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Is this man the secret to Tottenham Hotspur’s success?

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Modric has shown what a player he can be but will he remain at Tottenham?Two names generally spring to mind when you think of Tottenham’s most influential player: Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart. And while the praise heaped onto these two is justifiable – between them, they have scored almost half of Tottenham’s 41 league goals this season – there is another figure who often goes unnoticed in this much improved Spurs side. His name is Luka Modric.

Purchased two and a half years ago for a fee in the region of £16 million, he failed to fully establish himself in his first season. Especially considering that he was described as and played as an attacking midfielder, three league goals was a poor return. After an injury ravaged second season, Modric had yet to really justify what all the hype had been about. Tottenham fans had been treated to flashes of brilliance, but never a continued spell of good form.

All that has changed. When Rafael van der Vaart was signed for £8 million, some thought that with the form of Bale so consistent on the left flank, and the ever-present threat of Lennon on the right, Redknapp might find it difficult to fit Modric into his star-studded side this season. An early injury did nothing to improve matters, considering how well Van der Vaart had began the season.

Even so, there is a strong argument to suggest that perhaps the Dutchman’s arrival to White Hart Lane was a blessing in disguise for Modric. With no room for another attacking midfielder in the line-up, Redknapp did the thing that all Football Manager fanatics would have done: play Modric in a holding midfield role instead. But Redknapp was not merely clutching at straws; some of the performances Modric has produced since his change of position have been outstanding.

Perhaps Modric’s most valuable asset is the composure that he shows when on the ball. This is illustrated by his ball retention, which is astoundingly good, even against the best sides in the Premier League. His awareness as well is second to none, as he showed particularly well against Manchester United earlier in the season. Both Bale and Van der Vaart were actually quite subdued, even though Spurs dominated the game for large periods of time. But as is becoming increasingly the norm, Modric was the man that made things tick for Redknapp’s men.

Against United, Modric controlled the game completely, earning the man of the match award in the process. United fans will not have been pleased with the way that their central midfielders were almost non-existent – Modric completed almost as many successful passes as Fletcher and Carrick combined – but in fairness to the United men, Modric was in inspired form. United were often on the back foot, as Carrick in particular struggled to influence the game. Spurs fans must be delighted that they received so much for a player who has recently gone massively off the boil.

Modric then unfortunately missed one month of action in February but has been instrumental since coming back. Against West Ham on Saturday, he dominated the match, completing over 80 successful passes. The Croat also lost only one tackle and made numerous interceptions. He was up against quality opponents – Scott Parker and Thomas Hitzlsperger, who has been excellent since his return from injury – but this did not faze him.

Another aspect of Modric’s game that has been so important to Tottenham this season has been his defensive work. In his first season in the Premier League, many believed that Modric was simply too light-weight to succeed, and for good reason too. Modric was regularly shrugged off the ball and seemed reluctant to challenge with any real intent. Things have changed, however, and Modric is now a genuinely rounded central midfielder, who more than does his work, winning almost 75% of his tackles since coming back from injury.

There is no doubt that much of the credit for the Croatian’s turn-around in form must go to his boss, Harry Redknapp. Tottenham have undergone an incredible transformation under his guidance, and they are perhaps one top class striker away from being genuine title contenders. The squad that Spurs now boast is second to none in terms of the strength in depth that they posses: quality players like Sebastian Bassong, Steven Peinaar and Niko Kranjcar, are struggling to get any playing time whatsoever.

What really is striking about Redknapp, as well as his wheeling and dealing, is his ability to nurture talent. Michael Dawson has blossomed into a wonderful centre-back, while Bale has come from nowhere over the past twelve months and is now regarded as one of the best attacking talents in the world. Rafael van der Vaart was struggling at Real Madrid and has massively improved his form since joining the London club. All the same, Redknapp’s tutelage of Modric is just as impressive as any of these. Once easily bullied and seemingly out of place in England, it is surely not long before Modric is regarded as one of the best central midfielders on earth.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Leon

    March 21, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    I disagree. Modric made an immediate impact and has always been our best player. This report seems to initially suggest that only now Modric is establishing himself? You must therefore be on acid. And Modric has played this deeper role since last season with tom huddlestone, where he had immense defensive responsibilities! Again you seem suggest only now that is the case? To say van der vaart influenced it is wrong. Redknapp described of his confidence in Modric’s ability to play center midfield at least a year ago?! Besides van der vaart to me is more of a drop off striker for us than part of a midfield 3? Compared to say the midfield of man city when they play with the 3. And Modric has had far better games against a better midfield as regards to that united match. As good a team they obviously are I think there are better midfields in the prem. But yes, Modric is world class. He plays consistently well and not even the best of challenges seem to effect him. He would be a key figure in any game, for any team in the world. Just watch him against real next month. Unfazed is a good description Rory.

  2. Andre

    March 21, 2011 at 4:47 PM

    Modrić was playing this role for Dinamo Zagreb & the Croatian National Team long before he came to England. It is Tottenham that now recognize his quality & are making use of it now.

  3. arsenal 4 life

    March 21, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD… and thats sayin something coming from an arsenal fan

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