Hungry Kranjcar gives Harry food for thought
NIKO Kranjcar staked a convincing claim for a permanent place in the Tottenham midfield on Saturday, and believes his new team will go from strength to strength in the coming months. Kranjcar grabbed his first Spurs goal in the 2-2 draw...
NIKO Kranjcar staked a convincing claim for a permanent place in the Tottenham midfield on Saturday, and believes his new team will go from strength to strength in the coming months.
Kranjcar grabbed his first Spurs goal in the 2-2 draw at Bolton, but it wasn't just his perfectly executed half-volley that sent the Tottenham fans purring all the way back to north London.
Playing on the left wing vacated by the injured Luka Modric, Kranjcar put in a superb display of pace and poise, and also delivered the corner from which fellow Croatia international Vedran Corluka equalised in the second half.
But, while Kranjcar believes his goal can be the first of many for the Lilywhites this season, he conceded he is far happier playing through the centre - the position from which he scored - rather than on the flank.
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"I spent a lot of time drifting into the middle from the wing and that's where I feel most comfortable playing - in the middle," said Kranjcar.
"I think with the number of games we've played together (alongside Jermaine Jenas and Wilson Palacios), so far we've developed an understanding, we try to help each other out on the pitch."
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Harry Redknapp recently denied that Kranjcar was signed purely as a short-term replacement for the sidelined Modric and, even if that was the case initially, Kranjcar's start to life at the Lane has given the manager plenty to ponder in the middle of the park.
A genuine attacking threat from central midfield is a weapon Spurs have lacked for several years, with only Jermaine Jenas making it past the five-goal mark in the last five seasons, when he managed six in 2006-07.
Modric was signed partly with that problem in mind but, while an undoubted talent, rarely gets himself on the scoresheet and is at his best when working his way up and down the left wing.
This season, five goals have already come from midfielders, compared to just the one at this stage last year. But two of those goals arrived from Aaron Lennon on the wing, while Jenas has one and Wilson Palacios the other.
Goals from the middle are still in short supply, and while that may not be a problem while Tottenham's strikers stay on the scoresheet, Redknapp will know the importance of a midfielder who has the goal threat which Jenas and Palacios rarely supply.
Kranjcar believes he can weigh in with his fare share of goals this season, and revealed he is determined to build on the meagre total he amassed while under Redknapp's guidance at Portsmouth.
"Is goal-scoring something I can bring to the side? I hope so, I was never really happy with the number of goals I scored at Portsmouth ," he added.
"I think it was only four or five, so hopefully I can score more than that. I never set a target, but hopefully I can score as many as I can.
"It's important for the midfield to chip in with goals, the strikers are the ones who will score maybe 20 goals a season but it's important for the midfield to chip in as well.
"I think we've been doing that since the start of the season and I'm pleased with the start I've made.
"There's a great talent in the squad where every single player can play, and we've got a great coach and when all the injuries come back it will be even stronger."
Modric's return sets up an intriguing battle for Tottenham's midfield slots, and it may be that Jenas is the man to make way should Redknapp decide to give Kranjcar a run in the side.
But as the games come thick and fast through autumn, the manager is likely to keep his options open and, while he has sung Kranjcar's praises, he also warned that he faces a fight to force his way into the side, who now sit comfortably in the top-four.
"Just because you bring players here doesn't mean you are going to play them. They have to come here and earn the right to play," said the boss.
"Niko's a player with great ability; a very good footballer, he can play in several positions - on the left, the right or in the middle, or even off the front man.
"He's just a terrific footballer, great on the ball, he's got everything to be a top player for us.