When Tottenham Hotspur signed Rafael van der Vaart on 31 August 2010, just two hours before the transfer window closed, there was a sense of jubiliation among the supporters.
This signing furthered Daniel Levy's reputation of being a shrewd negotiator.
It was an absolute peach of a signing as Spurs grabbed the 2010 World Cup finalist for just £8m.
A product of the Ajax youth academy, Van der Vaart had plied his trade with Hamburger SV and Real Madrid before joining the north London club.
Having accrued over a 100 caps for his country and with a trophy cabinet boasting a cup in three different countries, Van der Vaart's signing was immense for the Lily Whites. Having qualified for the Champions League for the first time, Spurs got the experienced campaigner they needed.
And he did live up to his billing, as he scored 15 times in his first season in England, 13 of which came in the league. He provided nine assists for the team. And he continued with a good showing in the next season as well with 14 goals and 8 assists.
Apart from his contribution to scoring, Van der Vaart acted as the pivot for most of Tottenham's counter-attacks, quickly releasing Bale or Lennon on either flank for fast-break attacks. Additionaly, his vision and ability to pick out a teammate in the tightest of spaces helped in unlocking the opposition's defences.
Specially against teams that used to sit back in their own half. His contributions helped Spurs reach the quaterfinals in the Champions League after securing memorable wins over both San Siro based clubs.
But while Van der Vaart was at his best against the mid & bottom table teams, he struggled against the top six teams in the league. And he struggled when the oppostion cramped his space and he grew frustrated in such games. Often he had to be replaced after 60 minutes, as he stopped contributing to the game.
When Levy replaced Harry Redknapp with Andre Villas Boas, Van der Vaart was sold to Hamburger after just two games in the 2012/13 season under the new manager. Although, Van der Vaart reaffirmed his desire to stay at White Hart Lane, the arrivals of Mousa Dembele, Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson paved the way for his departure. And he moved back to Hamburg, where is revered as a cult hero.
Let us now compare Tottenham's performance in the league for the past three seasons. If we split the teams in the league into three groups based on their final league positions and compare the number of points dropped by Tottenham, we can come to an understanding as to whether Van der Vaart's departure has led to any changes in the results for Spurs.
In 2010/11 Season, Spurs dropped 17 points in 10 matches against the teams in the top 6, 13 points against the teams that finished 7th to 14th in the table and 17 points against the bottom 6. In the next season, the numbers were 19, 14 and 10 respectively.
In 2012/13 after Van der Vaart's departure, Spurs dropped 18 against top 6, 18 in 14 matches against mid table teams and 10 against the relegation strugglers, Wigan alone picked up 5 out of those 10 points.
So in terms of results, Spurs dropped a similar number of points against the teams in each category. But, the performances against the top teams have definetely gone up a notch this season.
Winning at Old Trafford for the first time in 23 years, home wins against Manchester City & Arsenal, and Spurs were very unlucky to drop 5 points to Everton.
At the bottom of the table, Wigan have been a constant thorn in Spurs' season for years. Hopefully Spurs can capitalise on their relegation and pick up those extra points.
But, they have struggled to find a substitute for the Dutchman's goals. Gareth Bale has more than risen to the challenge, but his contribution towards creating chances has diminished considerably as a result.
Spurs are struggling to find that bit of innovation required to open up packed defences, which Van der Vaart provided in abundance.
So, Van der vaart's departure hasn't led to much change in the results for Tottenham. But in terms of the overall game, Tottenham have turned into tougher competition for the top sides. But they continue to struggle against defensively minded teams and signing a creative midfielder should be a top priority.
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