Robbie Keane has come in for some criticism in recent weeks - not least here - but he answered his critics in the best possible way on Saturday, with four goals at White Hart Lane. In fairness to the player, his most ineffective performances have been when he has been deployed on the left hand side of midfield, which is clearly not his natural position. Against Burnley, Niko Kranjcar started for once, played well and freed Keane up to do what he does best - score goals.
Although Keane’s inclusion looks, in hindsight, like a masterstroke on the part of the manager, it was hardly a surprise given that the Irishman has started every Premier League game this season. On this occasion, however, his position was under greater threat, following Peter Crouch’s impressive midweek hat-trick against Preston. After that Carling Cup win, Harry Redknapp showed that little progress had been made in solving the eternal conundrum of how to keep his strikers happy:
"All three scored at Preston and it’s a nice problem, and it’s better to have that problem than no strikers. I could play all three again. Crouchy would be disappointed if I left him out, but so would Robbie or Jermain."
Crouch himself had noted that "I would be disappointed to be on the bench against Burnley, because I want to play every game", but that turned out to be his fate - although he did get on for half an hour following a minor injury to Defoe. Whether or not Keane is, in turn, rewarded for a bagful of goals with a spot on the sub’s bench is an interesting prospect.
Spurs have now scored 17 times in seven league games, their best ever record in the Premiership. On the other hand, the clean sheet against Burnley was the first of the season, with ten goals conceded in the six previous Premier League fixtures. Burnley - like many teams who come up from the Championship - are focused on picking up the points they will need for survival at Turf Moor, and not only have been beaten in every away match this season, but have also failed to even find the net. Yet they had what looked like a good goal disallowed at the Lane and came close on a couple of other occasions. Their manager, Owen Coyle, was certainly correct in his assessment that the 5-0 score line was not an accurate reflection of the balance of play.
Harry Redknapp has, quite rightly, characterized 15 points from seven games as a "smashing start" and with Bolton, Portsmouth and Stoke to come, there is every expectation that that start will continue. By the time a more challenging encounter against that other team from North London rolls around, there is also the possibility that Luka Modric might be back in contention for a place in the starting line-up. The recent games against Man. Utd. and Chelsea betrayed the lack of his influence and footballing intelligence. Pending Modric’s return, his fellow Croatian Kranjcar will hopefully now stay in the side and thus at least maintain its balance - regardless of which two are playing in front of him.