The Monday review: Pienaar is Van der Vaart, minus ‘The X Factor’

Spurs fan Daniel Grigg provides his reaction to Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle.

IT’S so difficult to know what to make of the weekend, with Chelsea still to get a go against a faltering Bolton Wanderers team tonight.

An away point recovered from Newcastle is a decent result for now, but a side pushing for fourth place or better should be looking for more – and, in all honesty, it could so easily have been a defeat.

However, Manchester City’s slip-up at Aston Villa leaves a door which was about to be bolted shut now slightly ajar, although it would need a vastly better finish to the season than the first half has been for Spurs to catch Roberto Mancini’s side now.

Contrary to the media’s portrayal, it has not been a particularly great season for Tottenham if you were to focus solely on the Premier League, leaving out the unprecedented Champions League achievements.


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Personally, while Harry Redknapp was uttering a few fanciful words about challenging for the league, I never looked above fourth place. Nor was I under any doubt that we were always the outsiders of the newly proclaimed ‘top five’.

Man City have the money, Chelsea have had a lot of success in recent years and Manchester United and Arsenal have an incredible consistency when maintaining the status quo, which has put them towards the top for the last 15 years.

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The superb form of playmaker Luka Modric has shown that Spurs haven’t been playing like a team of individuals. However, for much of the season it has seemed that individual brilliance from Rafael van der Vaart, Gareth Bale or Roman Pavlyuchenko have been the difference in matches when the team as a whole has struggled to create and finish goals.

Aaron Lennon’s wonderful stoppage-time equaliser on Saturday was just another example of how a few seconds of top quality got his team out of the mire.

Lennon’s habit for late goals against tiring and desperate defences has become invaluable - he struck an injury-time winner against Birmingham last season, and recently repeated the trick against Liverpool.

Steven Pienaar made his debut on Saturday and I must admit that, while I was happy with the signing, that was largely because we had beaten Chelsea to a player that they wanted.

This may be harsh but I kind of see Pienaar as Van der Vaart, but without the ability to stagger or amaze. You could say that he is “missing the X Factor”, and the chance that was created for Jermain Defoe just before half-time shows what I mean.

While Pienaar controlled the ball neatly and played a simple pass to Van der Vaart, it was the Dutchman’s superb flick off the back of his foot that dissected the Newcastle defence and left Defoe one on one with the goalkeeper.

In all honesty it probably wasn’t Michael Dawson’s best game in defence, and he was left on his back on two occasions in the second half as Nile Ranger and Peter Lovenkrands both went close to scoring.

However without the captain - who I see as the new Ledley King – Spurs’ recent haul of points would have been far less. Comparing Tottenham’s defensive record with and without Dawson this season is like comparing steak with mince beef - 11 goals conceded in 13 games when he has played, compared to 33 goals during the 20 games when he hasn’t.

In other words, when Dawson doesn’t play the team concede nearly twice as many goals per match.

Finally, I have to mention the Olympic stadium. Preferably I’d like neither Spurs nor West Ham to play there, but annoyingly that doesn’t appear to be a viable option.

The financial benefits are clear, which is why I really don’t want West Ham to get the benefit of a cut-price world-class stadium with superb transport links.

Yet I also don’t want Spurs moving into a stadium with a running track around the pitch, which will leave fans behind the goals miles from the halfway line, let alone the far end of the pitch.

That’s not even mentioning the move out of Haringey - and that after all the stick Spurs fans give Arsenal fans about the fact that their club originally came from south of the river in Woolwich!

Arsenal they would probably be within their rights to retaliate by calling us Newham Hotspur, or bring up the fact that we too would have thrown away our tradition for the benefit of a shiny new stadium. Some prices just aren’t worth paying!

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