It’s been three months since Roman Pavlyuchenko stepped back into our lives with that beautifully taken goal against Leeds United in the FA Cup, but oh how things have changed since that cold winters evening.
Roman was nothing more than a bench warmer back then, intermittently using the press to voice his concerns that Harry Redknapp was covertly ‘mocking’ him by refusing to give the Russian game time. However, as Tottenham’s season reaches is climax with four of the most important games the side has ever played in the Premier League, the turnaround in Pavlyuchenko’s fortunes are such that he is all-but guaranteed to start if fit.
Pavlyuchenko has great technique, and is possibly Tottenham’s most clinical goal scorer. However, in the past, questions have been asked of the player apropos his work rate. After the Leeds United FA Cup clash at White Hart Lane on 24 January Redknapp criticised the Russian’s attitude and work ethic:
“It’s finding the ball. When you haven’t got the ball, you have to work. You can’t have a couple not working for you. It’s finding that blend for you. There are exceptions to the work ethic but you have to put a shift in, and I’m not talking just about Pavlyuchenko…”
However, a month after the Leeds United clash, Pavlyuchenko grasped his opportunity as a second half substitute at Wigan Athletic by scoring two goals in the last ten minutes, and followed his brace with another two against Bolton in the FA Cup, and one against Everton in the Premier League just days later. Subsequent goals against Blackburn and Fulham have left Pavlyuchenko with a record of 10 goals in 20 appearances this season, and a goal every other game is an enviable record (Crouch has 12 goals in 43 appearances).
However, despite his goal tally, those associated with the club felt that, up until last week, Pavlyuchenko would be on his way back to Russia this summer. Redknapp has never been convinced of Pavlyuchenko, and only picked the Russian because in essence, Pavlyuchenko’s goals have rendered the player un-droppable. Pavlyuchenko often appears to lack either the pace or ability to work the channels, and his first touch and build-up/approach play has never looked like winning over Redknapp.
Pavlyuchenko’s last two matches for Tottenham have arguably shown another side to the Russian however. Along with the rest of the team, Pavlyuchenko put in a monumental shift. He chased and harried defenders, and provided an outlet for the team with industrious movement off the ball. Further, against Chelsea especially, Pavlyuchenko was at the heart of Tottenham’s best play, not just simply finishing it off. It was Pavlyuchenko’s perfectly weighted pass that set Gareth Bale off for the Welshman’s second goal in the space of a week, and after half time-before John Terry’s sending off-Pavlyuchenko split the Chelsea defence apart to leave Jermain Defoe one on one with Petr Cech.
For now, Pavlyuchenko claims he is happy to stay at Spurs, telling the Daily Mirror:
“When the team wins and I am constantly playing the relations cannot be anything but good. Now I feel the manager’s trust and do my best not to let him down.
“I have dropped all my previous ideas about leaving Spurs in the summer and I am concentrated on one thought only – what we need to do to finish fourth.”
Pavlyuchenko might well be wanted next season at White Hart Lane, although Harry Redknapp might feel that despite his recent form, one swallow doesn’t make a summer. However, the idiom might not apply to the Russian should he once more prove himself against Manchester United this Saturday, and lead the club towards a Champions League berth. Perhaps the next for games, might not only decide Tottenham’s European fate, but will determine where the Russian hit-man plays his football next season…
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