Saturday, February 21, 2009

This opinion piece by Philip Oliver is taken from a website which we strongly recommend.

It was a home debut that stirred the fans. Energetic yet composed in possession, aggressive but disciplined; Wilson Palacios was the clear man-of-the-match against Arsenal and is already a favourite with the White Hart Lane faithful.

Harry Redknapp gave our Honduran recruit from Wigan Athletic quite a build-up and Palacios certainly delivered in his first home appearance. He bossed central midfield and did all the things his new boss said he would, with some extra things beside.

His hunger to win the ball is breath of fresh air in a team that has failed to screen the back four properly since Michael Carrick left the club in 2006. Palacios hunts the opponent with the ball down with such intensity that an easy pass is usually denied.

It is often said that tackling is a dying art form in the modern game, which is why Palacios is such a welcome addition. He is an expert in judging and timing tackles, conceding just four free kicks against Arsenal, although Harry will be keen to preserve his dynamism and aggression – the fact Palacios was suspended when we bought him endeared him to a manager frustrated by the soft centre of his squad.

However, Palacios is much more than a defensive midfielder who hassles opponents: his use of the ball on Sunday was excellent, misplacing just four of his 34 passes. He also tested Manuel Almunia with a rasping drive that suggests his shooting prowess is a league above that of his fellow midfield engine, Didier Zokora.

Palacios’ ease on the ball was surpassed by Jermaine Jenas, who found a white shirt with 41 of his 43 passes, the highest success rate of any midfielder on the pitch.
Unfortunately the two he misplaced, a simple five yard ball to Lennon after a first half burst into the Arsenal half and an ambitious floated cross-field switch to the same player in the closing stages, will stick in the fans’ minds.

It is this inconsistency at crucial stages with which Jenas frustrates, but it is clear that he know has the ideal foil to improve his own game and I hope Harry persists with the midfield axis he started the derby match with. Two games into his Tottenham career and Wilson Palacios is already a crowd favourite.

Written by Philip Oliver, a Tottenham Hotspur fan and a professional sports writer who blogs about football betting at Betfair.