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 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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