Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Van der Vaart celebrates scoring Tottenham’s goal in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Sunderland. It was set up by Peter Crouch, left.
Van der Vaart celebrates scoring Tottenham’s goal in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Sunderland. It was set up by Peter Crouch, left.

A Dutch of class at Tottenham

Rafael van der Vaart's arrival has changed the way Spurs play, writes Thomas Woods.

Occasionally, a certain type of player becomes available for transfer who is such an exciting talent that a manager will snap him up without seemingly considering how he will fit in into his team. Buy now, work it out later.

Faustino Asprilla is a prime example. When Kevin Keegan bought the outrageously talented Colombian striker, for £6.7 million (Dh39.5m) in February 1996, Newcastle United had a settled team and were cruising at the top of the Premier League.

Keegan tried to cram Asprilla into a team already packed with flair players - Peter Beardsley, David Ginola, Keith Gillespie - as well as the settled and prolific centre-forward pairing of Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand, who scored 49 goals between them that season.

It upset the balance. A mere 15 games later and Newcastle had thrown away a 12-point lead and conceded the title to Manchester United.

Likewise, United's Sir Alex Ferguson bought Juan Sebastian Veron for £28.1m in the summer of 2001, tempted by the Argentine midfielder's superlative range of passing and skill.

But United already had a star-studded midfield - David Beckham, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. They played 4-4-2 and five into four does not fit so Veron was played out of position, or as the man behind a lone striker.

Despite winning the league title in 2002/03, Veron was deemed a huge flop at Old Trafford and United took a £13m loss on him after just two years at the club.

But, every now and then, there is a player who has such an impact on a team that he moulds the way they perform and becomes the focal point. Rafael van der Vaart is one such player.

Signed in the last moments of the summer transfer window by Tottenham Hotspur from Real Madrid for a knock-down £8m, the Dutchman has been a revelation.

The attacking midfielder has scored seven times in 11 games, but he has also forced Harry Redknapp, the Spurs manager, to change his tactics. Last season, Tottenham were almost always a 4-4-2 team. Now, partly down to the injury to key striker Jermain Defoe, but also in order to accommodate Van der Vaart, Redknapp has switched to 4-4-1-1, playing the Dutchman in the hole behind Peter Crouch, the lone striker.

Not only has it allowed Redknapp to field more of his talented midfield brigade at once, including the explosive Gareth Bale as a left winger, rather than at left-back, but it has also brought the best out of Crouch. Of Van der Vaart's seven goals, five have been set up by the towering forward.

Tottenham have lost just twice with Van der Vaart on the pitch and he was named the Premier League Player of the Month for October. That makes him only the fifth Dutchman to win the award, after Dennis Bergkamp, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie.

Van der Vaart will hope he can emulate the first three, by winning a Premier League title.

That might be out of Spurs' reach this season, but Van der Vaart's spur-of-the-moment signing is paying off for Redknapp.

 

twoods@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Glenn Maxwell's knock that followed ensured Brendon McCullum's knock went in vain after his explosive half-century took Chennai Super Kings past the 200-mark. Ravindranath K / The National

All is well with Punjab as Maxwell and Miller seal win against Chennai

The Australian missed out on a century but his 95 runs, along with Miller's unbeaten half-century, ensured Kings XI scaled a mighty peak of a target in a hot first game of Abu Dhabi's double-header.

 Sunderland manager Gus Poyet protests during the Premier League match against Crystal Palace at The Stadium of Light in Sunderland, northeast England, on March 15, 2014. Ian MacNicol / AFP

Sunderland going out of Premier League with a grumble

Northeast club have underwhelmed during seven-year stay in the top flight

 Hamburg players leave the field after the match against Borussia Moenchengladbach on March 30, 2014. AFP

Hamburg the dinosaur’s time may be up in Bundesliga

Ever-present for 51 years in the German top-flight, Hamburg face the prospect of relegation, writes Ian Hawkey.

 At 105 kg, Gabrielle Garcia has dominated the world circuit and loves many things about being in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Garcia seeks fresh challenge in MMA after her jiu-jitsu domination

Brazilian prides being a lioness in the sport but feels she can shed 25kg weight to pursue her MMA debut aspirations.

 England's Jonathan Trott hits out during the ICC Champions Trophy semi final match against South Africa at The Oval cricket ground, London June 19, 2013. REUTERS/Philip Brown

England’s Jonathan Trott sidelined with stress-related illness again

Jonathan Trott is to take a second break from professional cricket because of his stress-related illness as England and Wales Cricket Board and Warwickshire confirmed he will stop playing with immediate effect.

 Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho looks on during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium on April 13, 2014 in Swansea, Wales. Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

‘That’s why we are a top club’ says Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech

Jose Mourinho’s men will temporarily claim the Premier League top spot if they beat Sunderland, leaving them in control of their own destiny in the title race ahead of a crucial trip to face Liverpool at Anfield on April 27.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National