Niko Kranjcar – Wasted?
In the 2009-2010 season Spurs rose above expectations to finally clinch qualification for the Champions League, a main part of that success was one of the bargins of the season: Niko Kranjcar.
Niko was signed from Portsmouth for the pittance fee of £2.5m and came to join with his Croatian teammates Luka Modric and Vedran Corluka. In his first season for Spurs Niko scored 8 goals (6 league, 2 in the FA cup) in just 24 games for the club. So what has happened to the prolific, creative, dare I say handsome individual who was such a hit last season and why have his appearances been restricted?
When arriving at the club it appeared that Luka Modric and Niko were fighting for the left midfield birth, Redknapp said:
“They don’t stand out wide and get marked. They come into positions where opponents can’t find them. They’re in little holes and they have that knack of doing that. They do it so well.
When asked how they would work together Redknapp said:
There’s no reason why they can’t have a good run together
but what Redknapp says and what Redknapp does are two different things…
The first set up for the Croatian duo involved them taking it in turns to play the left midfield position with Modric largely getting the nod but then a broken leg took Modric out for a considerable length of time and Kranjcar was left with the role to himself.
With Assou-Ekotto bombing on from left back while Niko tucked inside and Redknapp opting to use Huddlestone and Palacios as his central two, Niko was given free reign of the space behind the two strikers with Lennon holding width on the right hand side. This was Kranjcar at his best and his goal scoring record and the additional 6 assists that season proved that he has what it takes but then things changed…
Modric’s return to fitness coincided with an injury to Aaron Lennon and Redknapp had the chance to play the Croatians together but to Kranjcar’s misfortune it was he who had to move to the right hand side of midfield to accommodate Modric and Niko failed to perform or influence the game from his new position with Spurs largely playing too narrow to exploit the teams they were against but during this time something else was going on.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto had made the left back position his own but was due to attend the African Nations cup however he never made it that far as injury cut him down in his prime and Gareth Bale took his place at left back, the emergence of Bale as a force on the left side of the team sent shockwaves through the line up and he played himself into the starting eleven and then Ekotto was fit to play.
Another lacklustre performance on the right against Sunderland away with Modric in the middle meant things had to change with an important game against Arsenal coming up. Ekotto was fit to start, Bale was moved to left wing and Modric came inside to partner Huddlestone. Kranjcar was benched in favour of David Bentley on the right side and as they say the rest is history.
Redknapp has only picked Niko on the left side of the pitch when Modric has played centrally twice and I believe it largely down to the positions they take up on the pitch…
From the heatmaps above you can see there is a massive overlap in position, if anything they get in the way of each other, in the two games in which Niko started on the left and Modric centrally Niko was subbed early.
Compared to an out and out winger in Bale it highlights the difference between the two players and their style of play and the room it gives Modric to operate.
It’s fair to argue that Modric and Bale are seen as the shining lights of this current Spurs team but it’s to the detriment of one Niko Kranjcar, a player of immense quality just doesn’t fit the system that caters to the best team we can put out and with the purchase of Rafael Van der Vaart his chances were further reduced with Kranjcar’s preferred role now totally redundant with no space for a left midfielder who drifts inside to operate at all.
It is sad that a player of such quality will probably not be with us next season but I’m sure every Spurs fan will remember his contribution to one of the best seasons we have had in recent history and his fleeting apperances this season where he scored 2 massively important goals for us. Wherever you go Niko, good luck!
Filed under: formation, luka modric, midfield, niko kranjcar | 2 Comments