Why Redknapp's right to swap Keane with Gudjohnsen

IT HAS become virtually impossible for Robbie Keane to surprise Spurs fans, but Mr Deadline Day raised a few eyebrows on Monday night. Just 12 months ago the Irishman left his boyhood club Liverpool at the 11th hour, having failed to deliver...

By Ben Pearce

IT HAS become virtually impossible for Robbie Keane to surprise Spurs fans, but Mr Deadline Day raised a few eyebrows on Monday night.

Just 12 months ago the Irishman left his boyhood club Liverpool at the 11th hour, having failed to deliver in the famous number 7 shirt and follow in the footsteps of Kenny Dalglish.

He fled for the safety of White Hart Lane, but now 2010 has arrived, the itch has returned and the 29-year-old has leapt through the closing transfer window once again to seal his last-minute move to another favourite club.

Robbie Keane: the Hopeless Romantic, who has amusingly taken Celtic's legendary number 7 shirt in a bid to emulate the previous wearers, Henrik Larsson and... Kenny Dalglish.

Of course, the circumstances of Keane's latest disappearing act are very different to his move to Liverpool in the summer of 2008. This is only a loan, until the end of the season. And this time he is unwanted in N17.

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Redknapp has highlighted the importance of his return last season, both on and off the pitch, as Spurs took 27 points from his 14 appearances in the second half, comfortably avoiding relegation.

That was all well and good but Redknapp's brief immediately switched to leading Tottenham into the top four, and he appears to have realised that he will not achieve it with Keane in the team.

For all his influence and work ethic, Keane has failed in one vital area - goals. Even when he was starting every game for Spurs last season, he still offered just five in 14 matches.

This season he has struck just six times in the league - four of them coming in one game against Burnley.

Keane may point out that he has been denied a run in the team, but that is largely the problem - managers at teams with 'top four' aspirations need strikers who can cope with rotation, and/or have an influence off the bench.

Tellingly, Spurs have failed to score in five of the last eight games that Keane has started, and his only goal since early November came from the spot, despite 11 appearances since. In fact make that 12 - Celtic lost 1-0 on his debut on Tuesday night.

Roman Pavlyuchenko, meanwhile, took just four minutes to score after coming off the bench against Leeds two weeks ago.

Redknapp has supported Keane by suggesting that he offers a lot more than goals, but the boss's view of the incoming Eidur Gudjohnsen, who is also on loan until May, was notable.

"It gives me options to play differently," he said. "I could play different systems with him, if Aaron Lennon's not fit and I've got no real width we could play with a diamond, and it gives me another attacking midfield player if I want to use him.

"He had a great spell at Chelsea when he played in a five-man midfield - three in the middle, two wide and one up front. He can play off the front at the point of a diamond and he's played off the wide positions at times.

"He's not a winger but he can come in off the wide positions. He's a clever player, he holds the ball and plays with people."

If Keane was writing his own job description, he could not have said it better - a versatile player who is most effective between midfield and attack, holding the ball up and bringing people into play.

In fact the Irishman has played at the point of a diamond for Spurs this season - against Sunderland - and also "coming in off the left", against Arsenal. Both times it was a disaster.

It seems clear that Redknapp has not signed Gudjohnsen because he wants a different type of player. He signed the ex-Chelsea forward because he wants a better version of a player that he already had.

That is the ruthless genius of Redknapp. Jermain Defoe is a better version of Darren Bent, Wilson Palacios is a better version of Didier Zokora, and the Spurs boss feels that Gudjohnsen is a better version of Keane. 'Team captain' or not, all that matters is the continual progression of the side.

Redknapp claims his decision is in Keane's best interests - "he is too good not to be playing regularly and he fancied playing for Celtic."

In reality the manager is doing his job, pursuing Tottenham's ambitions, and his opinion of Keane is abundantly clear from the facts.

This is Spurs' best chance of a top-four finish for four years, and he would rather have a 31-year-old who has made just 11 appearances for Monaco this season and failed to score.

For that very reason, Keane is unlikely to return. If Redknapp does not need him for the remaining games of this season, when will he need him?

His departure looks permanent, giving Gudjohnsen a four-month trial to prove that he can still produce the goods in the Premier League

"You don't play at Barcelona and Chelsea in the Champions League unless you are a top player," said Redknapp.

By that logic, in which age is unimportant and past achievements are all that matters, Les Ferdinand should ask if he can have a game. In fact, Pele might fancy a go.

However, Redknapp cannot lose by shuffling his pack and replacing his least dangerous forward for the run-in.

The worst case scenario is that Gudjohnsen flops, in which case Redknapp will go shopping in the summer. And even then Spurs fans will know that Keane probably wouldn't have done any better.