Few people seem totally sure what to think about the signing of Steven Pienaar. Itâ€™s not really the statement of intent that signing a proven goalscorer to lead the line would be and as a symbol of the respective status of us and Chelsea, funny though it is, his preference for white over blue in this case probably says more about Abramovichâ€™s waning interest in his toy than any power shift in our direction. Itâ€™d be wrong to hang the â€˜Spent Forceâ€™ sign outside Stamford Bridge just yet in my view.
Most doubts surround the questions of whether & where heâ€™ll play. Assuming that Harry hasnâ€™t bought him just to help keep Khumalo on the straight and narrow after Spursâ€™ experience with Mbulelo Mabizela, itâ€™s not obvious to see where heâ€™s going to fit in. Extreme theories are being proposed. One is that Lennon is on his way and another is that Bale will be moved to full back. The fact that people are putting forward genuine cases for Pienaar to play both on the right and the left (not simultaneously) give testament to his versatility if nothing else.
This is a versatility that Kranjcar also possesses. His lack of match practice largely explains his sleepwalking performances against Bolton and Charlton but he remains a class act who, with everything remaining equal, will definitely score more goals than Pienaar for one thing. So where does Niko fit in now? Is it possible that Chelsea didnâ€™t flex their financial muscle in this case because they see Kranjcar as a better option? The sameâ€™s undoubtedly not true of Oâ€™Hara, Jenas or Giovani, players that will be shifted down the pecking order a notch.
Maybe itâ€™s not that complicated. Now that Bentleyâ€™s been farmed out, maybe itâ€™s just a case of Redknapp spotting the opportunity of getting some â€˜cheapâ€™ better than adequate cover for Lennon into the squad and Pienaar will be left to wait for an opportunity to prove himself?
I wrote an article at the start of last season explaining that I thought that our target should be to finish above Everton given that we were the teams whoâ€™d won the â€˜non Big Fourâ€™ league during each of the previous four campaigns. I listed Everton players who might get into our side and our new signing wasnâ€™t one of them. The strongest responses from Toffees who left comments were from those putting forward Pienaarâ€™s case as a more reliable and potent winger than Lennon. The Spurs man ended up having a blinding first half to the season before getting injured but the fact that Everton fans got worked up enough to make a point in his favour on a Spurs website shows how much they liked him.
Heâ€™s a mostly unspectacular speedy international with good technique and Champions League experience who at 28 has seen the chance of probably a last big pay day. Possibly more importantly though in the eyes of Levy and Redknapp, heâ€™s a bargain.
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