When West Ham United were relegated from the Premier League two seasons ago, there was a scramble for Scott Parker’s signature.
His relentless work ethic was the main reason why West Ham weren’t already relegated by Christmas.
At the age of 30, Parker felt he had one big move left in him and decided to join Harry Redknapp at West Ham’s traditional rivals Tottenham.
In his first campaign in north London Parker excelled. Spurs had conceded eight goals to the two Manchester clubs in the first two games of the season before Parker was signed on deadline day to provide some safety in front of the defence. He helped keep a clean sheet in his first two league games as Spurs ran out comfortable winners away at Wolves at home to Liverpool.
Parker soon became an instant hit at White Hart Lane as the fans appreciated his stamina and willingness to defend.
The England international was a perfect partner to Croatian playmaker Luka Modric as Parker’s defensive attributes allowed Modric to push further up the field and influence the game.
The main strengths of Parker’s game were his ability to win the ball from opposing players, get his head up and have the vision to play the pass 20 or 30 yards to start the Tottenham attack. Parker was even rewarded with Tottenham’s official Player of the Year award.
Injury on England international duty in the summer of 2012 allowed new signing Moussa Dembele and Brazilian Sandro to form a strong partnership in the heart of Andre Villas Boas’ new 4-2-3-1 formation.
Both Dembele and Sandro are much better athletes than Parker; taller, stronger and faster. The two seem to know one another’s game and know exactly where the other is on the pitch. Parker just doesn’t have this with either of them.
The most successful teams in Europe are built around a strong midfield partnership; Barcelona have Iniesta and Xavi. Inter Milan’s treble winning side of 2010 had Sneidjer and Cambiasso and Manchester United had Roy Keane and Paul Scholes for numerous successful years. If Tottenham do wish to become a major European force, and they do, then they have to drop Parker in favour of Dembele and Sandro.
Naturally with age Parker has lost some of his fitness. He doesn’t look as strong on the ball and cannot force opposing midfielders off the ball with the same ease he once possessed.
Especially when comparing him to Sandro whom Tottenham fans and players alike nickname ‘Beast’. There have been many times when after receiving the ball Parker does a 360 degree turn in order to find a fellow player. But too many times the ball ends up going backwards to his defence instead of initiating an attack.
Last season Parker lost the ball on average every sixty-five minutes compared to sixty-eight this season. Last season he won possession eight times in the attacking third compared to only three this season.
So how did he fare at his end of the pitch? Last year he won the ball 77 times in defence and 107 times in midfield, gaining possession for Tottenham 184 times. This year he won possession only 118 times: 79 in midfield and most alarmingly only 38 times in the defence third.
He has also made some notable mistakes this year. His inability to react to Oscar’s movement cost Spurs against Chelsea as he headed home from a corner in early May. He also inexplicitly missed an open goal in Tottenham’s 2-2 draw with FC Basel in April.
All the evidence suggests that Scott Parker has been a major disappointment for Tottenham despite his combative, energetic style. But injury and age haven’t helped him, nor has the impressive partnership of Sandro and Dembele. Although the Spurs fans love a trier, they demand quality from their players- quality that Scott Parker lacks.
One thing that is different this year is Tottenham’s style of play. Andre Villas Boas has pushed Parker further up the field to allow his defence to form a much higher line than last year. This has limited Parker’s most valuable assets because his role has been occupied by Tottenham’s two central defenders pushing up high and winning the ball early. Parker’s style of play is no longer compatible with Tottenham’s.
At the age of 32, Parker won’t have too much value hanging over his head, especially for a player so ineffective in front of goal. Harry Redknapp has been linked with buying him back for QPR’s promotion push but I still think he can perform in the Premier League.
He would be a great option for one of the three promoted teams; a transfer to Crystal Palace would also mean he avoids the hassle of moving house. His fight and desire is exactly the style of play needed to stay afloat.
One advantage Scott Parker has over the majority of his teammates is experience. He has competed at the top level for over a decade. He can still be a valuable asset for AVB off the field. A born leader, he would be an excellent coach to Tottenham’s bright academy.
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