Despite Tottenham Hotspur form carrying them back to the right end of the Premier League after a shaky start, boss Harry Redknapp admitted earlier this week that he had a selection headache he must make a decision on during the international break.
Spurs entered the break for Euro 2012 qualifiers with a morale-boosting 2-1 victory over local rivals Arsenal at White Hart Lane, but could only secure victory after a tactical shift that ended the Gunners dominance and led to Kyle Walker’s stunning 25 yard winner.
Rafael Van Der Vaart, once the heart of a young Spurs team as they made their way into the Champions League last season, found himself out on the right wing in an unbalanced midfield as Redknapp attempted to accommodate the striking partnership of Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor as well as new signing Scott Parker in a midfield partnership with Luka Modric.
While the Dutchman’s tendency to drift in field allowed him to pop up in the right place at the right time to put his side ahead in the North London Derby, Arsenal were able to exploit his defensive naivety as they attacked the unguarded full back to equalise.
Redknapp must now decide whether to deploy Van Der Vaart in his favoured position behind a single striker, most likely to be Adebayor, or drop him altogether in order to keep the Togolese forward and Defoe together.
Yes, it does seem to be a problem. Rafa can’t run back and chase the full-back. Against the better teams it is a problem,’ Redknapp told The Sun.
‘Rafa’s best position is in the middle, playing just behind the front man.
‘The only problem is that Jermain Defoe plays there too and Jermain is playing very, very well at the moment.
‘So, I guess I have got a decision to make, haven’t I? I suppose it’s now between Rafa and Jermain over who plays in the team.
There is no doubt that Defoe has been revitalised this season, and while he has found the net twice in five Premier League games, it is his all round play that has improved the most.
But while the former West Ham striker sat at home during the international break, Van Der Vaart was off with the Netherlands, starting against Sweden in their final qualifier.
Van Der Vaart’s calibre is beyond doubt and his experience with the World Cup finalists puts him above and beyond Defoe, despite his excellent goal scoring record.
Defoe has always been one of Redknapp’s favourites and has spent much of his career guiding the talented striker, but now it may be time to let him down for the good of the team as Spurs go in search of Champions League football once more.
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