There’s a great big Uefa Cup-shaped hole in my life at the moment. Instead of working myself into a frenzy of midweek worry, pessimism and nerves, I’ve been at a loss for something to stimulate the usual heart palpitations. Had to resort to half-heartedly watching Liverpool in the Champions League, throwing stones at small garden animals and generally twiddling my thumbs.Listening to England’s heroic failure in the Test Match served as a gentle reminder of the life of a Spurs fan, but generally this cold-turkey approach to the lack of Uefa Cup has not been a bundle of fun. However, I have endeavoured to use the time constructively. With no cup games, midweek distractions or ineligibility mazes to navigate we have the opportunity to settle upon fairly consistent team selection over the remaining ten games in the season. The permutations in defence remain numerous, but something approaching repetition has occurred across the middle, with Lennon on the right and Modric wide left, flanking Jenas and Palacios in the centre.
The Midfield Conundrum
First things first – no-one in their right mind would question the eligibility of Palacios for a central midfield berth. Not to put any pressure on the lad, but if I ever bump into him I’ll pull out a pen-knife and scratch the words “our saviour” all over his face, but backwards, so that he’ll be reminded every time he looks into a mirror.
With that out of the way I turn to Jenas. Is this really the man we ideally want complementing Palacios? He has the appropriate attacking mentality to go alongside Palacios – far better him than, say, do-do-do-Didier. However, to put it diplomatically, he has not exactly made mind-bogglingly stunning progress since his emergence as a precocious under-21 starlet all those years back. (There, I did it – a full sentence about Jermaine Jenas without any hint of rage or vitriol. I demand a gold star).
More pointedly, deploying Jenas in the centre shunts Modders out to the left, where his impact is undoubtedly diminished. In the grossest practical terms, he’s got less pitch to play on when assigned to the wing. He may weigh less than his own shadow, but the guy is patently a class above the rest. Give him a central role, the freedom of the pitch, the freedom of North London. Our team ought to be built around him.
A Modric-Palacios centre would therefore leave us needing someone on the left. I’ll resist the urge to grumble about the sale of Steed, dagnabbit, and instead examine those who are still keeping the bench warm at the Lane. Brylcreem Bentley, Three-Touch O’ Hara, the genetic experiment that is Bale – even Jenas himself… Personally however I’d give young Giovani a run of games and see what he’s made of, but I get the impression that ‘Arry would rather organise six fixtures a day for the rest of the year than let Giovani establish himself.
Scarily, if no solution is decided upon, by default we’ll end up with One-Trick Downing this summer, fro around £13.9 million more than he’s worth. For that we could buy back several Steeds, or, dreamily, maybe even pinch Joe Cole.
Hypotheticals aside, the question from now until the end of the season revolves around what is preferable – Palacios-Modric in the centre, and A.N. Other wide left; or Palacios-Jenas in the centre and Modric wide left? I vote for the former.
Where Does This Leave Hudd?
I fall into the latter camp, regrettably so as I have minimal patience with fat people (JUST EAT LESS). When he first emerged I had Hudd down as Carrick Mark II, a player who could feint his way out of trouble with a dip of the shoulder, pick passes dripping in gold and strike a shot with the force of an exocet missile. Far too often however, his passes go astray, although a healthy portion of blame here should go to team-mates’ lack of movement.
Still, the frustration remains. He’s not a tackler, runner or dribbler, and does not have the energy to compensate for mistakes. He most certainly has the capacity to boss games, but too often this only seems to happen when we’re already two goals up (whereas, for example, Modric seems to dictate games far more regularly). Hoddle or Ginola may have been deemed by many to be luxury players, but they were regularly genuine match-winners too. How often have we said this of Hudd? How often are we likely to say this of Hudd, particularly in the bigger games?
Strange how I have found myself mulling this point because of the absence of European football – the precise stage upon which I reckon Hudd is best suited. Lovely bit of irony with which to wrap up. Tally-ho.