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If rumours are to be believed Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur have entered advanced talks about the transfer of Honduran international Wilson Palacios from White Hart Lane. The combative midfielder signed for Spurs from Wigan in 2009 for £12 million and it is thought that Tony Pulis will pay Harry Redknapp around £6 million to secure his services.
It is highly surprising to see that Harry Redknapp has lost complete trust in the player and is happy to see him go. During the 2009-10 season Palacios was nothing less than outstanding for Spurs as they qualified for the Champions League in style.
His all action displays in midfield provided the perfect foil for Luka Modric to push on and his ability at offering defensive cover meant that Spurs were always balanced when they attacked down either flank. Palacios’ brilliant reading of the game gave Spurs an option that had not been seen at White Hart Lane since the heady days of the ’80s.
The high level of Palacios’ performances in the 2008-’09 season are made all the more amazing when you realise that his 16-year-old brother had been kidnapped in Honduras. In May as Spurs readied to play Everton in a crunch game for European qualification Palacios received a late night phone call from his mother to tell him that the youth, Edwin, had been found murdered.
He would not play again for Spurs that season.
In short, Palacios had two outstanding seasons before the World Cup kicked off in June.
Coming back to White Hart Lane he was short of fitness and missed the opening game of the season against Manchester City. Then he played three games in a row before injury and poor form reduced him to only starting two games in the following ten but in both games he was removed at half time.
He was restored to the team for the 2-1 win over Liverpool in November and remained in the side as they only lost twice in the following 13 games. Amazingly, Redknapp surprisingly dropped Palacios for the Everton game, and lost.
Following a 3-1 defeat to Blackpool in late February where Palacios was hauled off at half time he was more or less left out of the team for the rest of the season. Only making a 31 minute cameo against Manchester City in the third from last game of the season. Meaning that he only played 31 minutes from the remaining 11 fixtures.
When you sit down and analyse the win / loss statistics comparing Spurs with and without Palacios you come across some stark differences.
During the 2010-11 season Wilson Palacios played 21 times for Harry Redknapp with a record that reads:
PLD-21 W-11 D-5 L-5 PTS-38 (points average of 1.8 pts per game with a win average of 55 percent)
Without him Spurs record reads as:
PLD-17 W-5 D-9 L-3 PTS-24 (points average of 1.4 pts per game with a win average of 34 percent)
Overall Tottenham’s record was:
PLD-38 W-16 D-14 L-8 PTS-62 (points average of 1.6 pts per game)
In the end Spurs missed out on the Champions League by just six points. The very same six points they may have taken if Palacios had played. Statistics show that Spurs fared far better with Palacios in the side that without him so it is more than perplexing to see Harry Redknapp allow his only bit of midfield steel to leave.
In August 2009 Harry Redknapp spoke very highly of the player:
“Palacios has made a massive difference to this club,” the Tottenham manager said.
“He gets on with it, he’s strong, he’s aggressive—he’s what Tottenham haven’t had.
“I always felt you could bash Tottenham up when they used to come to Portsmouth. We always felt you could get after them and beat them.
“I don’t feel that now. He has been a major part in changing that because he closes down and is strong. That has rubbed off on other people.
“You need people like him if you are going to be successful. He walks round like he is pleased to be here and appreciates everything.”
While Palacios may be unfit at the moment it was apparent for all to see against both Manchester sides in the last two games that Tottenham’s centre pairing were too lightweight.
To play in any league players like Palacios are essential. Players who do the donkey work, who sacrifice their own game for the benefit of more skillful players and from the outside it would appear as if the relationship between the player and manager has broken down.
It may be understandable to allow Palacios to leave if Spurs have signed another player of his ilk in recent times but a quick browse through Harry Redknapp’s options reveals a midfield that would not “tackle a good dinner.”
Players like van der Vaart, Modric, Lennon, Bale and Krancjar are more renowned for what they achieve in the final third of the pitch rather than battling in the trenches not to mention Townsend, Livermore, Pienaar, Huddlestone, Jenas, Rose, and Sandro.
If anything only Sandro would be capable of replacing Palacios but he is more an intelligent defensive covering player rather than a roll-up-yer-sleeves combatant like the Honduran.
Leaving Palacios out of the team was the difference in Spurs not qualifying for the Champions League last season.
Selling him and not replacing him properly will be the difference between finishing in Europe or outside it.