute, I'd sacrifice that to allow him to continue to puncture games with his brilliance because when we're not performing all that well, to have such a player in the team that is capable of winning it for us can not be ignored. There's never any guarantee that two players up top will make a bigger impact. Strikers have been known to offer nothing but a goal from time to time. It's about getting the job done, and he does just that.

Having a free-scoring midfielder that turns up no matter the opposition, home or away, big or small - it's something that should be celebrated. You have to love Spurs. We have problems scoring one season and then have problems making room for goal scorers the next.

So just stick a smile on your face.


We've got 99 problems but the pitch ain't one

We're missing a few centre-backs.There's continued debate about whether Defoe should start ahead of van der Vaart. 442 or 4411? Is Rafa (in his head) bigger than Spurs? Is Harry scared to drop him? Why shouldn't we accommodate a match-winner into the side even if he can only last 70 minutes? Does the team have more structure and understanding with a traditional top two up front?

There's more.

A question mark post-Newcastle as to whether we still struggle to sometimes truly lay down authority with a mixture of silk and slaughter and boss and win games we're expected too. Is Adebayor fully fit? Do we miss Lennon? Do we need Lennon? Why does Bassong have some fans choking on their hearts? Can Kaboul command the back four? Harry's left-field selection on the right for Bale - why persist with this failed experiment to provide balance? Or is it an unavoidable consequence of the right-handed quirk we possess what with no natural cover for Aaron?

Questions. All to be answered soon, you would hope. Technically speaking, none of the above should be classed as problematic. Tag them as conundrums and they are all mostly birthed from positive (be it sometimes heated) discussions. We're hardly spending the aftermath of a weekend game dissecting an obituary of a result. These are good days. Not quite hedonistic but there is continued tangible progress (that's in terms of what we expect from 'this' season). Although for some that's another arguable point; The wealth of talent in our squad. Some say a more tactically astute manager would produce more powerful performances. Perhaps we do need Redknapp to be more head strong and consistent. It's not impossible for this team to fail, but failure would be unacceptable no matter how glorious.

We have a beastly spine sprinkled with glam midfield players. Dynamic and demon. But sometimes frustrating and fruitless. What we need is that extra spark to ignite something bullish and brutal. You sense its not that far off. Injuries aside, one or two of our 'stars' are enigmatic, erratic. Still, five games unbeaten. That's good going for a team with plenty of imperfections.

Blackburn is a chicken piece in a bucket.
The fighting cockerel is nothing if it does not fight then crow.

Sandro, Parker in midfield bossing it. Modric, vdV and Bale dictating, leading and marauding. Adebayor flying. Sounds great in writing. With all the problems and conundrums we supposedly have the one place we should not be concerned with them is out on the pitch at Ewood Park. Even if most of the problems are lost in formation.

Let's try it again. Sandro. Parker. Modric. vdV. Bale. Adebayor. Hairs on back of neck should be standing.

Complacency and underachieving? No thank you. Swagger and belief? Yes please. From the players foremost. Don't leave us red faced Spurs. Never red.

I get that the media emphasis is on Blackburn and their manager and that can usually inspire in their favour against the odds. Our centre-back pairing is not our first choice. We might be put under pressure, both physically and aerially. Smash the cliché to pieces. What about the pressure we should be placing them under with ball being pushed around on the pitch, with fluid confidence?

Get the job done Tottenham. These ilk of games are equally as important as any top tier clash.

Cock a doodle doo.


Sexy beast, not so sexy

Newcastle 2 Tottenham 2

It's almost like the footballing Gods read my preview for the game then worked the proceeding ninety or so minutes to play out like a tapestry of mockingness with canned laughter playing at critical moments. In this case both times Newcastle scored. I highlighted (in the preview) that we don't tend to do well up at St James Park. We switch off. It can be calamitous. That wasn't the case on Sunday.

Wasn't so much calamitous. More cataleptic. Yard off the pace for practically the entirety of the first half. The odd moment of progressive movement but mostly on the back foot. In fact no, not on the back foot rather both feet up on the sofa. We didn't get going. Not so much Sexy beast. More sleepy beast.

The intent, well, it can't be constituted as genuine intent if its powder-puff.

The formation, the lacked. Sat thinking we need a goal here. A Newcastle goal. What I got (mockingly bitter-sweet from the Gods) was a penalty for Spurs. Rejoice, yeah? 1-0 at half-time. My head is then full of rhetoric about how 'big teams, they create their own luck, they don't need to play well to win games'.

I then start to think back on the stale first forty-five and wonder why we haven't quite woken up to the concept of perhaps perceiving the game as must-win. But then psychology of this ilk is redundant. You have to be physically losing one nil for the team to wake up. In this case we we're winning one nil by sleeping. Seriously, HELLO? WHAT IS THIS MADNESS?

Before I came to a comforting conclusion, it was 1-1. What now? Pretend like we're losing? Take nothing away from their build up play other than taking it all away. We should have defended far better than that. The word 'casual' popped into my head and I finally had a tag to label that first forty-five with. In that crazy unexplainable fashion that only professional footballers and managers understand we suddenly take shape (pretend like we're losing <-- oh yeah, psychology 101) and poke Newcastle a couple of times in their belly-button, almost flicking out that coloured fluff that lives there. Alas, not quite.

At least the second forty-five had some tempo to it.

What is going on then? Is this Newcastle, a team that's 'okay' nothing special but obviously doing something right and playing well...playing well against us, Spurs...a side that hasn't quite found the pace of the game easy to run alongside too. Or is that harsh? Do we expect too much from our ourselves? Is this simply an off-day? And if an off-day is drawing 2-2 away to an unbeaten that not a good day? Or should the Toon take more credit?

Oh yeah, 2-2. That was the final score. King, we had lost. Walker over-worked. Bale wasn't playing (he wasn't playing right?) and Defoe replaced van der Vaart and promptly scored a belter.


Oh, hindsight, you wonderful thing you, with your frilly knickers and red lipstick. Let's be honest here. We were collectively on a low ebb first half. The intelligent play I expect from Rafa and Ade was all half-arsed and casual (there's that tag again, it's not gone to waste). Perhaps both players were not quite 100%? Although with Rafa I should rephrase; Was Rafa perhaps not 70%?

Possibly being unfair to Newcastle United and their midfield. Might lack obvious quality and depth but they got the job done against us. That's job done enough to stop us from taking it by the scruff of the neck. But then onus on home side. We can't have it all our own way when we play away from the Lane when we expect it.

Also probably unfair on Ade. He looks a class above in terms of movement and possession. I think we might still be two or three games away from actually clicking. We need to cut out the schoolboy thinking when attacking and look for the more measured pass. More often. Happened today a couple of times second half (Parker and Modric). Clickety click soon hopefully.

As for bringing JD on, a player who wanted to prove a point...well that happens all the time. Why didn't he start? Because he wasn't selected. I know, ground-breaking. Would have been lovely to have had Parker and Sandro in the middle also but you just have to deal with it. The formation wasn't great. But nobody would be saying that if Rafa played in Ade and he scored. One match proves nothing. Didn't work on Sunday. Let's just be grateful the substitution did.

What a belter. Then Defoe displayed the more frustrating aspect to his game. Lay the ball off son, lay it off and we'll score again. Selfish strikers, what do they know?

Then another sub breaks our hearts. 2-2, 86 minutes.

Happy with the point when we could have been happy with all the points but then also could have quite easily gone home with nothing more than a souvenir bra from the night out in Newcastle on Saturday.

If this type of performance happens two or three more times, then we can start discussing whether Harry still can't get to grips with having certain players playing in certain positions. I'm sure some of you will point to the right hand side and the fact we have conceded a few via the make-shift flank we have there (get fit Azza).

For now, may as well put this down to a sleepy day at the office and just about getting away with doing as little work as possible without being found out. That cut-throat beastly slap we need to be smacking down on opponents in games is still something we haven't quite worked out. Would have been perfect had we nicked it at 2-1. Had we, this match review would have been a universe apart when in reality, there is very little in comparison. Well, apart from two points.

Onwards. Five games unbeaten. Game in hand. This show IS on the road. Even if we have nine players out injured, and two not fully fit...Shh quiet, hush.

COYS. Love the shirt.