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No Defoe? No Problem, Rafa’s Here


Written by mather23

The news of Jermain Defoe’s long-term layoff brought scowls to the faces of many Spurs fans, not to mention Harry Redknapp. The striker had just bagged a hat-trick for England and looked on his way to top form. Having postponed his proposed groin operation it seemed that he was ready to push on and show off his talent on the European stage. However he is now sidelined for anything up to three months and Spurs will have to do without him. For a manager like Harry Redknapp who is so keen on the traditional 4-4-2 formation it will have come as a shock. In previous years when the only priority was the league, he might have preferred to keep two up top but with the arrival of Rafael van der Vaart, a new option has made itself almost unavoidable.

The World Cup saw more teams than ever starting to play with a 4-2-3-1 formation, Holland being one of them. Although van der Vaart himself was kept on the bench after the return to fitness of Arjen Robben, he is now the perfect man to play behind the striker and pull the strings. With Luka Modric having picked up a knock at The Hawthorns and being a doubt for the Werder Bremen game, van der Vaart will get his chance. He had a decent debut on Saturday with some delightful through balls demonstrating his undoubted ability. Now is his time to show off why he should be first choice ahead of the Croatian duo of Modric and Kranjcar.

In the past few years he has found it tough to establish himself at both domestic and international level. Wesley Sneijder has been in his way at both levels for differing lengths of time while his spell at Real Madrid was something of a failure. He was signed as an afterthought in the summer of 2008 after they failed to lure Cristiano Ronaldo to the Bernabeu. He settled in well though and played the majority of the fixtures although many of those were substitute appearances. His second and last season once again saw him with many obstacles to displace in order to win a starting place. The signings of both Ronaldo and Kaka left him with work to do. Then he had to contend with a resurgent Guti who was keen to impress in his last season at his boyhood club. Van der Vaart put these difficulties aside and forced his way into the picture whilst Kaka was out injured and Manuel Pellegrini began to rely on him to dictate games. In spite of another decent season, it became clear that he would be one of those heading for the exit as more new faces like Mesut Oezil and Angel Di Maria arrived. Now at White Hart Lane, the Dutchman has an opportunity to put himself up there as one of the foremost playmakers in the world game. If given freedom he will be able to cause problems for any side and will chip in with goals to boot, as shown by the 48 he got in three years at Hamburg.

For these reasons I think the injury to Tottenham’s leading marksman might be a blessing in disguise. It will give van der Vaart a bedding in period where he will be allowed the freedom to express himself. With the defensive shield of Tom Huddlestone and Wilson Palacios behind him, he can concentrate on what he does best, unlocking defences, starting at the Weserstadion tomorrow night and maybe for those many North London optimists out there, ending at Wembley.

Do you think van der Vaart can help Spurs through a tough group and leave the other Rafa – Benitez – looking more red-face than usual?

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