Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Palacios answers the question: 'Yes he can'

Deconstructing the Tottenham midfield conundrum - Part IV

The Panther Strikes

When Spurs signed Wilson Palacios, some people scoffed at the transfer fee. There’s no doubt it’s extortionate considering he spent time on loan in Birmingham’s reserve team having been bought for a million or so by Wigan and then sold for £12M - £14M not long after. But when we spend on average £12M - £16M on must-have players that turn out to be fluff from a belly-button rather than a tail from a scorpion, when a player does have sting, you don’t much care about the cost involved.

Fingers still pointed towards us with the suggestion that Wilson is yet another in-form player Spurs have signed on a knee-jerk reaction. Then he dominated Arsenals midfield in the NLD and any doubters shut their mouths and moved back into the shadows.

Wilson Palacios is nothing like Michael Carrick or Didier Zokora or Jermaine Jenas. There’s a bit of Davids in there with regards to intensity. There’s a bit of a lot of what’s been missing from our midfield.

He grafts, he gets the tackles in and hassles and bullies the opposition giving them little time to stick their foot on the ball and dictate play. He also knows when and where to commit fouls. Naughty but necessary at times when our backs are up against it. What type of midfielder is he? Why is it so important to tag him with a label? He’s a panther not a pussycat. That’s all that should matter.

Too many times we are left wanting in the centre of the park. Jenas is maligned because he runs forward with the ball and loses it and suddenly we are under pressure at the other end of the park. But it’s usually because the opposition stroll down the middle with impunity. Having Palacios – a player of his ilk – anchored in the area between defence and attack, waiting to pounce, gives balance and structure to the side. Which breeds confidence. Never happened with Zokora in the middle because he isn’t of the same assured standard. As discussed in Part I, Didier lacks discipline and a footballing brain. Wilson marshals his area which allows the likes of Modric to express himself creatively in the full knowledge that if the ball is lost, they still have to get through Wilson.

His best performance for us thus far was against Arsenal and also arguably against Chelsea's might (Ballack, Essien, Lampard). His distribution is not perfect by a long-shot. But his reliability is. And he’ll get better as the team improves. It’s simplicity really. He knows what his responsibility is and he does exactly what he has to do. Modric isn’t the only one to blossom. Jenas also looks better for it. There is absolutely no doubt that the money spent on him was worth it. We’ve actually signed a player that we required to help remove the deficiencies of the side.

As mentioned, he is not a Carrick type of player. But times have changed and our creative outlet comes from Luka and at the moment that’s from the left-hand side which means Jenas role is one of ambiguity as he can support Wilson in midfield and also make the most of his box-to-box traits by supporting both Luka and the forwards. For the first time this season, there is actual fluidity through the team as you’ll see Robbie Keane drop deep if need be to support the midfield and link-up play.

Players playing for each other. Its still early days still. And it's obvious the evolution has only just began. We've stuck our heads out from beneath the water and crawled out of the ocean and onto the beach.

Palacios in the middle and Lennon on the right are the only certainties (IMO), which means the midfield is yet to be set in stone. Modric, out on the left, might find himself central alongside Wilson – with a new left-winger (Downing?) taking over on the wing. Personally I’d stay clear of Downing. He’s a decent enough player but faith has to be placed on Gareth Bale who I think might have a future on the left side of midfield. It’s a risk, but no bigger than signing Stewart Downing. We’ve been burnt by the Bentley signing, and just don’t see how the Boro boy is worth the same amount of money, considering Bentley is only worth half of the price tag we paid for him (and he still hasn’t repaid a quarter of it out on the pitch).

Bentley can’t beat a man, neither can Downing. Their strengths are in their ability to cross a ball, and land it on the foot or head of a forward. But Downing is not that good (he's not right?) to warrant a massive fee and the usual dollop of over-whelming pressure that goes hand-in-hand with signing for Spurs. Bentley’s problems are more in his head than his feet at the moment, and although some would like to see him sold on, he should be given the chance next season to prove his worth. £16M for a bench-warmer (if that's as good as it gets for him) is oh so typical of us, and if that ends up being the case, then we may as well sell him. If he rediscovers his form then we have a player who can cross the ball. The problem is, if Lennon is fit, David won’t get near the team. But this is altogether another discussion for another article.

If Modric stays slotted into the left-hand side with the freedom to drift in-wards, then that means a possible target in the summer will be another brand spanking new central midfielder. If Modric and Lennon are the creative sparks then signing another imposing DM might be the answer. Again, I say ‘DM’ in the broadest sense. There are players who can tackle and play-make. Having someone alongside Wilson who is as strong mentally and physically, but with the added bonus of possessing a decent passing range, then we’ll be laughing.

Or maybe a Carrickesque type player who can provide defensive support, but also Hoddlesque passes. Palacios and Carrick, hmm. Try it out in FM2009 and let me know how it works out. I guess this would be a good time to mention the name of Huddlestone again. Shame oh shame the mobility is lacking for Tom.

So am I asking for the moon on a stick with regards to having two big, strong central midfield players bossing the centre-mid? Yes. Yes I am. Two brick walls are better than one. By having a midfield that's hard to break down and one that can own that part of the pitch is the basis for dominating matches.

That will mean that Zokora, Huddlestone and O’Hara will be nervously waiting on whether they have a future or not. Adel and Bostock are both potentially future first-teamers – so it’s obvious that another signing would open the exit door for two players at the very least.

In Part V I’ll look at the young pretenders to the midfield conundrum and a concluding analysis on who should play where and who needs to go.

What is certain is that Wilson Palacios is one of the pieces of the jigsaw. The piece right in the middle.

Deconstructing the Tottenham midfield conundrum - Part I

Deconstructing the Tottenham midfield conundrum - Part II

Deconstructing the Tottenham midfield conundrum - Part III


Anonymous said...

Buy Scott Brown from Celtic and play him next to 'The Panther' in a 4-2-3-1. Buy a decent left sided attacking midfielder (Bale?), move Modric to the centre behind a new big and bold target man. Hello Champions League.

Anonymous said...

I was very sceptical about this blog at first and still to an extent don't really like the Levy bashing. That said, the 'deconstructing the Tottenham midfield' series has been quite enjoyable.

For me I see Modric occupying the LM slot next season. JJ for all his deficiencies has become the most natural partner for Wilson in CM.

Wilsons anchoring has allowed JJ to get about the pitch and help out his team mates, be it in defence or attack. It is no coincidence that JJ's form has picked up since Wilson joined.

JJ for too long was carrying his CM partner be it Zokora or Hudd, doing the work of 2 men meant he was spreading himself too thin and his performances suffered.

Bentley has obviously had ALOT of problems in his personal life this season and it has blatantly affected his game (lets face it we all get affected by personal issues) I feel that its important if we are to challenge that we have a quality squad with players able to play in different systems and types of games. Bentley gives us an alternative to Lennons pace and impact play.

Bale should also be kept, the kid is 19 and his confidence has been shattered by the Ramos era. His form when he joined us saw him become one of the best young players in Europe IMO. Lets keep him and get him back to that level. I feel that he has a future at LM/LW and offers us pace in place of Modric's class and cunning.

Looking forward to the next instalment. The young pretenders we have are the most exciting crop for years.

Anonymous said...

Scott Brown is sh*t.

If we bought him he's be permanently banned due to the poor quality of his tackling and his attitude reeks!

Living in Glasgow I get to see alot of Rangers and Celtic. There is not a single player in the SPL that is worthy of Tottenham Hotspur.

Hutton will come good for us (if he gets his head straight)

Moddle is God said...

On a roll Spooky. Cant disagree. Palacios HAS answered our question (quest?) for a reliable and strong midfielder for all the dirty work. I'm a JJ fan and honestly think he can do a job for us in the middle and should not be sold. Zokora and Huddlestone are two players I think we'll get rid of in the summer.

Oops said...

Spooky is a Levy supporter. I think. It's all a bit clouded nowadays.I think the 'joke' has weaved into his tapestry of truths and satire. He probably can't tell the difference himself.

Anonymous said...

Scott Brown? Rather have Charlie Brown. Snoopy can slot into the left-side and Woodstock through the middle.

spooky said...

Levy supporter? I'm shaking my fists at the monitor as I type this.

Anonymous said...

Modric on the left, Wilson in the middle with Jenas and Lennon on the right. Exactly how it is now. I wouldn't change things, theres no point. Let them gel into a tight unit and then allow the likes of Taarabt and Bostock and Huddlestone (wouldn't sell him if I was manager) to come in and cover. I don't think throwing more money at the midfield will solve anything - though knowing Harry, I guess we'll do that regardless.

Anonymous said...

Personally I think we will see 1 or 2 midfielders come in with us losing Zok and Hudd BUT the big changes need to be made up front. Bent for all his industry in recent games will be sold and Pav for some reason seems to have been discarded in recent matches.

2 new strikers needed i think.

Anonymous said...

I see the blue nosed girls have woken up from their state funded hangovers.

1.Get Jenas out (don't let a few half decent games muddle your minds) and bring in someone who isn't frightened of their own shadow.

2.A new striker is also a must if we want Champions League rather than Chumpions League football.

3.Forget the cups for a year (blood the so called up and coming talent in those) and Champions League football the season after will be a real possibility.

It's not rocket science, even 'Arry could do it following those 3 simple steps.

The money that has been spent (wasted) on achieving nothing is scandalous. If CL football is not being played down the Lane within 2 seasons, Levy has to go. His tenure so far has been failure on an epic scale.

Anonymous said...

"Downing is not that good (he's not right?)"

Damn straight he's not that good. He's a vastly overrated show pony with absolutely no chance of becoming a great player. He can't beat a man, can't tackle and his crossing ability is average at best. Did you ever see him play for England? His lack of technical ability and pace are exposed every time on an international stage. If he'd ever played in the CL, it would be common knowledge by now.


Mind you, I hope the redtops are right about Redknobb weighing up a bid for Obafemi Martins. To have him playing alongside Keane or Pavlyuchenko would be amazing.

Sharkey, NYC

West Stand Bagel said...

Hudd is on his way.,19528,11661_5099828,00.html

Stephen said...

sick of Huddlestone's whinging at this stage. he had his chance against united in the cup and just didn't care. he looked like he was on horse tranquilizers. the guy is lazy and shows no heart for the fight the way mod, wilson, and aaron do.

jury is still out on JJ but i have serious doubts. the guy is so bad that people are picking up on the smallest things in order to justify his selection. he hasn't done anything in the last few games. it's just that we're used to him being so crap. not good enough for Tottenham i'm afraid.