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
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