The VDV Enigma


Rafael Ferdinand Van der Vaart (VDV to his friends) unexpectedly joined us from Real Madrid with little over two hours of the summer 2010 transfer window remaining. The published fee for the then 27 year old, Dutch international, was in the region of £7.5m and it was seen as quite a coup for Daniel Levy as according to “sources” just the previous day he was going to Bayern Munich for a fee reportedly £10m more than Levy had paid.

I am sure many fans didn’t know too much about him and like me were soon scouring YouTube for clips of our new star man. What they saw surely did not disappoint and his initial impact at the Lane was nothing short of explosive, culminating in him claiming the Barclay’s player of the month for October. He was also nominated and short listed for the player’s player of the season which was also the result of his blistering start in the hallowed white shirt

In total VDV played 28 games for Spurs in the 2010/2011 season, netting 13 goals, normally cutting in from a wide midfield position. With his deadly left foot he soon became the “main man” for set pieces and penalties .His brace against Arsenal in the thrilling 3-3 encounter last April means he will always have a small place reserved in most Lilywhite hearts

On his day, VDV is undoubtedly a world class player and he has a great attitude not seen since the days of Stefan Freund ,epitomised in the footballing master class he gave to Joey Barton and in particular Jack Wilshere in the home games against the Barcodes and the Goons respectively.

That’s the good news!

The not so good news is that in my opinion VDV has never been fit and I believe Sir Harold must have thought the same, as even in his pomp at the start of the season, the number 11 on the subs board was generally the first to go up in most games. Towards the end of the year VDV sustained a hamstring injury and was out for about 4 weeks and if anything came back at the end of December even less fit than before .Even so he was still influential helping out our misfiring strikers by scoring some key goals.

The other not so good news, is for that all his good points I am now firmly of the opinion that VDV, especially an unfit VDV, disrupts the team when we try and play our “traditional” shape.

When playing in a midfield four, his work rate and tackling skills make him a luxury in the centre. He cannot play wide, clearly Bale and Lennon are our best wide players and VDV, through lack of discipline tends to make the team lose the shape when asked to play the wide role

Sir Harold also realised this and moved us to a 4-4-1-1 in an attempt to accommodate him and in fairness in Europe and to a lesser extent in the league, VDV did forge a good relationship with Crouchey . When playing the same formation with either Pav or JD, the same understanding has failed to flourish

So how do we solve the VDV “enigma code”?

The answer I think can be found across in the West of London. It is no secret now that Luka Modric has had his head turned. Chelsea employed traditional tactics of making an “official” derisory bid, the player thinks he can treble his wages and that’s it. Player power then dictates that no matter what Levy says, Modric will be off and the standoff is all about Spurs getting the right price or …the right deal

Chelsea also have been in recent times in the league the most successful team employing a 4-3-3 formation (most of the top teams now employ it or at least a variation of it). The success of the formation is centred on a loan front man leading the line and a certain Mr Drogba is THE best at doing the job

The answer then is for us to sell that Croatian person to Chelsea and ensure in the deal that Drogba comes back in our direction as part of the deal. We should then switch to a 4-3-3, which enable us to really get the best out of VDV.

This would mean we would line up offensively something like :

Sandro Huddlestone


Lennon Bale


Sandro would hold with Tommy, giving VDV the licence to play where he likes (which he does anyway, but in this formation it would not be disruptive to the team). When we don’t have the ball of course the formation could change to 4-5-1 with Bale and Lennon covering back as necessary

Even if we do not get Drog, we have to use the Luka cash to sign someone who could play the role as none of the current crop of strikers could ideally fill the role, as I believe pace, height and strength are all required

I really like this formation because of its flexibility, strikers can play up top with the main man (like Anelka and Rooney do for their respective teams) and an added bonus to solving the VDV enigma code is that I genuinely feel the new VDVrole would also be tailor-made for Kranjcar

As always it’s a game of opinions, this is mine, I am not sure Sir Harold can think beyond his traditional 4-4-2, but with the personnel available and the loss of Modric I feel he has to.

By Simon Cruddace

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  1. I definately like your idea and hope that a fully fit VDV will be even better than last year, however, I dont like the idea of us playing with one striker, I feel it will demotivate our current/future stikers, playing for one spot. Also I do not feel that Thud is a defensive midfielder.

  2. Harry being Harry will prob be happy with Drogba, as a spurs fan I would like a younger striker to sign such as Lloriente or such like. 433 is definately an option and hudd and sandro anchoring the midfield would be imense. not sure harry would approve tho – to set in his ways – Dave Jones

  3. If Modric goes has to be replaced by a new midfielder (plus a striker of course) who would score regularly and would be more creative if we suppose that we'll keep our holding midfielders.
    Some (payable) suggestions include Vidal, Badelj, Granero and I suppose could be many others.

  4. I would sell VDV tomorrow cocked up a forward line scoring freely the season before last. VDV doesnt follow instructions cannot follow a diet and is not fit.

    Further he want to take all free kicks, he is not a team player in a team game, he has the ability but not the aptitude or application.

    Quite simply his arrogance outweighs his ability. Get rid.

  5. Good article. This is THE biggest problem facing us as it fundamentally affects the the way we play.

    Agreed, Dogba would be the idea striker for us to sign because he’s so good at playing up front on his own.

    However, surely Modric leaving is not inevitable, nor something we would want. He was our best player last season and is the best player at the club. He was deployed as a deep lying midfielder last season and his ability to retain possession is invaluable and unmatched!

    There are so many issues with VDV: fitness, as mentioned; discipline (often he comes to deep, get’s in other midflielder’s way, and is too far away from the striker); we more of less have to play with one up top if he’s in the team for reasons you mentioned.

    An amazing player, no doubt, but a lot of effort is being made to shoehorn him in and the question is, is it worth it?

  6. Levy has categorically stated that Modric will NOT go to a “Top Six” rival, that includes Chelsea and any carrots they’re prepared to dangle. So your whole “Drogba” discussion is a MASSIVE moot point mate…

  7. Why do writers keep persisting with Drogba to Spurs? IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN!!!! He wont leave Chelski, he WONT play for Spurs, We cant afford his wages and Modric is not leaving! Speculation on speculation on speculation = steaming pile blogging!

  8. Whilst Steffen Freund might have had a "great attitude", he certainly was wasn't world-class or anywhere near it…

  9. I can't really see Levy paying £150,000 a week for Drogba and this is our problem. Without a billionaire investor, we are no competition for Man city, Man utd, Chelsea and Liverpool who are all splashing out no-end. Instead we'll stick with Peter '10 goal a season' Crouch purely because Redknapp has a good relationship with him and maybe sign some midfielder from Birmingham or another newly relegated team. We may get a striker but this whole "sell before we buy" and "we're not selling our key players" suggests we'll be looking in the bargain corner on transfer deadline day.

  10. VDV needs to be dissaplined. He cannot expect to start with every game. Somebody needs to tell him so. Also took note of him taking center stage by demanding to take all the set pieces. This season our policy needs to accomodate all players & this means giving all a chance. This resulting in less injuries & applying our rotational policy.

    • Agreed, the team and Harry is a little subserviant to him.

      Not sure about a roation policy. But certainly Kranjcar should have been used more last season, swapped in for any of Modric, Bale, VDV and Lennon, and it IS likely that the fatigue like injuries to VDV and Bale may not have occured and team would have been fresher. – This was one of the major faults of Harry's management last season, he likes to have the best 11 on the field untill injuryies occur. Surely it should be horses for courses, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to select the best 11 players, but the season is more than one game long, and the best 11 players aren't necessarily the best team – which is what it's all about.

      Modric and Kranjcar also play really really well together(!!), and the whole certainly is more than the sum of the parts!

  11. there is one tiny thing standing in the way of what could be the answer to all our croation problems…

    we dont have the quality to play this formation without VdV sandro or Thudd.
    niether wilson or Jenas have the intelligence of an essien who seems to just know when he can and cant get forward. so we would need to sign someone new anyhow.
    plus i dont expect Bale or Lennon to rediscover their shooting boots anytime soon…. which Kalou Anelka etc do very well at chelski

    it just means an entire re model with a massive outlay to find someone to play the VdV role as i dont think it would be worth switching back to a 4-4-2 when he isnt there as we would then be too defensive with sandro and thudd in the middle…

    although if we did Krank could put his name forward as VdV's understudy….

    actually the more i think about this the more i agree…..

  12. Nice article Si, I tend to agree with your comments about the disruption that VDV has caused, Can't agree with with your solution through. Drogba is a prima donna who will disrupt the dressing room, I'd hate to see him diving around the pitch in a Spurs shirt, and surely we should be concentrating on younger, hungrier players, with (sad as it seems) a worthwhile resale value.

  13. Terry I think H would get best out of him and he must have acouple of seasons left. Who would be your choice for the Drod role ina 4-3-3

  14. sell modric …..problem solved……..vdv in attacking midfield/playmaker…..with sandro/huddlestone in holding position ….and two striker up front….

  15. Me again Si, I'm no expert on who's available on the continent (Forlan maybe, but he suffers from the same failings that I highlighted about Drogba). There does seem to be a dearth of that type of player in this country (I guess Carroll is the obvious exception but who's going to pay that sort of money?).
    You could be right about Harry having a positive influence on Drogba's antics, and I would definitely opt for him over what seems to be the other option (the nightmare scenario that is Adebayor)


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