Following Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-1 victory over Arsenal at White Hart Lane, amidst the euphoria among the Spurs faithful after a home win against their bitter local rivals, one of the key figures in the display for the hosts, Rafael van der Vaart, has gone on to express his frustration at his current place in his manager’s system.
Van der Vaart scored the opening goal for Tottenham five minutes before half-time, latching onto Emannuel Adebayor’s pass to put the ball past Wojciech Szczesny. However, van the Dutchman’s venture into the Arsenal penalty area came from a run infield from his less familiar wide role in the Spurs midfield. Deployed to compliment Gareth Bale on the flanks for Tottenham, allowing manager Harry Redknapp to accommodate in-form pair Scott Parker and Luka Modric in the centre, van der Vaart was moved from his advanced role which saw the former Hamburg player net 13 goals in 28 Premier League appearances last season. However, with Jermain Defoe finding his form in the early weeks of the new season, alongside new signing Adebayor, Defoe has displaced van der Vaart from his role as second striker alongside the main frontman.
The former Real Madrid midfielder’s performance offered mixed fortunes from his wide position, having given Spurs the lead with a cool finish to send his side in a goal up at the interval, van der Vaart would look to create from wide, only to be frustrated with just one of seven crosses finding a Spurs player. Meanwhile, the true frustration for the player in this role came with the defensive duties of a wide midfielder. Making just a single tackle throughout the game, van der Vaart was withdrawn after 64 minutes, in favour of the more defensive-minded Sandro in the spurs midfield.
In the days following the North London derby, van der Vaart has aired his discontent at playing in a more withdrawn role than that which saw an instant impact in the Premier League last year. Having complained at rarely completing 90 minutes for Spurs, and at being deployed away from his preferred role, the player has himself highlighted the defensive demands of the position as restricting on his favoured style of play: “If
Meanwhile, Redknapp has defended his decisions, claiming the player must learn to adapt, declaring that professionalism should be key to the player performing a role to suit the demands of the team’s system. With a midfield boasting the likes of Niko Kranjcar, Sandro, Aaron Lennon and Steven Pienaar, all outside of the starting lineup against Arsenal, the Tottenham manager will be looking to van der Vaart to prove his worth and his seniority in a midfield boasting a depth of talent. While the Dutchman’s opening goal was a key sign of his ability, going forward, Redknapp will be hoping to see his players unite for the common goal of securing a return to Champions League football, with an effective van der Vaart a key figure in the side.
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