Redknapp joy at juggling with Van der Vaart balancing act

Tottenham Hotspur 2 Aston Villa 1

When Harry Redknapp claims that the arrival of Rafael van der Vaart has given him problems, it's hard to imagine the Tottenham manager having had too many sleepless nights because of the Netherlands international.

Van der Vaart's impact at White Hart Lane has been immediate and the forward's assimilation into the Premier League was further underlined by Saturday's two-goal performance that confirmed his £8m transfer from Real Madrid to be one of the summer's most astute pieces of business.

Already Van der Vaart has acquired a swagger and injected quality into a side that has frequently laboured in its efforts to maintain the form that delivered a place in the Champions League last season and that, in the absence of the injured Jermain Defoe, has offered an inconsistent goal threat.

It's early days, but the Dutchman has galvanised the side and, while his partnership with Luka Modric failed to fire against Aston Villa, the prospect of the two gifted playmakers linking more effectively in the future is one that clearly excites Redknapp.

That is still to come, however, and against Aston Villa it was Van der Vaart's link-up with Peter Crouch that carried greater significance, initially when the pair combined for the Dutchman's first goal in added time at the end of the first half, and then, much more tellingly, during the second half when the pair operated closer to each other up front and linked for Van der Vaart's 74th-minute second.

The switch offered Tottenham far greater flexibility than the more static first-half forward line of Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko, and allowed Redknapp's side to match Villa more effectively in midfield.

The move suited Van der Vaart's natural inclinations which, according to the manager, presents Redknapp with a problem, especially if he wants to play two out and out forwards.

"He's good for us," the manager said. "But it makes balancing the team difficult. I can't lie. Rafa likes that position better, he likes to play behind one striker or behind two.

"It causes problems because if you play two up and him behind, what do you do with Gareth Bale? [Benoît Assou-] Ekotto has been fantastic at left-back, he's in great form, so where would you put Bale? If Bale plays wide left and you've got two up front and one behind, you'll have two midfield players and no one on the right-hand side of the pitch. That is your problem."

Some problem, one that is unlikely to provoke sympathy from Redknapp's rival coaches. Certainly, the Spurs manager has no intention of asking his most recent signing to mould his style. "I wouldn't change him," he added. "He is what he is – a fantastic footballer who loves to be where the ball is. He gets in the box and anticipates where the ball is going to be. It's a knack that some people have. Some people have it, some don't. Goalscorers do."

That knack was the main reason Spurs were able to build on the midweek Champions League victory over Twente with a win against a Villa side who will again be challenging for a top-six finish and who deservedly took a first-half lead through Marc Albrighton.

Having previously displayed worrying signs of a reaction to the demands of Europe, Tottenham's victory was significant in reinforcing the importance of the league. "Unless you win the Champions League, you're not going to be in it next year and we want to try to get into it next year if we can," said Redknapp. "And the league is our best chance of doing that. So we've got to try to do our best to finish as high in the table as we can."

The Villa manager, Gérard Houllier, claimed his side deserved at least a point from a game in which they continued to create chances until the final whistle, although he drew positives from the loss. "I like the team's attitude because they were not happy with the result," he said. "They were grumbling about themselves and that they could have done better. You learn about your players in defeat. The level of what we want to achieve is better. I told them: repeat that sort of game and you win more than you lose."

Match facts

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Hutton, Huddlestone, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Bale, Jenas, Van der Vaart (Sandro, 90), Modric (Palacios, 77); Pavlyuchenko (Lennon, 46), Crouch. Substitutes not used Cudicini (gk), Corluka, Kranjcar, Keane.

Booked Bale.

Aston Villa (4-4-1-1): Friedel; L Young, Warnock, Dunne, Collins; Downing, Albrighton (Bannan, 81), Petrov (Ireland, 81), Reo-Coker; A Young; Heskey (Carew, 35). Substitutes not used Guzan (gk), Clark, Cuellar, Sidwell.

Booked Collins, A Young, Albrighton.

Man of the match Van der Vaart.

Possession Tottenham 52% Aston Villa 48%

Shots on target Tottenham 10 Aston Villa 4.

Referee M Clattenburg (Co Durham). Attendance 35,871. Match rating 8/10.

There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Life and Style
life“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice