By Jack McInroy II
Earlier this week we learned that derbies are not necessarily a priority for Harry Redknapp. More significant than being the team we hate second most, West Ham were bottom of the league and they turned us over. There’s a long way to go, but its easy to get the feeling we’re using up all our lives early in the season.
The Spurs team looked like this: shaky keeper, makeshift defence, imbalanced midfield, Peter Crouch. William Gallas joined Younes Kaboul, Michael Dawson and, of course, Jonathan Woodgate on the injury list and rather than risk Ledley King ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League game against FC Twente Redknapp went with Vedran Corluka and Sebastien Bassong.
In the first half Jermaine Jenas and Rafael van der Vaart both hit decent long-range efforts, but Rob Green was equal to them, and then, after West Ham’s goal, Luka Modric belted one from the edge of the area, which Green tipped onto the bar. Green may be one of the worst ‘keepers in the division, but today he put in a flawless performance.
Their goal came from a corner – Frédéric Piquionne beat Corluka to the ball and there was no one on the far post. The match was end-to-end with Green and Carlo Cudicini the best players on the pitch, the latter most notably tipping Noble’s drive over the bar, the former insuring his team picked up all three points.
Van der Vaart looks the signing of the summer, a wonderful addition to the squad and team, but his arrival means Redknapp decisions to make when it comes to team selection. Either him or Modric on the bench is unthinkable, but this solution – Bale at fullback, Modric, Tom Huddlestone, Jenas and Aaron Lennon in midfield with van der Vaart in front of them – meant a lack of balance and with Lennon out of form, no wide threat. Jenas, to be fair to him, has played fairly well this season, but its always baffling and disappointing to see him in the starting line-up.
After the Stoke game in which Bale picked up a brace including that supreme volley, Redknapp said "I can't think of a better left-sided player, really, that left foot of his is amazing, he can run all day... He's got everything. You couldn't even put a value on him. Almost any club in the world would want to buy him." Somehow he made the leap from that to - “I think he will be as good as Ashley Cole... He started as a left-winger at Arsenal and he's ended up at left-back, and this kid's the same. If he's going to be the best anywhere, I think it'll be from left-back."
In what way is a Bale, a goal-scoring midfielder who’s never shown any particular defensive ability, similar to Ashley Cole, admittedly good going forward, is best known for keeping top wingers quiet? Four days after the Stoke game Bale provided all four assists in the second leg of the Young Boys clash, yet Redknapp has played him at full-back as often as not since. There’s been no better player in the Premier League in 2010, but today we got nothing from him.
I’m no football manager, but the optimum option seems obvious: a five-man midfield of Bale, Modric, Huddlestone, van der Vaart & Lennon.
Last week’s optimism over Alan Hutton may have been slightly premature. He may be adept at bombing forward, but he’s no use to us if he can’t defend. He was turned inside out a few times today.
In recent times we’ve received plaudits over the quality of our bench, but neither Robbie Keane nor Giovani Dos Santos are a threat and outside of his two goals, both important and well finished, Roman Pavlyuchenko has done literally nothing else.