Van der Vaart impact gives Redknapp a pleasant dilemma
Aston Villa 1
Harry Redknapp admits he is not sure how best to fit Rafael van der Vaart into his Tottenham team. But after the mercurial Dutchman's match-winning display against Aston Villa, he would be loath to leave him out.
Van der Vaart scored twice as Spurs came from behind to inflict a first defeat on Aston Villa since the arrival of their new manager Gerard Houllier.
Redknapp signed Van der Vaart from Real Madrid just over four weeks ago for £8m, and he already looks value for money.
The former Ajax and Hamburg player has the hunger, the skill and the knack of scoring crucial goals that made Paul Gascoigne such a fans' favourite at White Hart Lane 20 years ago. However, like the former England midfielder, it is hard to pin him down in one position.
Van der Vaart started the game on the right of midfield, but popped up everywhere in the first half, which ended with his headed goal in stoppage time cancelling out Marc Albrighton's opener for Villa.
In the second half, Redknapp withdrew one of his strikers, Roman Pavlyuchenko, and put Van der Vaart 'in the hole' behind Peter Crouch -- Robbie Keane was kept on the bench.
It was from Crouch's knockdown in the 75th minute that the Dutchman scored the winning goal with a sublime strike.
It was Van der Vaart's fourth goal in three games at White Hart Lane.
Redknapp, however, knows tough choices must be made when his leading striker Jermain Defoe returns from long-term injury.
"It's a problem," said the manager. "If you play two up front with Rafa in behind, what do you do with Gareth Bale? You could play a diamond in midfield, but that would be asking Bale to play somewhere he doesn't play."
If Van der Vaart presents a problem for Redknapp, he is realistic about his chances of reining in the playmaker.
"He won't change and I wouldn't try to change him. He is what he is -- a fantastic footballer who loves to be where the ball is.
"When you have a special player, you have to find a way to get the best out of them and finding a system that suits them.
"He's got that knack of scoring goals, anticipating where the ball will be. Some players have it, the great goalscorers have it, they know where the ball will drop. He can finish -- he takes his time and puts it away."
Defeat was harsh for a Villa side who were dominant until Emile Heskey, who set up Albrighton's goal in the 16th minute, limped off with a dead leg 20 minutes later.
Houllier warmed to his players' response: "They were not happy in the dressing-room and I liked that. You learn as much about players in defeat as you do in victory, and I told them if they repeat that performance we will win more games than we will lose."