Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Paging Jermaine Defoe

photo by TottenhamFanvia PhotoRee

Roving columnist Ed checks in with an analysis of where Spurs are and what they need to do to climb even higher:
Okay, so Van der Vaart, Modric, Bale, King, and Kaboul are all out with injuries.  And Defoe is so cold he gives me a shiver every time I see him play.  And they’ve got to win to keep pace with the big boys or lose their place in the Champions League next year.  So what will they do?  Keep winning, of course.
These are your 2011 Spurs.  It’s not like the old Spurs who crumble or disappear weak-kneed into the sunset.  Harry picks up Pienaar (hah) and puts in Kranjcar again and boom – an assist by Pienaar (hah), another big goal by Kranjcar, and a 2 - 1 victory, this time at Sunderland.
It makes me wonder – is Redknapp really this good?  Is he really pulling off success in the Champions League and competing for a top four place in the EPL with backups?  Or is it that he’s just lucky that players that are forced into the lineup are playing this well?  Probably some of both.
[Clearly, Redknapp saw a quality player in Kranjcar, as it’s hard not to see that when he plays.  The only thing he lacks is speed, and this is the only quality that keeps him behind Bale and Lennon in the starting lineup.  In fact, Pienaar (hah) is similar in this respect.  But both Kranjcar and Pienaar have good vision, handle the ball well, and – at least for Kranjcar – have the ability to put top flight shots on goal.  In short, both of these players are better midfielders than about half the EPL have in their starting eleven.
But what’s terrific about this Spurs team is not just its depth, but its ability to remain calm through the downturns and to gut out wins against the teams that everyone knows they should beat.  This is what United have done for years, and Chelsea, and even Arsenal for the most part.  Interestingly, Spurs were unable to do this in the first half of the season, but now, regardless of how miserably they play in the first half, Spurs have shown the ability to come back and take all three points by the end of the match.]
Now on Tuesday evening Spurs will be teeing it up against some tough European competition in their Champions League match against AC Milan, the top team in the Italian Serie A.  I should expect that this will be a tough one for Spurs with their line-up, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they pulled off a draw or even the win.

First of all, they deserve to win in large part because no one really likes AC Milan or Serie A.  And second, some of the players in the line-up should be highly motivated, as this is their first Champions League action.  The loss of Jenas from too many yellows will obviously hurt, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pienaar (hah) moved to one of the center positions with Kranjcar and Lennon out wide.  That’s the line up I'd go with if I were Uncle Harry.  I’d pair Pienaar (hah) with Palacios as holding midfielder.
I must admit some concern regarding Van der Vaart.  I expect that he’s not at full strength despite reports that he’s playing.  If he’s not, I actually think it’s a mistake to put him in.  First of all, they need him for the rest of the EPL season, and second of all, VDV at 80% is not as good as someone else at 100%.  I’d rather see the Crouch / Defoe combo up front if VDV isn’t all there; Crouch is always the secret weapon in the Champions League as the continental teams never seem to have much of an idea how to handle him.
But ultimately, the key players in this match are Defoe and Pavlyuchenko (a/k/a Defoe and Павлюченко).  These guys have to start getting something going, especially Defoe. 
Not to put the pressure on Jermaine, but last year you were the team’s leading scorer and at times the league's leading scorer.  I mean, seriously, it’s time for you to step up.  Or put more bluntly, it’s time for you to have your Rooney moment. 

This is farlieonfootie for February 16.

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