In little over just one month, van der Vaart has almost become the most important player in the Tottenham Hotspur dressing room. An obvious bargain at just £8 million, the Dutch playmaker has been in incredible form for Spurs since joining from Real Madrid.
Having contributed four goals and three assists from just six games, van der Vaart has captured the attention of almost everyone watching the English Premier League. However, it is the manner of his performances that have really made him stand out from the crowd.
His movement off the ball is simply sensational and many watching schoolboys would do well to note his little check-backs and small movements that seem nothing but have an incredible habit of creating a couple of yards of space for him and his team mates.
When he is allowed time and space to play his superb technique and vision mean that he is almost guaranteed to put the ball into an area of the pitch that will damage the opposition.
At Ajax he made a name for himself, when replacing Jari Litmanen in their famous 3-1-3-3 formation, as a playmaker and scorer of goals. From there he moved to Hamburg and Real Madrid but usually found himself playing either out wide as a traditional central midfielder.
Since moving to Spurs his manager, Harry Redknapp, has usually deployed him as a supporting forward. It is a very similar role to one he enjoyed so much success with at Ajax and it has reaped dividends.
From his very first match against West Brom it was obvious that Spurs had signed a player who could make a real difference.
His skill was never in doubt but most football fans wondered if Redknapp had signed a dud who was past his best. But the way van der Vaart has hit the ground running has really caught everyone’s attention.
This very week has been a literal rollercoaster for Spurs’ hero from Heemskerk.
From missing a penalty and scoring a goal against FC Twente before getting sent off for two rash challenges to inspiring a come back against Aston Villa, van der Vaart has been brilliant.
The match against FC Twente was one of huge importance for the Dutchman. For many in his homeland, who had questioned his ability and desire to play at the highest level, it was a chance to see their former hero first hand against the current Dutch champions.
To say that van der Vaart was fired up for the FC Twente match would be something of an understatement. But there was method in his madness. He desperately wanted to show the Dutch public that he was still a force to be reckoned with.
His performance that night was a prime example of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as van der Vaart opened up the fragile FC Twente defence time and time again with precision passes, and if it were not for an inspired performance by Mihalov in the Twente goal the game could have been a land-slide.
As it was the ‘keeper had a night to remember and made superb save after superb save and even tipped van der Vaart’s penalty onto the post after reading the effort perfectly. He could, however, do nothing about van der Vaart’s exquisite chest down and half volley just after half time and was a mere spectator as the net bulged from the powerful shot.
Some time later and the roller-coaster ride for the Dutchman was complete as he received a second yellow card for a ridiculous jumping challenge on the halfway line and his match was over.
Today he repaid his manager’s faith in him by scoring a double that saw his team come from behind against Gerard Houillier’s rapidly improving Aston Villa side.
Villa forced much of the play in the first half as their powerful midfield dominated Spurs’ who lacked width and penetration. From starting on the right van der Vaart was the only player on the Spurs team that had the guile and where-with-all to open up his opponents.
Emile Heskey bundled Sebastian Bassong off the ball in a real heavyweight vs. middleweight battle and slid the ball across the box for Albrighton to bundle the ball home as Villa took the lead. But an equalizer on the stroke of halftime was enough to give Spurs a glimmer of hope going into the second half.
Recognizing that his side needed a little extra penetration, Harry Redknapp swapped Roman Pavlyuchenko for Aaron Lennon and moved van der Vaart into the playmaker role behind Peter Crouch.
What all that meant was that Spurs had one of the most ridiculously attack-minded midfields ever seen in the Premier League. Bale, Modric, Jenas, van der Vaart, and Lennon made up the Spurs middle.
The change was immediate. Lennon’s penetration on the right caused huge problems for Stephen Warnock while Gareth Bale’s good early season form meant that Spurs now had two out-balls out wide. With accomplished passers like Modric, Jenas, and van der Vaart as prime architects, Spurs looked like a completely different out-fit.
The icing on the cake came in the 75th minute as van der Vaart latched onto Peter Crouch’s headed knock down. A simple drop of the shoulder and Richard Dunne went sliding past without the ball and with his next touch van der Vaart almost burst the net.
It was all the Dutchman deserved. His play all month has been of a very high level, but his performance yesterday was his best so far.