Peter Crouch divides opinion, with his awkward style and ridiculous body shape he is not to everyone’s taste. And a scoring record of 18 in 62 games at Tottenham is not an overly prolific return for a centre forward often deployed alone this season. The most common criticism thrown at Crouch is that for a big man he is not commanding enough in the air when the ball is in the box and when he is this is usually done by conceding a foul. He rarely attacks the ball in the air, often over jumping and having to bend down in order to make contact. It is at this point he tends to get penalised for climbing on the defender. Although I feel his size tends to count against him here, with referees, particularly in Europe, being too quick to pull him up on this.
Where he is good is winning flick-ons and knock downs for a strike partner or runner from midfield to latch on to. His partnership with Defoe was developing quite well based on this fairly route one style. However he is now partnered with Van der Vaart who is not that type of player, lacking the pace to exploit any flick ons from Crouch. This is not to take away from Crouch’s technical ability on the ground as he is more of a footballer than just a route one target man. This was demonstrated the other night against Inter by juggling the ball brilliantly to evade two challenges out on the wing.
However he is often crowded out too easily by defenders when he has the ball at his feet and not clinical enough in front of goal to be the main striker at a club with genuine European credentials. The lack of a true goal scoring instinct is the most infuriating aspect of Crouch. The recent game against Everton cried out for a clinical striker to finish one of few chances made. Instead these chances fell to Crouch who was wasteful with timid finishes, that were little more than handling practice for Everton keeper Howard. The most notable being a free header just six yards out being cushioned rather than attacked to the goalkeeper’s grateful arms. The result was two points dropped that wouldn’t have been had a more convincing striker been leading the line. Compare this to a truly world class forward in rich scoring form, Samuel Eto’o was shown the other night. The latter taking his sole chance expertly after stepping inside Gallas and dispatching his shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box. Contrasted with Crouch who seemed too desperate to score, taking the wrong decision to go for goal on the volley from Bale’s cross when Van der Vaart was crying out for it to be rolled along the six yard box for him to tap home.
The tendency when playing Crouch, through no fault of his own, is to loft the ball up from the back, not only is this route one football sore on the eyes it bypasses Spurs’ best technical players in Modric, Bale and VDV. It also rarely results in any sustained pressure and is a sign of desperation more that a tactic designed to best threaten the opponents goal. As such it should only be used as something different when Spurs’ traditional passing game is not working. Crouch has shown he does not have the quality to be a lone striker that can be relied upon to find the net if only presented with one or two chances in a tight game, where things are perhaps not going all Tottenham’s way. If Spurs wish to cement themselves in the top 4 and become regulars in Europe’s premier competition, they need a more lethal forward. However Crouch can offer a different dimension from the bench if and when required, for this reason he adds something as a squad player. But due to his finishing limitations and age, he turns 30 in January, he can offer little more than this option from the bench, if Spurs want to join the established Premier League elite.