Harry Redknapp’s new signing offers great creative injection to White Hart Lane midfield.
Tottenham fans will be eagerly awaiting their first glimpses of £8m deadline day signing Rafael Van der Vaart at the Hawthorns this weekend. Despite a difficult spell both in Madrid and for his country, the Dutchman has maintained an excellent reputation as both a creative and goal scoring midfielder.
As with all foreign imports, it may take the former Hamburg and Ajax star some time before he can stamp his class on the Premier League. However, I believe Harry Redknapp may have finally signed a world-class midfielder who can provide performances and goals for Spurs in the same manner as Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Cesc Fabregas have been doing for their respective clubs.
There’s no doubt that Tottenham have come on leaps and bounds under Redknapp but the home defeat to Wigan illustrated that the team still lacks the guile to open teams up that sit deep and hold their shape at White Hart Lane. Last season Stoke, Wolves and Bolton all kept clean-sheets from their visits while two of those sides actually picked up wins. During the recent transfer window it seemed likely that the big-name arrival expected at the Lane would be a striker. The Lilywhites were linked to the likes of Luis Fabiano, Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Mauro Zarate amongst others but the last-minute capture of midfield man Van der Vaart may prove to be the ‘special’ signing Harry Redknapp craved.
Spurs have an array of midfield talent at the club but in terms of goal scoring midfielders, the cupboard is pretty bare. Tom Huddlestone netted twice in the league last season, Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon three apiece while Wilson Palacios scored once. Niko Kranjcar was the exception with six strikes in just 24 league appearances (19 starts) but he is struggling to make his mark on the team this season. Van der Vaart may have only scored six himself last season and five before that, but as a bit-part player in Madrid, he was often played out of position or had to influence games from the bench. A glance at his record in both Holland and Germany suggests Spurs have signed a player who can both unlock defences and become a regular scorer himself.
The statistics speak for themselves. Van der Vaart scored 52 goals in 117 league appearances for Ajax (108 starts) and 29 goals in 74 league appearances for Hamburg (72 starts). Even for Real Madrid, the Dutchman scored 11 goals in 58 league appearances despite only 31 starts. One thing’s for certain, his long-range shooting ability will be a welcome addition to Spurs. Particularly when teams such as Wigan, Wolves and Stoke sit deep at White Hart Lane limiting the space for the home wingers to get in behind them. While Modric may be excellent on the ball, Tottenham fans will tell you his record from outside the box is not what it should be. Alternatively, the Dutchman will offer a more potent threat centrally.
Some of the praise Van der Vaart has received from those that have worked with him suggests Tottenham have signed a real star. Former Spurs manager Martin Jol once described the £8m signing as “one of the best five play-makers in Europe”. While Dutch team-mate Arjen Robben argues that he could be the ‘best’ midfielder in the Premier League. He told the Daily Star Sunday, “With Rafa on board, Spurs really do have one of the very best midfield players in the Premier League, maybe even the best.
“In terms of his vision, his range of passing, his ability to split a defence and his eye for goal he is as good as Cesc Fabregas, Steven Gerrard and of course Frank Lampard.”
“He is that bridge for Spurs that makes them go from a very good Premier League club to a team capable of taking on and beating any side in Europe on their day.”
Van der Vaart’s arrival may give Harry a few selection headaches but it does enable him to tinker with the current 4-4-2 formation. With Jermain Defoe out for six weeks through injury, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Redknapp resort to the formation that did so well away at Stoke. That would mean Peter Crouch up front with Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon on the flanks. This would also be a way of incorporating the Dutchman in his preferred role in the ‘hole’ with Huddlestone and either Palacios, Sandro or Modric behind him.
This formation would give Spurs plenty of flexibility and seems likely with Redknapp obviously not overly keen on Robbie Keane or Roman Pavlyuchenko as a starter. Tottenham may have lacked a regular midfield goal scorer in recent seasons in comparison to their London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea but now they may finally have their man.
Frank Lampard has reached double figures in league goals for the past six seasons while Cesc Fabregas notched 15 goals in just 27 league appearances in 2009/10. Now, Spurs have a player in their ranks that can provide a similar return.
The £8m signing of Van der Vaart not only offers creativity, experience and hunger to Spurs but also a midfield goal threat. If he lives up to the quotes from international team-mate Arjen Robben, the addition of the Dutchman is likely to get Tottenham flying high in the Premier League once again.