Before Tottenham Hotspur fans cry out ‘blasphemy’ at the article’s headline, it is prudent to state that Luka Modric is an excellent player. In fact, he is probably the best player currently playing at the Spurs. What this article is really concerned with then, is why Tottenham feel it unnecessary to actually use the 24 year old Croatian maestro.
There are perhaps excuses for Modric’s recent run of poor form. Modric is arguably still returning to full fitness after spending 4 months on the treatment table with a broken leg, having only returned to Tottenham’s starting line up on 28th December. Further, the Tottenham side has lacked consistency in the time since Modric returned, with Lennon and Assou-Ekotto injured, and Kranjcar, Jenas and Bentley coming in and out of favour.
Most notably, when Kranjcar and Modric play together, there is an air of congestion about Tottenham’s attacking play. The Croats both look to occupy space in central positions and although the pair are capable of finding space in the hole, Tottenham desperately lack width. However, Kranjcar has been replaced by David Bentley in recent weeks, and the Englishman is a more orthodox right winger, restoring some semblance of shape to the Tottenham midfield. This should have allowed Modric more space to dictate play, but to no avail.
A criticism that can be levelled at Tottenham currently, is that Peter Crouch is the focal point of the Tottenham attack, rather than a facet. Against Bolton, the team often appeared happier to take the easy, lazier option, and hit long balls or crosses to Peter Crouch. This totally takes Modric out of the game, and renders him useless. Say what you like about a certain Irishman now at Celtic, but his height meant long balls were not an option. With Keane in the side, Tottenham passed to each other on the floor. Since Modric returned to fitness, Crouch has taken the mantle as Defoe’s partner, and the result is that Modric is often left a peripheral figure. Long balls hit Crouch, Defoe feeds off scraps, but Modric will not run on to a Crouch flick-on, it’s not his game. Tottenham need to utilise Modric better, or just sell the boy and buy an out and out left winger who can supply Crouch with crosses, if thats the way Tottenham want to play.
Obviously, Tottenham fans do not want to see Modric leave the club. Therefore, against sides that tend to sit back and defend with 10 men behind the ball, it could be argued that Palacios’s role for example, becomes unnecessary. Against Aston Villa at White Hart Lane a few weeks ago, with Tottenham in total control, Redknapp did not make one change throughout the 90 minutes. With Tottenham simply probing to find a way through, Modric could have been taken off the left side of midfield, and allowed to dictate play from central midfield, as two deep sitting central midfielders (Huddlestone and Palacios) was over cautious.
Aside from putting Modric in more central positions, Redknapp might even consider changing the formation in the latter stages of games if Tottenham are searching for a goal. For example, Spurs could try a 4-3-3, with Crouch making way for Modric in attack alongside Defoe and Palyuchenko or Gudjohnsen. If Tottenham gave Modric more freedom, and Tottenham looked towards a more passing game, then Modric might benefit, and if Modric benefits, so will Tottenham.
Whatever way you look at it, Modric is currently below par. If Tottenham want to be known as an attractive side again, and a winning side, it’s about time they started utilising their best player. Because at the moment, games are simply passing the Croatian by.