Are Spurs better without Rafael van der Vaart?

Rafael van der Vaart was Spurs’ top goalscorer in the Premier League last term. The Dutchman notched 13 goals and had 9 assists in 28 appearances, but after Tottenham’s slow start to the season, did their win at Wolves highlight that they would be better without Rafael van der Vaart?

Spurs with and without Rafael van der Vaart

Last season was van der Vaart’s first at White Hart Lane. After a year when Spurs qualified for the Champions League, Tottenham took another step forwards in making the quarter-finals of Europe’s elite competition, but this took its toll on the squad with the increased number of matches. The team tired, missing out on qualifying for this season’s competition.

Rafael van der Vaart was the team’s top scorer and main creator. Purely on a results basis, Spurs were better off with him than without:


Played

Pts Per Game

Avg Goals For

Avg Goals Against

With van der Vaart

28

1.9

1.5

1.0

Without van der Vaart

10

1.3

1.4

1.6

.
In the Premier League, with Rafael van der Vaart in the lineup, Tottenham were an average of 0.6 pts per game better off. This would have been worth an additional 6 points from the games he missed, and would have put Spurs level on points with Arsenal for the fourth and final Champions League qualifying place.

They also scored slightly less goals, but actually conceded a lot more which is a surprise seems van der Vaart is such an attack minded player. However, Spurs have increased possession by 5%, and improved pass completion rate by 6% when he is in the team, which would both factor in to a lower number of goals conceded per game.

The Flip side of Rafael van der Vaart

Rafael van der Vaart does make Spurs a better side purely on a results basis, but does he actually hinder the team as well? There are three factors that have to be considered about the negative impacts of Rafael van der Vaart:

1. Rafael van der Vaart is injury prone

Rafael van der Vaart featured in 28 of Spurs 38 Premier League matches last season as he suffered from calf and hamstring injuries. In his 28 appearances, he was substituted off on 15 occasions, 3 of which were due to aggravating existing injuries. This season he has injured his hamstring again after hobbling off against Manchester City. Spurs said he would be out for six weeks, but a statement from the player himself, commented that he could return this Saturday against Liverpool after only two weeks out. So is Rafael van der Vaart returning too early from injuries, making his chance of recurring injury higher?

2. Rafael van der Vaart seems to put himself before the team

Harry Redknapp has left Rafael van der Vaart out of Tottenham’s Europa League squad, as in his eyes, the player was supposed to be out injured for a large portion of the group stages. Redknapp himself had said that he wanted to use the competition to play Spurs youngsters, in order to give key players rest to concentrate on qualifying for the Champions League.

So, are van der Vaart’s comments about being left out of the squad due to the fact that he sees himself as a big fish in a small pond? Or does he simply not understand the goals of the team and the bigger picture? I’m sure that if he decides he wants to quit Spurs in the future, then one of the reasons that he’ll cite will be that he wants to play Champions League football.

3. Rafael van der Vaart forces the team to adapt to accommodate him

Prior to van der Vaart’s arrival, Spurs played a classic 4-4-2 system using the pace and width of Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale, along with a classic big-man, little-man combination up front. Jermaine Defoe thrived, scoring 18 goals in the campaign, and Peter Crouch also notched 8 strikes as Spurs scored 67 times in the Premier League.

Rafael van der Vaart’s arrival has caused Tottenham to play him in a free roving role off of a main target man. This reduced Spurs’ goals per game from 67 in the 2009/10 season, to just 55 in the last campaign, a reduction of 0.3 goals per game. Rafael van der Vaart would finish with 13, but the next highest scorers would be bit-part man, Roman Pavlyuchenko with 9, followed by another midfielder, Gareth Bale with 7. Crouch and Defoe who had been brought in as Tottenham’s two main strikers, finished with just 8 goals between them after scoring 26 the season before.

Are Spurs better off without Rafael van der Vaart?

Spurs’ performances in the Premier League last season were much better with Rafael van der Vaart in the lineup than when he was on the bench. However, while Rafael van der Vaart does benefit the team in terms of point production per game in the Premier League, he does also hinder the side as it is forced to adapt to him, his ego and his susceptibility to injury.

What plays in Rafael van der Vaart’s favour are three factors:

1. Firstly, Spurs have held on to Luka Modric, which allows van der Vaart to play higher up the pitch and provide key passes, as Modric takes the ball off of the defenders and sets up the play.

2. Secondly, the signing of Scott Parker is key. Parker has the ability to win the ball back for Spurs, but to also provide key passes higher up the field, which he demonstrated in providing an assist to Adebayor for Spurs’ second goal against Wolves. Parker doing a lot of the hard work in the middle of the field will allow Rafael van der Vaart to enjoy the free roving role he enjoys.

3. Finally, and most importantly, is the signing of Emmanuel Adebayor. The former Arsenal man is the big target man Harry Redknapp has required to play this new system since van der Vaart arrived. Peter Crouch was good in a 4-4-2 but average as a lone striker, as he was not as strong in the air, able to hold the ball up, or able to finish like Adebayor can. Emmanuel Adeabyor’s movement, which was on full display for his goal against Wolves, will be exploited by van der Vaart.

Rafael van der Vaart was bought by Harry Redknapp as he felt Spurs playing 4-4-2 would be a naïve tactic in the Champions League. Van der Vaart may have helped, and also hindered, Tottenham’s progress last season, but the additions Harry Redknapp has made in this transfer window will help utilise his capabilities to the full, so that Spurs will be better off with him in the lineup.

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10 Responses to Are Spurs better without Rafael van der Vaart?

  1. Paul Wagner September 19, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    Definitely not, he gives us options an creativity high up the pitch. Don’t think he was fit on the weekend but he’s a big game player that will play well against the big clubs when necessary which is something Defoe and Pav struggled with last season.

    • Mark Redford September 21, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, my thoughts on Defoe are that he needs someone alongside him, as he has done well with Adebayor there in the last two matches, but was ineffective last season when playing as the lone striker with van der Vaart Playing off him.

      The benefit of playing van der Vaart is that Spurs average more points per game when he is in the side, but it does mean they can only go with one striker due to him playing a roving role. Spurs have won their last two matches going 4-4-2 so would have to change formation to accomodate him back in the lineup, unless van der Vaart plays out wide, which is not his preferred position.

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