Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker has been ruled out until at least the festive period extending his spell on the sidelines even further, but with a new manager at the helm and the club having brought in a number of fresh faces in midfield and with the promise of more to come over the past few months, will the England international be able to force his way back into the side when he returns to full fitness?
Having turned 32 this month, it’s not as if Parker has time on his side either and there’s a doubt whether he fits into Andre Villas-Boas’ high tempo style of play which focuses on pressing the opposition high up the pitch much in the same way that the first-choice central midfield partnership of both Sandro and Moussa Dembele have done to good effect so far this campaign.
The Portuguese manager told the press before this weekend’s game against Chelsea on the subject of Parker’s injury: “It’s difficult for him as he still feels pain and is still disturbed in his recovery. It prevents him from being on the pitch but he has been in the gym and with the medical department. We are looking at Christmas. It is still within the limits of what we expected. He is making good progress and there has been less pain.”
I’m not for a moment doubting that Parker has his merits as a player and he’s evolved from the all-action midfielder at West Ham to a deeper-lying, more reserved player since his move to White Hart Lane, which in itself displays a level of adaptability which could stand him in good stead. He’s extremely tactically aware of his role within the side, is tidy in possession and has an exceptional work-rate, best displayed by when he almost an himself into the ground while carrying an injury at Euro 2012 ‘for the England cause’ so to speak.
However, you do have to question whether he may just be a tad too limited for what Villas-Boas is trying to achieve at the club now and there’s a worry that he doesn’t recycle possession quickly enough, an attribute which is a major strength of Dembele’s and was deeply missed against Chelsea at the weekend.
The nature of the 4-3-3 formation that Tottenham are carrying on with at the moment means that a goalscoring midfielder must occupy a central role at the tip of the three, while there’s an all-running player capable of beating a man and a more defensive option sat just behind him, so when the side has the ball, it effectively turns into a 4-2-3-1 system.
Gylfi Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsey will battle it out for the first spot while Dembele seems to have made the second role his own with a series of bustling and energetic performances, which leaves Jake Livermore, Sandro, Huddlestone and Parker to contest the final place in the side and the Brazilian has shown a growing maturity to his play so far this season which surely sees him sit top of the pecking order.
Moreover, I wrote earlier in the summer that Huddlestone may have a pivotal part to play this season under Villas-Boas, given that his ability to drop in-between the centre-backs when on the back-foot and his passing range made him a decent candidate for the role just in front of the back four should Sandro fail to perform and he appears to have benefited from the change in manager this summer.
There’s also the fact that the club vigorously pursued the signature of FC Porto playmaker Joao Moutinho right up until transfer deadline day and were said to be just minutes away from clinching the deal after being granted an hour extension by the FA, so there’s a cleat intention on their part to bring in at least one more body in the future.
It’s clear for all to see that as good as Dembele is, the side still lacks an element of control in midfield which has been evident against the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea (which he missed) and that they struggle to hold onto the ball at times. Luka Modric is still yet to be properly replaced and you suspect that even if they don’t go back for Moutinho in January or even next summer, that a similar style of player will be right at the top of the agenda sooner rather than later.
I’m a big fan of Parker’s and it’s unfortunate that he’s found himself confined to the treatment table precisely at a time when he needs to be fit and pressing home his claims for a regular starting berth, but there’s certainly a danger of the side moving on without him and while he has his merits, it looks as if his face might not quite fit into the new manager’s plans.
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