Redknapp facing up to selection headache

Good old life! Five wins in a row! Defoe fit! Exclamation marks all round! Yet Tottenham have managed to win their last three games without their diminutive assassin Defoe, including an uncharacteristic victory away at Stoke City. Therefore, who does Harry start with this Saturday in Tottenham’s crunch match with Sunderland at the Stadium of doom?

The problem is undoubtedly a good one to have, and with Tottenham’s injury nightmare beginning to soften, Harry will have selection dilemmas throughout the team over the remaining two months of the season. However, the pressing question is, who should be Harry’s first choice pairing? Will Redknapp be more willing to rotate the squad after the success of Gudjohnsen and Pavlyuchenko? Or will Harry revert to the little and large partnership made famous at Portsmouth? Let’s consider the pros and cons of Tottenham’s famous four…

Jermain Defoe

Defoe is Tottenham’s top scorer this season, with 23 goals, 17 coming in the Premier League. However, there are some who argue that too often Defoe goes missing in away Premier League matches. Although Defoe has scored eight goals away from home, three of those came in one match against Hull City, and he has only scored against five teamsaway from home-Hull, West Ham, Portsmouth Everton and Wigan.

His overall team play has improved beyond recognition since he returned from Portsmouth in January 2009, but away from home, when the team is under pressure, Defoe is sometimes too easily brushed aside, and cannot hold the ball for Tottenham in vital areas.

Despite Defoe’s love for being ruled offside and his suspect hold-up play, he is still Tottenham’s best goal threat, and so I would persevere with the 27-year-old England striker.

Peter Crouch

Ah. Probably the less said the better if I value my life. Tottenham fans have been highly critical of ‘Crouchy’ this term and support for the England forward would probably be akin to suggesting that really, Arsene Wenger’s a cool dude with an outrageous sense of humour.

However, as seen in Tottenham’s victory over Stoke in Spurs’ last away game, Crouch can be highly effective for Tottenham, especially away from home. At times his touch has been well off the mark this term, but he has still claimed some good assists, despite not scoring the goals. The problem is-and this is not Crouch’s fault-the Tottenham defence has a tendency to lump the ball up to Crouch, home or away. This basically takes Tottenham’s ball playing midfielders (Modric, Kranjcar etc) out of the game, with Defoe the only player with the requisite pace to chase Crouch’s flick-ons.

Crouch can be useful when defending corners, and on a good day can hold the ball up and bring midfielders into the game. However, this season he has been well off the pace. The bench awaits methinks.

Roman Pavlyuchenko

What’s that noise I can hear? Oh, it’s the ghost of Tottenham fans past laughing at the idea of Pavlyuchenko scoring nine goals in nine games!

Prior to his super-sub appearance against Leeds United in the FA Cup fourth round first, nobody could have predicted the rise and rise of the Russian hit-man. Before sustaining injury against Stoke City, it appeared as though Pavlyuchenko had cemented his place in the first team, wot wiv all those goals he kept scoring n’all. That being said, Pavlyuchenko is at times guilty of failing to hold the ball up, and lacks acceleration a la Defoe.

Away from home, I feel it’s got to be either Defoe or Pavlyuchenko, not both. At home you can easily accommodate both as Tottenham will likely have the lion’s share of possession. However, away from home, Spurs might only be able to accommodate one predator, and that predator should be Defoe.

Eidur Gudjohnsen

As you can see, I’ve obviously given Gudjohnsen the big build-up, so I pray: a) he plays and b) he plays well.

Gudjohnsen is the sort of striker Tottenham have missed since Berbatov left the club: an intelligent footballer, with a sublime touch, who is on the same wave length as the likes of Modric and Bale. Gudjohnsen drops into the area between midfield and attack, which is a nightmare for defenders to track, whilst his intelligent passing and movement creates numerous chances for others. Further, away from home, Gudjohnsen’s strength and ability on the ball could allow Tottenham to hold the ball better in attacking areas, and spot a killer pass.

Although Gudjohnsen’s only scored two goals (against Stoke City and Fulham) in eight starts, they were both very important goals, and are evidence of Gudjohnsen’s ability to score as well as assist. In short, although the partnership of Gudjohnsen and Defoe did not work against Wolves, it would be interesting to see the duo given another opportunity now that Gudjohnsen is match fit.

Well there you have it. Defoe and Gudjohnsen to start? Perhaps. In fairness to all four players, they have been in good form of late-even ‘Crouchy’ popped up with a goal at the weekend. Whilst at home Pavlyuchenko and Defoe might well be deployed, Defoe and the Ice-man could be the way forward at tricky places like the Stadium of Light. Either way, it will be interesting to see Harry’s selection on Saturday afternoon…

You can find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mark0turner