Rafael van der Vaart’s arrival at White Hart Lane for just £8m undoubtedly represents an excellent piece of business on the part of Harry Redknapp, but it also poses the Tottenham manager – who is not, as it happens, “a fucking wheeler-dealer” – some difficult tactical questions.
With the likes of Luka Modric, Aaron Lennon, Tom Huddlestone and Gareth Bale all battling it out for midfield berths, Redknapp’s problem, albeit a nice one to have, is just how he’s going to fit so many talented players into the same starting eleven.
The most obvious resolution to Redknapp’s selection headache would be to play with a lone striker rather than the partnership he has traditionally preferred throughout his career.
Currently favouring the combination of Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe in attack, Redknapp could be forced to drop one of the two in order to accommodate van der Vaart in either a 4-5-1 or a 4-2-3-1 system.
Should such a situation materialise, van der Vaart would likely be deployed in the defensive screen of two alongside Tom Huddlestone.
With the young Englishman’s positional discipline allowing the new signing to break forward more regularly, the Dutchman would lend his creative instincts to the attack, most probably just behind a bank of three including Lennon, Modric and Bale.
Although Redknapp has not been a willing exponent of one-striker systems in the past he has had some success on the rare occasions he has deployed such a formation with Spurs.
Indeed, last weeks’ 2-1 win against Stoke came with Tottenham playing with a 4-1-4-1 shape, Huddlestone playing the anchor role and Crouch leading the line in Defoe’s absence.
Bale to left-back?
Another option available to Redknapp would be to move Gareth Bale into his original position at left-back, switching Luka Modric back out to left midfield and therefore freeing up space in the centre of midfield for van der Vaart.
This would allow Tottenham to retain their 4-4-2 shape and incorporate their Dutch superstar in one fell swoop. However, shifting Bale – a player in excellent form – back into defence would be a controversial move and is unlikely to be one of Redknapp’s favoured tactical outcomes.
Despite making his name as a full back with Southampton, Bale played some of the best football of his career on the left wing last season and is now seen as an out-and-out midfielder by his manager.
Reducing the Welshman’s attacking potential by taking him out of the attack would almost certainly be detrimental to Spurs’ fortunes and, as a result, is an improbably solution to this particular issue. When it comes to Redknapp, however, nothing should be ruled out.
Which ever method Redknapp ultimately chooses to embed van der Vaart into his team, what is clear is that the former Dutch captain will add a significant amount of extra quality to the Tottenham midfield.
A player blessed with superb vision and excellent passing range as well as a great ability with the dead ball, Spurs fans will be looking forward to seeing their latest acquisition in action this season – no matter what the formation.