It’s a question that’s divided Tottenham fans and one that’s been posed ever since he joined Spurs. Thanks to Darren's recent public ultimatum via the red tops where he has suggested he needs to be playing more otherwise he’ll move on, I have to ask myself (much like you might be doing) is he worth keeping? Would we miss him if he’s gone?
Ignoring the £15M price tag (that’s not his fault) you could argue Darren has not had a fair chance, a prolonged run of games, to prove his worth as a first choice striker. Statistically, he has a very decent goal to appearance ratio and has slotted quite a few of them away from home. So based on whether he can put the ball into the back of the net, you’ll find some Spurs fans defending him on the basis that he’s a striker and strikers are there to score goals.
But is football really that simplistic? Can we (or any club) afford the luxury of a player that simply knocks them in without bringing much else to the field of play?
We bought the player on the strength of his consistent performances and goal scoring record when he played for Charlton. A confident finisher who would run onto the ball. Worked a treat there because Charlton played defensive counter attacking football. Bent is far from being creative or inventive and isn’t the type of player you’d expect to see getting involved in build up play or perhaps crossing the ball in for others to feed off. Bent’s success there was down to the style of play Curbishley fashioned. He suited Charlton. So does he suit Tottenham?
If the opposition defend deep and don’t allow the space for Darren to run into, then is he ruled ineffective? You’ll find one or two people answering yes to that. But still, he scores goals, which means he must be doing something right, no?
Which finds us back to the question as to whether scoring goals is enough to warrant a first team place. Pav, Defoe, Keane and Berbatov (bless him) have more than just goal-scoring boots in their locker. All have their particular weakness/faults but arguably all of them have far more in the way of ability to get involved in games rather than become invisible until a goal scoring opportunity becomes available.
Was invisible too harsh of a word to describe him? Does he participate with good movement and solid hold up play? Is he a nuisance to defenders, digging at their heels, taking players away for others to take advantage of the opening spaces ahead?
Bent is more suited for a 4-5-1 formation and (as mentioned earlier) playing away from home where we can counter-attack when the home team are pressing. Logic here is there is more space for him to run into, bit like when he played for Charlton.
So regardless of the fact that he still has a knack of getting in amongst the goals, there are no other tricks in his locker. And even though he has never had the chance to play week in and week out as a first choice striker, even when he’s been scoring, other players have been preferred simply because they are far more involved in the game which means they bring others into it.
So is Bent is a goal-hanger? Feeding off rebounds and goal keeping mistakes. The odd scrap here or there. That’s probably not statistically fair to him, but he isn’t showing us much in the way of developing his overall play. Creating goals from nothing.
Complaining in the press isn’t going to help improve his level of performance. But he obviously believes he is doing enough.
Pavlyuchenko has put him to shame with regards to effort, considering the Russian was not fit when he signed for us, suffering from fatigue and completely alien to the English game and the country. He might not hold the ball up like a Teddy Sheringham, but he is far more convincing a team player than Darren Bent is. And he’ll get better once we get through this season and start afresh (again) next season.
Bent's whinging to the press sums it all up. Pushing aside the stats and the analysis of his all-round game, Darren Bent believes he has done enough to prove his value to the club. He has done his bit therefore believes he is immune to criticism. As far as he is concerned he has done more than enough to prove himself and there’s no need for him to do anything else.
I spoke about the culture of failure at Spurs in a previous blog entry, how losing is OK at White Hart Lane. Michael Carrick famously touched upon this when he joined Manchester United. Players – team-mates –should be competing against each other at the highest possible level they can muster up, because the better they are the better the team is:
“When you do “your bit” you are immune to criticism. A sort of collectively projected performance-socialism, where people are not only encouraged to do nothing more than “his bit” but are in fact discouraged from doing more because it makes team-mates look even worse” – Danish White (Glory Glory.co.uk)
Where is the zest to be a better player, Mr Bent? Why are you the better option out of the group of forwards we have?
Shut up and play up or wave your goodbye.
Of course, the ultimate way to answer the question 'What does Darren Bent do exactly?' is with another question:
Why did we buy him in the first place?