Monday, April 23, 2007

Berbatov – A Player for a Season at Tottenham?

Dimitar Berbatov

I do hope I’m proved wrong but my over-riding impression after watching Spurs snatch a draw against Arsenal at White Hart Lane with Jermaine Jenas’ late equaliser is that Dimitar Berbatov will not be there next year. He has brought a class to Spurs that has been missing for some considerable time, he has lifted the team as Jurgen Klinsmann did all those years ago but ultimately the short-comings of those around him will lead to his departure.

Throughout the game and over the past number of matches there has been evidence for all to see that Berbatov is a player who is so frustrated.

Frustrated at the lack of support through the team’s style of play where he so often, even at home, is the lone striker.

Frustrated at the inability of the other players to provide a pass that will create a meaningful chance for him to strike on goal.

Frustrated at other players not reading the game and moving into space to receive a forward pass.

Frustrated at the lack of support as he chases across the field trying to close defenders down and then discovers that there’s no-one backing him up.

Frustrated with his own play that he hasn’t been able to get away from the three defenders marking him. When a defender takes the ball from him he does a jump of frustration or looks to the sky in annoyance. Opposition players know that Spurs play so deep that they can isolate Berbatov and limit his contribution.

Frustrated at refereeing decisions which go against him.

I’m not suggesting that Berbatov is playing to get away or that he’s not giving his all throughout a game. He created the opportunity for the first goal when winning the corner and he celebrated both goals with the same enthusiasm as everyone else but it’s been a long season and the lack of success and the disappointments of the last few weeks are clearly getting to him.

A telling image from the final moments of the game - with Spurs again looking unlikely to get any reward for their efforts - was Robinson wanting to take a free kick on the edge of his penalty area and desperately trying to attract Berbatov’s attention. Berbatov was just walking slowly forward, head down not looking to see what was happening - it was if he felt he had done all that he could on the day and had nothing left to give.

Of course, Berbatov can’t just announce that he’s going as Klinsmann did in 1995 but if a top club makes it known that they’re interested and offers a big transfer fee what chance have Spurs of keeping him? If an offer comes where the player will have the opportunity to play at the highest level in the Champions League, with the opportunity to play alongside other top class players, with the chance to win silverware and with a big salary on offer – he can’t be blamed for looking enviously in their direction.

What can Tottenham offer against that? Possible UEFA Cup competition and there’s no guarantee that that will be achieved and then more of the same just like this year. It was Spurs’ inability to provide European football that gave Klinsmann the opportunity to move on and it could happen again with Berbatov. The next four games will have such a significant bearing on Tottenham’s and Berbatov’s future.

As I said at the start I do hope I’m wrong – Spurs need Berbatov next season, not money in the bank or to spend on lesser players. Remember we replaced Jurgen Klinsmann with Chris Armstrong and Teddy Sheringham was unimpressed. Berbatov would be equally difficult to replace. Spurs’ future depends on keeping their best players and adding to the quality in order to make improvements year on year. It will be another long summer in the transfer market.


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