The club have confirmed that Moddle has sustained a fracture to his right fibula. That might amount to 8 weeks or more out.
With Luka, all the playmaking comes from his magical little feet. Dinking in from the left, dictating and conducting the midfield and forwards as we turn it on offensively. He is imperative to the style Harry has us playing. That’s no exaggeration. And it’s no exaggeration to also suggest that without Luka, the dynamic of the team drastically changes. He allows for our short passing game that starts out on the left hand side of the field, drawing in the opposition, then switching play to the opposite flank where Aaron stands with wide open space before him. Everyone in the team slot into their roles, combining effortlessly. It’s a style. And it’s one by virtue of what our wonderful Croatian brings to the game. He’s the link, the tick that allows for the tock.
So how do we compensate? How do we go about replacing him? Well in a word, we can’t replace the irreplaceable. Firstly, there is zero chance of us going out and signing another world class midfielder. It’s not an option because Modric will be back in 2/3 months. Another midfielder to cover Wilson Palacios would be the best signing we can make with the time left in this window. A secondary signing to cover the left would be dependent on what Harry decides, tactically, because compensating for Luka is something that can be done.
Our short passing game might suffer, but there are options. How effective these options will be and how it might disturb the balance of the team is something I’d have preferred not to see tested with Utd and Chelsea up next.
So, what’s the option?
Let’s say we don’t sign a left-winger and make do with what we have. One option would be to have Lennon out on the left-wing and David Bentley out on the right. Ideally, with Peter Crouch upfront alongside Jermain Defoe. Slightly different approach play required, but the idea is for Bentley to ping in balls to Crouchies head, and he should have plenty of time and space to do so if Lennon pulls players to his side of the field much like Luka does. Extra responsibility will fall onto the shoulders of Tom Huddlestone who will have to stamp his bulkly authority on the game, conducting play and tempo. But still keep an eye on defensive duties, avoiding any isolation of Wilson Palacios. Hudd has to lift his game to supreme quarterback status and sharpen up his range and passing completion. The question here is whether he finds the time on the ball to ping it around at his heart’s content. At the moment, Keane helps out the midfield, dropping deep. Dropping Keane might be detrimental to Tom’s performance.
Would Harry even consider dropping Keane to the bench? If he doesn’t it may well be Keane out on the left and Aaron remaining on the right (with Bentley still warming the bench). Gio might get a chance. Bale (when he returns) also. Unless we do make a signing. But a signing would mean further selection problems in a few months time. And Keane on the left still doesn’t help Hudd in the middle.
Complicated this is, no?
A lot of the play will go through the wingers and onto the head of Crouch. Plan B, with Plan A in rehab.
There’s still room for the short passing game even with Bentley and Crouch on the field of place. Balls to feet, Lennon running in on goal and Defoe sniffing in and around the box waiting for a killer pass. It’s not that shabby and not too far off the way we play now. We can still mix it up with Modric in the team. We’ll have to mix it up without him. The problem with the tactical switch is that we have to rely on Bentley finding form and doing so quickly and for Azza to fit in comfortably over on the left hand side. No reason why he shouldn’t be able to do so. The key is that he continues to ‘cut in’ and BAE offers a respite with his overlapping.
And there's Jermaine Jenas. Not sure what we do with him, but he's there as an option.
I guess, if we aspire to be top 6 or even top 4, we have to be able to adapt and players have to be able to take responsibility - rather than us place all our hopes on the shoulders of one lickle magical Croatian. How ironic that Bentley might reclaim past form from the depression of losing Luka.
As for the possibility of also losing Ledley King for a few games? Gulp. Although it sounds like he should be fine for the Utd game. Woodgate is also (apparently) back in training and should be available for the next one. Which would at least sort out the defensive issues.
Luka, get well soon buddy. Spurs, heads up, the quality is there to get through this.