jermaine jenas – life in the goldfish bowl

27.09.2006

Jermaine Jenas has now completed a little more than a full season in a Spurs shirt.  His 39 appearances (in all competitions) have brought nine goals, some glaring misses and generally unfavourable reviews.  Indeed, much has been said in these pages, with the consensus being that he remains an unfulfilled talent.  The murmurings of discontent at the Lane have spread to such an extent that he has become something of a crowd target, a classic Tottenham scapegoat who has been booed and called ‘Mr Invisible’ (and much worse besides).  Whilst he sometimes does flatter to deceive, I think the criticism he receives is harsh.

I hope he is not regretting his decision to swap the Newcastle goldfish bowl for a hostile Tottenham crowd, because he is a player we need.  I wrote last season about the effect crowd dissatisfaction had on Rasiak – he had reached his nadir and any remnants of confidence drained away as the boos and abuse grew louder. He was of course not forced out by the fans – he just wasn’t good enough - but the reception he got did not help him or the team.  Jenas seems a real confidence player and as frustrating as his open-goal misses and misplaced passes are, the team needs him to continue making runs and offering himself to start attacks and take possession.  If he starts to fear failure and disappear on the pitch, his contribution will decrease further.                         

And yet his contribution is generally a good one.  He possesses many of the attributes needed by the modern midfielder: pace, aggression, eye for goal (!), energy, heading, crossing, free kicks … the list goes on, with his best quality being that footballing cliché, the great ‘engine’.  The calls for his axing increase, but surely the Spurs midfield would be even less creative and devoid of goals. 

He is our one and only real goal-scoring midfielder and whilst it is not justification for missing the target from three yards, he at least made the run into the box to get on the end of Edgar’s cross.  However, that miss at Anfield was not a one-off, and the sitter he missed against Newcastle (much to the Geordies’ delight) springs to mind.  His finishing therefore is a concern, but he still carries the main midfield scoring threat.  His defensive work often goes unnoticed, with his positioning and tackling good, but admittedly he wastes too many passes and exasperates sometimes with over-elaborate flicks and touches.  Much is rightly expected of an England international and former Young Player of the Year, but I would ask for a little more patience.  The consistency will come.  He shows a desire to play for Spurs and to repay Martin’s faith in him.  Let’s encourage him to improve, not deride his efforts. 

As promising a player Huddlestone is, I don’t see him a replacement for Jenas, as he is a deep-lying passing midfielder in the Carrick mould.  And there perhaps lies the problem.  Carrick played a role that allowed JJ to break into the box and play further forward, thus discovering a scoring talent hitherto undiscovered.  His goal tally of 1 per 4.3 games in Spurs colours compares favourably to the 1 in 11.6 ratio he managed at Newcastle and Forest.  Jenas, like most of the players, misses Carrick’s calming influence and ability to dictate play, but he has taken on extra responsibility since his partner’s departure and shown flexibility in playing on the right.

Martin needs to find a way of organising his wealth of central midfielders that gets the best out of each of them.  Zokora improves with each game and has surprised with his ability to run with the ball; Tainio is neat and tidy as ever, if a little uncomfortable on the left; Murphy and particularly Huddlestone have impressed in their limited chances and Davids has actually improved since being used as a substitute.  The jury is still out on Ghaly.  The return from injury of Lennon and Malbranque will obviously help matters, and as the season wears on the absence of Carrick will become less marked.

Promising signs were shown at Liverpool, although we need to show more than promise and to start scoring goals.  I have no doubt that a team with Jenas in it is more likely to do so than one without.
 

PHIL OLIVER

 

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