Tottenham Hotspur's Dutch midfielder Rafael Van der Vaart has been talismanic this season. When he scores Spurs generally get points, the exception being our 2-1 loss to Everton. Van der Vaart is a world class talent which makes it even more maddening when he disappears some games.
Van der Vaart has had some fitness problems this year which generally limit him to no more 60 minutes on the pitch. Add that to his not occasionally playing on the right where he is clearly less comfortable and it would be understandable if he failed to make an impact. The problem is that van der Vaart makes a big impact. He has ten Premier League goals and six assists this season. He and Gareth Bale have combined to score nearly half of Spurs' Premier League goals this season.
With Bale out hurt many expected VDV to rise to the occaision and more fully assert himself as the star of the team. Instead it has become obvious that while VDV is a world-beater on his day, his day only comes once every couple of weeks.Let's take a look at two very different games for Rafael Van der Vaart:
In both of the above games van der Vaart played 90 minutes. Clearly he was more involved in the Newcastle United game. He made 80 passes as compared to the 42 he made against Aston Villa. Now, which of those games did VDV have more of an impact on? Against Villa VDV took nine shots and scored two goals. I'd say that's the sort of impact most fans are looking for. Against the Barcodes VDV had no goals, no assists, and took only three shots. We drew that game, and though it was a good away result VDV wasn't as influential as many would have liked.
How is it that a man can make 80 passes and not be influential, you ask? Well, notice how much deeper he was picking up the ball. Also, Bale left the Newcastle game after only 11 minutes which forced VDV to play more out on the left than he is accustomed to. VDV is at his best when given the freedom to roam in the middle of the pitch and is not "constrained" to one flank or the other.
So how do we best utilize Rafael Van der Vaart? It's simple, really. Ask him to do less. Let Luka Modric and whoever partners him in midfield pick up the ball deeper in midfield. Let Gareth and Aaron Lennon patrol the flanks. And let Peter Crouch be everyone's target. Everyone knows that VDV is best when he sits in the hole between the striker and midfield and that's exactly what he needs to be doing. He should be making runs off the ball and generally receiving it in the final third where his playmaking and goalscoring ability can truly shine.