If you had asked any Spurs fan what type of player we needed to sign this summer, the majority would have said that we could do with a striker.
Instead we bought a reserve goalkeeper, an ex-Gooner defender, a defensive midfielder and most impressively of all, Rafael van der ‘bloody’ Vaart. The lone striker that we so clearly require remains elusive, but I think that we should just pretend that we got him anyway.
Are any of Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Roman Pavlyuchenko or Robbie Keane particularly suited to playing as a lone striker? Not really, but another way to look at this is to ask whether our midfielders are better suited to a 4-4-2 or a 4-5-1/4-3-3.
With the purchase of Van der Vaart, it’s going to be very difficult to squeeze all our midfield riches into four spots. Assuming that we would play either Palacios or Sandro as a defensive midfielder in away games, that would mean that we would have to pick three players from Van der Vaart, Modric, Kranjcar, Huddlestone, Lennon and Bale, while Bentley, Jenas, Dos Santos and O’Hara would also be kicking their heels.
We’ve got to look at where our strengths are and it’s in the middle of the pitch. We’ve arguably got the best batch of midfielders in the country, so let’s pick five of them and make ourselves very hard to beat.
Van der Vaart has scored 120 goals in 327 senior appearances. The best spell of his career was at Hamburg, where he scored 16, 14 and then 18 goals, over three seasons. That’s as many as any of our strikers are likely to score and we need to play him just behind the front man, rather than out on the flanks.
So who does he play behind? Pavlyuchenko is the player that I think could be the best in the role, but whether he could really be bothered is another matter. It takes hard work to be a lone striker, which is not exactly his forte and he tends to run hot and cold.
Defoe’s hold up play has got much better and he could do a job for us at home. When you consider that he rarely scores away anyway, it wouldn’t make much difference if we didn’t play him too often, when on the road.
Crouch’s problem as a lone striker is the fact that he’s too slow and immobile. However, if you played him up front with fast players like Lennon, Dos Santos or Bale on the flanks, then it would take a very brave defence to push up high, to take advantage of Crouch’s slowness. When we were forced to play with just Crouch up front against Stoke, Bale and Lennon both had effective games.
So that’s three options. None of them are brilliant, but if we choose horses for courses and rotate them according to form and injury, then it would allow our star midfielders to shine. The loser in this rationale is Robbie Keane, who is better suited to playing deep, but you can’t help but feel that his Spurs career is more or less over anyway.
We know exactly what we can and can’t do with 4-4-2. Van der Vaart’s signing means that Harry surely has no choice but to take a look at what a different formation can offer.
It’s a shame that we don’t have a Fabiano, Huntelaar or even a Gyan to really put the cherry on the cake, but what can you do? Let’s make the best of what we’ve got until the summer, when we can start dreaming of the striker that will make all our dreams come true.