at The Lane?
It doesn’t seem to be just the girls that have a crush on a certain shortish, barrel chested Dutchman. The plaudits are flowing – some are a bit over the top, those forgetting the impact Jurgen had in ’94 – memories invoked – ah the new Gaza. Rafael van der Vaart has come to save the day.
Watching two games over the weekend – one on Saturday the other on Sunday – there can’t be many who are still disappointed Spurs didn’t manage to land Joe Cole, he may have been £8million cheaper but he’s far more than £8million worse. As Cole stands there doing his Benny Hill impersonation – hands on back of hips and tongue out – and doing not much else as Liverpool flounder, van der Vaart is changing games.
It was another slow, sloppy start by Spurs against Villa on Saturday. Again ‘Arry’s hand forced into changes by injuries as he played what his fifth or sixth string central partnership, Huddlestone and Bassong, with no Ledley, Dawson, Woodgate or Kaboul to call on. Thankfully the painful sight of Corluka playing the position was not inflicted on us, ‘Arry obviously influenced by Huddlestone’s defensive shift, helping out the central pair, in the midweek European outing.
Huddlestone wasn’t a complete disaster in that centre-back position that so many have earmarked for him for a long time now, not so good under the high ball. It was his cohort in there that gifted the opening goal as he was mugged by Heskey when a “when in doubt kick it out” hoof was the required course. A strong run by the big lump Capello is desperately trying to get back into the England side and a ball across the face of goal for Albrighton to get round the back and nip in front of his fullback to bundle it in. It kind of summed up Spurs in the opening part of the game.
Unfortunately with Hudd at the back it meant there was a gap in the middle of the field and ‘Arry decided on Jenas, instead of picking an actual holding midfielder. Sandro again finding himself on the bench. So it was no coincidence Villa were over running them. And with the manager sticking with the Crouch & Pav pairing up front it also meant van der Vaart was given that nominal right sided position. It’s not exactly where he sticks, which does create an imbalance to the side. It lead to the Dutchman taking his time to get into the game.
But get into it he did – much wasn’t coming down the left as the Brum lot were pretty much doing anything they could to stop Bale most of it not within the spirit of the game – coming into the middle of course. Shoved over in the box, penalty? No. Should have been. The strikers were having chances but again didn’t look like they were going to score, seems to be a lack of confidence. So they had to revert to providers, Pav laying off for a van der Vaart long range shot that tested Friedel, then almost getting in the way before leaving it to the number 11 to clip the netting as Friedel looked on flat footed.
Then Pav, on the right, put in a great cross on Crouch’s head at the back post, the Englishman nodded it back across goal for van der Vaart to power in a great header, for a well deserved equaliser. Spurs were running the game now, or was it van der Vaart?
A change made at half-time by ‘Arry, Pav off and Lennon on, vdV moved up behind Crouch. A better balanced side and it nearly paid off straight up as Lennon did a Pav, putting it on Crouch’s head and again it was across the goal to vdV, this time though he was fouled just before he could finish it off. More chances were coming and going, the win should have been comfortable as it was all Spurs.
But it took to 15 minutes till the end and it was the same old routine, Lennon from the right – though a left footed cross this time – and Crouch nods it down from the back post to the oncoming van der Vaart. A sublime touch by the Dutchman left Dunne flat on his face, bang it’s 2-1. Great goal and the lovefest starts.
Minutes later and Villa should have been down to 10 men as Lennon was free only to be scythed down by Collins, yes he was a hell of a long way out but it’s Lennon and there’s now way the lumbering Dunne was going to catch him to deny him a goal scoring opportunity. So Collins denied him that and it should have been red and not yellow. The challenged pretty summed up much of Villa on the day.
So back up the league, a good win after a Champions League game, being behind and not exactly firing on all cylinders in that first part of the game and a new hero. Yes I’ve been dismissive of van der Vaart previously, still can’t deny Holland looked better during the World Cup when he was substituted, but he’s putting it in here. Providing exactly what Spurs have needed, a midfielder who gets into the box, instead of just hanging around the edge and when playing behind a striker providing the link and more importantly someone who wants to run the game.