That Liverpool game was absolutely astonishing. And fortunately this time, it wasn’t in the ‘we got thrashed 5-1’ kind of way. It was the ‘we thrashed them’ kind of way. We had our long-serving stalwart Ledley King in defence, we finally had more than one decent forward upfront in Adebayor and Defoe (eventually) and most notably, we had the finest central midfield in the league. The dogged holding role of Scott Parker plus the playmaking ‘eyes-all-the-way-around-the-head’ prowess of Modric, along with a rip-roaring goal from the Croatian. All those factors ensured that Liverpool hardly got a look-in on Brad Friedel’s net and when they did it was either offside or shut down with immediate effect, as the usually rampant Luis Suarez found out.
The scoreline, coupled with the quality of the football we witnessed on Sunday [the latter undoubtedly irrelevant to Charlie Adam and Martin Skrtel being sent off] made for yet another memorable clash with the Reds. However, to add another downhill slide to the constant roller-coaster which is ‘being a Spurs fan’, we crashed out to Stoke in the League Cup on penalties after a goalless draw. The regulation 90 minutes was illustrated in perfect detail by about five seconds of footage on BBC’s League Cup highlights show. My pondering mind now asks this:
Do Spurs need bulky centre midfielders like Sandro anymore? Or are they a lot better off with creative playmakers and solid peddlers of Cruyff’s brainchild ‘total-football’ like Parker and Modric? Are Spurs better with their tradition of slick midfielders with ‘Fizz’? Or should they stick with ‘Fizz-ique’?
Last Sunday, it was a rare treat to watch Spurs win against such a high-profile team. The last time that happened was last November against Arsenal on their own turf, and in unlikely fashion. The team we had on Sunday didn’t contain any real beefcake in the form of Sandro or Huddlestone like Harry would usually employ for possession purposes. Modric and Parker made up the central midfield with no holding player behind them and commanded it briliantly. Parker’s dogged defending as well as his combination with Modric made him look like there was a well-built 12th man on the field for Spurs as it kept possession for Spurs in long [and joyful] periods. Call it a Shallow Hal moment but in reverse. We see Scott Parker as a tad scrawny but he possesses the strength of a large defensive midfielder.
Add Kranjcar, Bale and to an extent, Walker to the midfield and you have Adebayor and Defoe supplied with more ammo than the Royal Barracks. The attacks were so mercilessly frequent that there was hardly a need for defence.
However, one swallow doesn’t make a summer. Games aren’t always going to be won with pure fancy trickery, because if they lose the ball, they might not always win it back.
With Palacios dropped to the bench and eventually sold to Stoke, Sandro has had his chance to shine in the League for Spurs. And he has shone. His ball-holding abilities and sheer desire to win possession hasn’t gone unnoticed. He is even known to possess a Huddlestone-esque strike which blasted past Chelsea keeper Petr Cech in the most recent Chelsea v Spurs game. Huddlestone is a great playmaker known for long passes out wide to set the team up for wing attacks. His shots are also ferocious and in recent times his goals have been pivotal. He scored a solitary goal against Bolton in Spurs’ 2009/2010 top-four campaign to help us towards 4th place with a vital three points. Last season, he scored a blinding goal against Arsenal which went through the legs of Van Der Vaart on its way into the net. Spurs were 3-1 down before that goal but went on to draw 3-3 after a Van Der Vaart penalty late into the second half.
The flaw in bulkier centre midfielders is that some of their short passes can be very wayward and so that loses possession cheaply. Not only that but as awe-inspiring as long distance goals are, they don’t come often from Sandro and Huddlestone. But then again nor do they come from Modric or Parker often enough.
It is difficult to compare a bulky midfield in a non-essential cup to a full-on attacking midfield in a more important Premier League clash because it was two different teams and two competitions of differing significance. obviously the manager decides which competition is a priority. Harry did so through the strength of his squad selections and for the Stoke game, there was a complete change of personnel barring the defence. So we can’t be sure which is best.
Maybe we need to wait for a few more games. Good things come to those who wait don’t they?