Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp could have been forgiven for cursing his luck after the talismanic trio of Gareth Bale, Luka Modrić and Rafael van der Vaart were all ruled out of action within quick succession. With Tottenham’s forwards struggling to find the net this season, Redknapp has had to rely upon his midfield for goals, and the aforementioned trio have contributed 25 between them in all competitions.
Many expected January signing Steven Pienaar to mitigate the losses of Bale and van der Vaart, but instead, Niko Kranjčar, a man seemingly headed for the White Hart Lane exit last month, has come to Tottenham’s rescue.
Kranjčar came on as a late substitute against Bolton Wanderers last week and scored a stunning injury-time winner, before striking a superb volley to secure all three points for Spurs against Sunderland on Saturday. The Croat had only made four league appearances for the side prior to his late introduction against Bolton Wanderers. Redknapp himself has been quick to praise the efforts and attitude of the former Portsmouth man.
Speaking after Tottenham’s 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers, Redknapp said: “He’s continued to work hard and show the right attitude, continued to train even after training, do his sprints, his running, spends time shooting every day and generally shows a great attitude. He’s not one of the boys who throws the towel in and spits his dummy out when he’s left out of the team, he’s the exact opposite to that.”
In addition to scoring crucial winning goals, Kranjčar’s reinstatement to Tottenham’s starting line-up has shown that Redknapp has other tactical approaches to call upon when certain first choice players are unavailable. The side’s success over the past year has relied heavily upon the natural width and searing pace provided by Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale.
Kranjčar, bereft of the pace and mobility bestowed upon Bale, instead relies upon his guile and vision to create chances, and drifts infield far more frequently than the Welshman. The Croat provides his manager with a valuable option when opposing full-backs have successfully neutralised Bale.
Indeed, Kranjčar’s recent form has lead Redknapp to consider utilising his talents in conjunction with those of Bale. “I could always stick Niko somewhere else if Gareth was fit because Niko deserves his place in the team,” he said.
In an age when players frequently think only of themselves, it is so refreshing to see a player of Kranjčar’s quality conducting himself in such a professional and selfless manner. One need only look at Fernando Torres’ behaviour last month to see an example of the archetypal modern footballer.
The timing of Kranjčar’s return to the team (and return to form) is indicative of Tottenham’s excellent strength in depth. Indeed, the Croat played a key part in the club’s successful bid for Champions League qualification last season, most notably scoring the winner against Stoke City last March. Only a fool would bet against him having a similar impact this season.
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