The second North London derby of the season finished in another draw, albeit a much less entertaining one than the 4-4 thriller at the Emirates in October. The Spurs scorers in that game – or “false dawn” – were Lennon, Bentley, Bent and Jenas, and of those four, only Aaron Lennon has continued to impress as the season wears on.
The performances and attitude of Bent and Bentley have featured extensively here in recent weeks. Against Arsenal, Jenas made his first start of 2009 and unfortunately did little to dispel the feeling that he is exactly the kind of “luxury” player whom Harry Redcap believes could get the team relegated. In a newspaper interview earlier in the week, the manager compared selected members of his squad unfavorably with Man Utd’s dynamic Carlos Tevez:
“He runs around, closes the right back down, then chases the centre half again, then to the left back and tackles him. I said to the boys afterwards, ‘Why can't we do that? I'm not asking you to do something clever. All we're asking for is a bit of work. Surely you're all fit enough to run around.’”
As it proved, Jenas’s inadequacies in this area were shown up by another Lain American player, in this case one of his own teammates. Wilson Palacios had a hugely impressive debut, battling in midfield, distributing the ball intelligently and even managing a good attempt on goal from distance. Harry described him as “a very down-to-earth boy, no airs and graces, no side to him” and while it might be something of a cliché to suggest that the Honduran is hungrier than some of his more pampered colleagues, his man of the match contribution exemplified the qualities that have been so sadly missing from the Spurs midfield. If Palacios can continue to play at this kind of level, then Didier Zokora in particular may find that his appearances in a Spurs shirt will be limited for the remainder for the season.
There was, of course, a more high-profile White Hart Lane debutant, although he is no stranger to the ground. Robbie Keane slotted straight into the team, wearing the captain’s armband, but unfortunately could not crown his return with a goal. In actual fact, Keane missed a very presentable chance but no doubt will regain his scoring touch following his miserable time at Liverpool. Hopefully Redknapp will pair him with Pavlyuchenko, who was puzzlingly replaced by the ineffectual Bent with half an hour still to go against ten-man Arsenal.
Spurs remain in the bottom six and just three points off the foot of the table, but the likely candidates for the three relegation spots may be starting to take shape. West Brom are looking like clear favorites for the drop while both Portsmouth and Middlesbrough appear to be in freefall. The international break now gives Redknapp and his coaching staff some extra time on the training pitch and a chance to bed the new players into a settled formation and line-up – one that will hopefully lift the club out of trouble.