Grading the Squad: Midfield Part I

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: Gareth Bale of Spurs runs with the ball during the FA Cup with Budweiser Semi Final match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on April 15, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

The report cards just keep coming for the Tottenham Hotspur squad. Today and Friday we'll be looking at the midfield before finishing up with the attackers. Most of Tottenham's best players play in the midfield so you'd expect to see some pretty high marks, but it seems like the staff have some major criticism of the performances of a few of these players.

Gareth Bale 42(1)

Ashlock: What an odd season Bale had. He scored 12 goals in all competitions and added 14 assists, so that was good. However, Christ, was his play maddening. Bale now seems to think he’s a central midfielder as opposed to a left winger. This season was good from Bale, but it could have been much better if he had just stayed on the left more. B-

Mechanick: Remember "Taxi for Maicon"? Back when Gareth Bale actually counter attacked and provided service from the left? That was fun. Until Gareth develops a right foot that doesn’t make him the most predictable player ever when inverted, then he needs to go back to basics. Some brilliance and some anonymity this season. B-

Ed: At times this season, Bale has been as inventive, productive and lethal as Cristiano Ronaldo. The difference between him and Ronaldo is that the latter has made this kind of play the rule for himself week in and week out, whereas for Bale it has more been the exception. The rest of the time he’s often been lost, trying to find his feet as he attempts to adopt a more challenging and varied attacking role. If he’s still with us next season, and I truly hope he is, he and the coaching staff need to nail down his best role, and he needs to start being that player full time. B-

TheRoosevelts: First semester grade A, Second semester grade D-. Student developed an unfortunate habit of getting up out of his assigned seat and sitting in other student’s chairs. He his ability is undeniable but he needs to buckle down on Discipline.

Ryan: What’s better than an A+ because at times Bale was that good. I also considered punching my TV when his face came on it at times. I want Weezus back. B-

Ryan Fredericks 2(1)

Ashlock: Fredericks is a pacy winger. He played a couple of games at fullback for Spurs in the Europa League. I don’t recall seeing anything overly impressive and I remember him being specifically bad against Rubin Kazan. D+

Mechanick: Barely played, and out of position when he did. Strange that he did not earn a loan spell this year. Needs some time away from the club to establish himself. INCOMPLETE

TheRoosevelts: He didn’t play enough to really make an expression but according to his FIFA rating there is a reason for this.

Ryan: A 12-year-old held his own so that’s cool. Wait, he’s not 12? He’s a midfielder played out of position at fullback so his struggles are understandable. C

Niko Kranjcar 13(5)

Ashlock: I honestly had no idea that Niko played that much. He scored his lone goal against Newcastle in the 5-0 thrashing at White Hart Lane, but other than that he didn’t contribute much. Niko is a player who really should have a bigger role, given how Spurs play, but because Harry Redknapp hates squad rotation Niko is often an unused substitute. C-

Mechanick: Misused as a central midfielder, Niko was barely given chances to played in his preferred positions with the first time. When he did (e.g. Newcastle), he looked great. Tough season with injuries and playing time, and I hope Our Cousin Niko is back next year. C+

Ed: On the handful of outings Niko was given this year, he didn’t do a lot to convince that he deserved a first team place. His attempts to fill the playmaker role at the start of the season ended horribly and on other occasions his first touch and ability to keep up with the pace of the game looked shot. I’m convinced these problems were more to do with his sparse use than his natural abilities however, and so for this reason alone I’m going to spare him a lower grade. C+

TheRoosevelts: We know he is better than he played, and when he did play he was asked to do things that often were not his forte thanks to the team’s usual formation. Hopefully next season holds better for the guy. D+

Ryan: So he’s not a first teamer. Was he ever really going to be? He’s a good substitute who would play and contribute if Harry Redknapp actually rotated his squad and he played like a good substitute. He was exactly what we want him to be and Harry not playing him isn’t his fault. B-

Aaron Lennon 26(6)

Ashlock: Well, what can I say about Azza, aside from that I am not a fan. Lennon scored 4 goals this year and added 6 assists. Think about that, only 6 assists. That’s disappointing. His crossing was so bad he managed only 14 accurate crosses all season (out of 54 total crosses). Aaron Lennon is all too often anonymous during matches, he averaged only 24 passes per game. His best skill is kicking and running and that’s just not good enough. C

Mechanick: Lennon was his typical self this year, providing some brilliant performances while disappearing when needed. But he made the club much better when he was on the pitch. He needs to be challenged and his injury history is always an issue. But pretty decent from Azza. B-

Ed: If only Azza knew how many times I’ve stuck my neck out for him in debates over his comparative ability to Theo Walcott’s. He surely owes me at least a drink or something by now. His season was marred by injury but when he was fit and healthy Lennon helped us keep our shape, which at times was crucial considering how much Bale and van der Vaart’s forays around the pitch were to blame for our lack of fluency at times. At I don’t care what anyone says, his end product is definitely underrated. B

TheRoosevlets: Solid Performance that still leaves a bit to be desired. He is a top quality player but just short of the really world class player that top clubs need. He had another solid but unspectacular year. B

Ryan: He was exactly what Spurs needed when he played, he just didn’t play enough. How much do you blame him for being hurt and downgrade him and how much do you credit him for being the only legitimate right winger who can give Spurs shape? B

Steven Pienaar 4(3)

Ashlock: I probably forgot that Stevie P existed about 20 times this year. We know he’s a good player because look at what he did at Everton! Harry has just failed to utilize him correctly. Pienaar basically did nothing for Spurs, mostly due to injury, but still a disappointing season from the South African. D

Mechanick: A great player who wasn’t even given a league start. Brilliant form with Everton proved his quality (and Redknapp’s inability to use him right). REDKNAPP FAIL

Ed: So under- and mis-used I can’t find it within myself to grade him. Incomplete

TheRoosevelts: Struggled early on to find his feet but once the other children started including him in activities he really shined C+

Ryan: He helped turn around what was a disappointing season when he showed up and really led the team to a strong finish. Wrong team and all, but still cool, I guess. Get healthy, get back, get in a match. C

Andros Townsend 4(3)

Ashlock: Townsend has the unfortunate task of playing the same position as Gareth Bale. This means he won’t ever get to play much. Townsend showed some flashes of quality, recording a goal and three assists in the Europa League. It will be interesting to see what is to come from Andros, but for this season I think he did quite well. B

Mechanick: Played well when given chances, which gave him the platform to get quality loans at Leeds United and Birmingham City. Look for him to either contribute next year or have a Caulker/Naughton-quality Premiership loan. B+

TheRoosevelts: He played pretty well against the dregs of Europe, and I heard nothing but rave reviews of his loan spell. B+ (grade curved due to playing behind Bale)

Ryan: If Bale isn’t going to be a left winger and play centrally because Harry had a stroke, why not give Andros a run out? He showed well in the Europa League and while he won’t ever be a superstar, he can be a quality player to give depth out wide, which Spurs desperately need. B

Rafael van der Vaart 35(5)

Ashlock: The Dutch midfielder scored 13 goals and added 8 assists this season, but Rafa was wildly inconsistent for Spurs this year. At the very least, it seemed like VDV worked a lot harder this year, which when you consider that he only plays 60 minutes most games it makes sense that he should work his butt off for that short time. I think Rafa could have played better, but I think Spurs would have been in big trouble without his contributions. A-

Mechanick: Without the knock-on combination he had with Peter Crouch, Rafa seemed a much less dangerous player this year. Some solid distribution and some clutch goals helped, but his effectiveness seemed to fall in this system. And for the love of god, either fix your free kicks on the training ground or stop taking them all together. B-

Ed: Oh Rafa Rafa Rafa, why won’t you let me develop a consistent opinion on you? Average at best for long stretches of the season, but punctuated these periods with exceptional goals and assists. Ultimately, I just don’t think he provides enough of a goal threat to warrant his 60 minute spells in the first team at the moment, and considering he’s our first choice set piece taker he doesn’t provide nearly enough for his team mates from dead ball situations. That said, he’s probably still my favourite Spurs player based purely on his commitment to the shirt and for the aura of classiness his play brings, and for that I just can’t come down too harshly on him. If not for this, he’d be a B- at most. B

TheRoosevelts: Another great year of Rafa doing what Rafa does. He is somewhat limited in the role that he can play, but he plays it very well. He continued to be dogshit at set pieces and free kicks. B

Ryan: People asking for more from Rafa are being ridiculous, in my opinion. He’s 29 years old and playing exactly like he has his entire career. He can disappear for a while, make a rash tackle and all of those frustrating things, but he can also be brilliant and pop up with the kind of goal or assist that only a handful in the players can pull off. And guess what? That’s what he has always been and what he will always be. Spurs knew what they were getting when they signed him and he’s been every bit the player that the club should have reasonably expected him to be. A-

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