Concluding the casual look at players achievements in 2009 and what we'd like to see in 2010.
Pavlychenko - Villain
Can't speak English, but we get to read all his quotes via the tabloids thanks to the power of translation. Is there a player who has complained more than Roman? Okay, so we should never have signed him in the first place, but regardless, he's always been a defeatist. On the pitch, he gets pushed off the ball to easily. Off it, via his agent, he's always complaining and moaning. We've heard him suggest that Harry is mocking him. We've had the 'psychological' theories about his head not being right. He's struggled to settle, he was never fit when he was signed. The list is endless. He seems to be, or at least did when we signed him, to be a likeable bloke. But he's never looked a £14M player, compare to say Modric who took time to settle but when he did, he turned on one world class performance after another. Pav is simply a mistake. We need to get rid. He's beyond saving his Tottenham career. This one will go down alongside the Rebrov signing.
Do more in 2010: Play for another team. One in Russia will do.
Do less of in 2010: Cry to the media.
Lennon - Hero
What a star. Remember his breakthrough season? And remember how the follow-up season was disappointing? One or two wondered if he would develop and progress. Not just end product with crossing and scoring but also how to get past far more clever defensive stands and two markers. Adapt to teams who adapt to deal with him. When Bentley was signed, I did think we'd see Lennon marginalised simply because £15M was spent. What we got instead was a further re-birth of Azza. Blistering pace, always undeniable. This is a given, what hasn’t been a certainty is the end product and yet this season the little man stands tall alongside the very best in the Prem (third in assists). He's been absolutely brilliant. Having him in the side, you almost feel its worth a goal or two to us. He'll cause havoc out on the wing, hugging and cutting it.
Okay, so he plays for Spurs and whilst Theo Walcott does pretty much nothing and is still considered some kind of England uber-weapon, Lennon produces the goods, every week. He's essential to our success. I hope that 5 year contact means something, to both club and player.
Do more in 2010: Continue to work and better his crossing, decision making and goal-scoring.
Do less of in 2010: Would like to see less Bling on his Bentley when he drives past my home (we are practically neighbours)
King - Forgotten Hero
I almost didn't notice Ledley return to the side recently. There is no doubt this man is unique. Doesn't need to train, can't train. And yet plays like a colossus when called upon. Sure, this season, there has been one or two performances where for the first time you think he's possibly beginning to degrade. Then again he is usually so immaculate, that one or two slightly average games will stand out and have you question him, when its not truly warranted. T
he rumours have, for a good few years now, suggested King is playing out his last season. It never is. Will it be? Should it be? Much like you, I don't know the true extent of his knee problem. Yes, we know he can't train and he needs injections. But what I'm not aware of is whether playing football and having needles stuck in him will cause him problems in later life. It can't be good for him. You'd think he'd take responsibility for his future, and so would the club. But we simply don't know. Purely in footballing terms he's a great player, amazing servant. If he's fit and he plays, there is calm and experience at the back that aids the more youthful defenders. But does it help with consistency? Will Harry simply use him as back-up (be it super-back up for massive games)? If he can still perform at the very top, then he should still play. If we are prolonging the inevitable, perhaps its time to re-think things for the sake of the player and the club.
Do more in 2010: Tutor the likes of Dawson and Bassong.
Do less of in 2010: Get kicked out of nightclubs.
Modric - Hero
Four games, four won, confidence all over the place. Then came the injury. The darkness however was not all consuming as expected. The side dug deep, it was never pretty and not always convincing, but we showed backbone and spirit and with the loss of our Croatian magician we survived. Finding a balance without him dinking in from the left was always going to be tricky but this allowed Harry to introduce Niko and our team is better for it. We can perform without a key player. Positive from a negative. Spurs are not a one man team and we have more than one outlet for dictating tempo. But what Moddle does give us when he's fit and in the team is a touch of the world-class. Because he is. He's our talisman. Our playmaker. The man who pulls the strings. When he's not in the team, we lack that extra cutting edge, that extra dimension to our play. We've adapted, thanks to Niko, but with him back it almost feels like we'll be moving back up a level.
Think of him as the caretaker with the skeleton key. All doors can be unlocked. If we're going to push for 4th spot and consolidate our position then he's going to be imperative. Don’t know about you, but I feel all warm inside knowing we have Luka, Niko and Aaron. Super strength in depth.
Do more in 2010: Dink, dictate and continue to flourish.
Do less of in 2010: Look on from the sidelines.
Dawson - Awesome Hero
Once upon a time, Daws could only play when partnered alongside King. It was almost like his belief was dependent on having the experience of Ledley by his side. Without him, he would show signs of clumsiness making daft mistakes. He's been on the outside looking in for so long that you forget he's 26 years old. Still seems like a bit of a kid, inexperienced and eager. Yet Dawson, having been given the opportunity due to the loss of both Woody and King, has taken it and has claimed a stake to be first choice at the back. He's determined and committed. Not afraid to tackle or throw himself at the ball at the other end. All this talk about needing another CB. There is no need. Woodgate and King to bring a certain calm and level-headed experience to the back line when in the team. Both are superb footballers. And both are perfect for the likes of Dawson and Bassong. But with Daws, being at an age when he should be playing a lot of games, we need to retain him and have him playing the games.
Do more in 2010: Smile. I love that big daft smile.
Do less of in 2010: Play second fiddle.
Keane - The Anti-Hero
Football is poetic at best. For every question there is an answer. Like the one where a player asks himself 'what if?' However, the answer is not always what you want to hear. You can't blame Robbie for joining Liverpool. Deep down he might have known it was a massive risk, but in comes a CL side that can offer CL football - would you turn it down? Does any player admit to being at the right level and that moving might be detrimental to their self-esteem and ability? We all know Rafa wanted Barry. It might be no exaggeration that Keane was being played out of position at Liverpool thanks to the in-fighting between Rafa and Parry. But then he does have a habit of playing players out of position. Keane obviously fancied it and thought he would settle in Anfield. But he failed to do so and expectations practically rendered his stay up there as a complete non-event. Shit happens. He found out he wasn't cut out for life at Liverpool. Is this because of the style of play, the selection, the pressure? Is it an insult to suggest he had found his level at Spurs?
Fact is, at a side where there are perhaps less 'world class players' and the pressure is of a different ilk, some players are able to slot in and play a certain way. Take Berbatov. He does not appear to be the same player he was during his 2 years at Spurs. At least in that first season. Keane was home at Spurs. And he basically fucked it all up.
When he was resigned, he aided us, but rather than push on from there and reclaim his importance, it almost felt like he had returned battered and broken from a war, no longer hungry for further battle. Giving him the captaincy was the first mistake. Mainly because it doesn't give the player the target of making up for his indiscretion of walking away from Spurs. And if we signed him only because JD got injured, then its more desperation on our part, good business for Levy and a convenient escape for Keane.
The whole thing is shambolic. He's lost his mojo, big time. It happens, but unlike players who fade and disappear, Keane still has it in him to rediscover that prior sparkle. It's just not very apparent at the moment, and when you look at the likes of Niko who's work rate and product is outstanding, you can only voice your frustrations when you watch Keane go through the motions. Perhaps he can't be fussed to get that mojo out.
Do more in 2010: Work hard. For Gods sake man, try and get back some self-respect and pride.
Do less of in 2010: The thing with the hands waving in the air.
And the rest...
Bassong - Glad we signed him. Young, not perfect, but could well turn into a beast at the back for us. Unlike some of the other centre-backs we've had in the past who promised much and delivered nothing, Bassong looks to be the real deal - but it'll take some time for him to get there. Much like Dawson (when he first signed) he could do with having the experience of King or Woodgate guiding him.
Corluka - Another one of our players who can be tagged with 'it's easy to forget he's a kid'. Twenty three years old is Charlie. He's cool. Ice chilled. And a blessing at right-back. Here's a player who knows how to defend but also understands the importance of the over-lap, supporting Lennon and retaining a certain air of dominance over on the right flank. Three Croatians, every one a star.
Assou-Ekotto - Best improved player under Harry? The guy has flourished. Consistent and disciplined. It's what you want in a left-back. Always been a dodgy position for us, so having little to be concerned about here is thanks to the man-management skills of Redknapp and the work ethic of BAE. Hope he's not missing for too long.
Woodgate - Anyone know when he's due back? Soon apparently, although I also read a conflicting report that the club is uncertain what his injury is. Was always going to happen. When we signed him, it was a case of 'how long will he play before he gets injured?' What was both surprising and inspiring was the fact he hardly picked up a knock. Until recently of course. Woody is a great player. Another tutor for the likes of Daws and Bassong.
Bale - I feel for this lad. He's what, 20 years old? And we almost ruined him by throwing him into the deep end. Players like this should be nurtured. Sadly, we sometimes don't have the luxury to do so. He wasn't ready for life at Spurs, especially a side that was without form. Knocked him for six. The jinx was more the fault of his team mates than him. He's better going forward than defending. Thankfully, we are on the up, so selecting Bale (with BAE out) is not going to be a nervous option for all concerned.
Gio - Is he any good? Who knows. What we do know is he doesn't like training or turning up for it on time and he loves a drink and a party. If he's sorted out his act and is over his injuries then I'd like to see him in a Prem game again. Find out once and for all. So far, he's done nothing but prove that Barca did right in selling him.
Hutton - Along with Pav, he's perpetually always on the verge of being sold. I keep saying buying Scottish is the wrong thing to do. Isn’t a bad player, has had his 'problems' too - off the field. Another defender who's better offensively. Not sure about this one. Would like to see him fight for a place. Then again he's hardly going to play if Charlie is fit.
Concluding the casual look at players achievements in 2009 and what we'd like to see in 2010.