There’s a lot of talk that the Champions League is becoming dull, but there’s been no evidence of this in Tottenham’s four games in the tournament. Every one has been absolutely compelling in it’s own way and none more so than last night’s 4-1 win over FC Twente.
It was a good team performance, but one player shined so brightly that he took most of the limelight. Rafael van der Vaart was everywhere, making a mockery of a supposed position on the right of midfield. With this industry, the Dutchman managed to combine extreme skill. It’s rare to see both of these qualities in one player. Especially at Tottenham.
During his time on the pitch Van der Vaart missed a penalty, scored a goal and got himself sent off. All were inevitable in their own way. While I was certain that he would convert his penalty against Wolves the other week, Twente’s theatrics and time wasting put a lost of pressure on Rafa. During the long wait for him to take the kick, I couldn’t have been the only one whose thoughts began to meander around the fact that historically, the Dutch like a penalty shoot out about as much as the English.
Shortly after missing the penalty Van der Vaart hit a shot which would have been a tremendous goal, were it not for an acrobatic save from the keeper. He finally got his reward for all that hard work, with a beauty of a turn and volley in the second half.
The second half also saw Van der Vaart sent off. The decision to give him a second booking was extremely harsh, but the manic, fist-pumping performance from our number 11 was difficult to ignore and he did keep giving away fouls. I think that it’s quite likely that Harry might have substituted him if he’d stayed on the pitch for another five or ten minutes, but at least now he’ll be fresh for Villa on Saturday.
Of course, Van der Vaart wasn’t the only hero. Bale was his usual brilliant, direct self and scored a cracking goal to round off the scoring. Pavlyuchenko was cool personified for his two penalties. The second one in particular was the sort of thing that you’d try down the park.
Yet, it was still Van der Vaart that everyone was talking about after the game. He just looks a class above everyone at the moment, but in time we can expect our better players such as Modric, Bale and Huddlestone to fully adjust to his wavelength and reap even greater rewards.
I’d still like to see him in a free role within a 4-5-1 rather than a free role within a 4-4-2, which can be easier exploited. There wasn’t much evidence of a partnership developing between Pav and Crouch, despite the latter acting as a constant nuisance to their defence and I think we’d have seen a similar scoreline with an extra man in midfield.
From this performance it seems obvious that wherever he is meant to be played, Van der Vaart will end up in the centre. He wants the ball all the time and demands both the spotlight and responsibility. You might as well build your whole team around Van der Vaart, because he’s so good that he’s going to take centre stage anyway.