Is Huddlestone the 'answer'?
We have debated this time and time again. The Incredible Huddlestone is one of our most loved conundrums. Is Tommy good enough for our midfield? Is he the CM required to stand tall (and big) alongside General Wilson?
It's only two games, but both performances have us scratching our heads, re-thinking our prior opinions.
The first game was frantic and feisty and required graft and discipline. The second was far more open meaning more time on the ball to ping it about. And he impressed in both. So what about all the questions about his inability to keep up with the pace? His lack of mobility that leaves him wanting? His disappearing act when the game isn't made for him to play the quarter-back role? Even though he's quite young, we've been quite harsh, citing the fact that he's a luxury player - one with no place other than as an impact sub. Great passer of the ball but needs far too much protection. The there's the comparisons to Hoddle (which some people do) which is more than a little unfair on the kid. We can sometimes (most times) have crazy expectations which result in abject disappointment when a player fails to live up the billing we desire.
Now I know this is all a little premature and I'm not about to end the conundrum and announce he is the answer to our central midfield puzzle. But he's definitely making an impression. To think a couple of months back some of us would have been happy to see him join Fulham.
So what has changed?
Probably not as much as you'd think.
I guess for starters having Wilson Palacios by the side of him is the obvious positive. Much like Jenas who looked good at the back end of last season when partnered up with him. Confidence is always the key. And Palacios, who goes about his business biting at legs and patrolling the midfield like a frenzied panther, needs a good passer of the ball to compliment him so that his work is frutiful when defence is turned into attack. And Hudd's passing ability has never been in doubt. So there's an obvious balance there. One needs the other for it work.
It's easy to be critical of a bad Hudd performance when the players around him play poorly. But in a balanced, strong side - it changes because all that's good about a player of Tom's ilk is there to be seen. Hoddle (it's just an example) would not look great in a poor side because he wouldn't be able to dictate a game if the players around him fragmented play due to messy unorganised football plighted by lack of belief and ability. He might stand out as the only player with flair, but he'd be seen as the weak link because silky skills are redundant if the team is disjointed.
Hudd is no Hodd but they share similar qualities. Not much pace and sublime passing. What's the one about Hoddle not having to be fast on his feet because he would make the ground below him do all the running? Huddlestone has realised (thanks to Harry I would guess) that to help the team he has to help himself which then allows the team to help him back. It's obvious I know.
Spurs are a better and more balanced (fav word of the moment) side which makes it a lot easier for a player like Huddlestone to settle into his game. He was able to waltz through Hull. But also proved he could compete against a Top 4 midfield, battling it out with Liverpool with much success, never looking a class below.
He seems to move around a little quicker than we are use to seeing and also looks decent getting stuck in with the tackles (well timed rather than clumsy). Distinct lack of the 'Hollywood' pass is always a bonus (Bentley take note) and effective simple short passing the bonus. He's sharp and thus less of a liability and more of a productive and important player in what is shaping up to be a decent quartet.
Strong, sits deep when Wilson attacks, works hard to get to the second ball and importantly doesn't give it away needlessly. His positioning is also key. Because as long as you can read the game well, you don't need to run around like a headless chicken with no end product.
Obviously, the little voice in my head reminds me of the countless games we've witnessed where his lack of application has proved to be costly. Or how easily he can be turned and how slow he reacts. Perhaps our impatience has hindered the perception we have of Tommy because of what I've outlined (concerning the dynamics of our team stucture).
It's thanks to the balance (OMG that word again) and the tenacity of Palacios, Lennon, Modric and Keane - he's able to run (jog) around the pitch with an air of authority and acclaim. Application is up because he knows he has to match the players around him, so plenty of running back and tackles flying in. He might still be on the slow side, but he's more mobile than he's ever been because he appears to read the game better. He's fitter, leaner and has a zest about him.
However, there is a question of the return of Jenas from injury. What happens? And we are meant to still be interested in Sissoko, although we've also taken Le Havre 23 year old central midfielder Kevin Anin on trail - so who knows. Then there's the Scottish Zokora, Scott Brown up at Celtic who has been heavily linked. But the point of a player breaking through to assert himself as a first team player is to claim the position as his own. He probably knows he has to remain effective and consistent. And if he does, there will be casualties. JJ might be a tad concerned. And our transfer targets may change (still need another CM IMO to have what would be some serious hardcore depth in midfield).
But first we must discover if the two games played so far is a true testament to his 'improvement' and proof that he is now deserving of a place in the midfield. Two games won't provide the answer. What will?
Re-read this article after 15 games. If it still rings true, we are onto a winner.