LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 25: Steven Pienaar of Everton and Clint Dempsey of Fulham battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Fulham at Goodison Park on April 25, 2010 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images)
On Sunday, those of us who watched the Premier League tie between Manchester United and Everton were lucky enough to witness a great game capped off Steven Pienaar scoring the paradigmatic [ed. this is actually a real word] dramatic equalizer, completing the latter team's comeback by nullifying what had been a two-goal deficit. People who've observed Stevie's recent run of form at Everton would not have been shocked by this event, as the South African midfielder has since the completion of his loan move to his former club been arguably the most important component of Everton's attacking lineup. The lingering question for the Spurs fans among that contingent is: why on Earth did Stevie never do that for us?
The key to understanding this irritating little niggle, I submit, also forms the basis of why Gareth Bale's form has dropped off in the second part of the season. As most of us on this site agree, Bale's main issue has been that ‘Arry has stifled his development by allowing his to expand his game by cutting inside and playing more centrally as an attacking force. As anyone who has ever watched Gareth Bale play could tell you, the Welshman is best employed as a classic touchline-hugging winger who only occasionally tucks in to give right backs something to think about.
Now, the raw irony of this situation is that ‘Arry appears to have not only misunderstood what Gareth Bale does, but has also seemingly got him and Stevie mixed up. Pienaar did not play well for Tottenham because he was brought in to cover for Bale back when Harry still considered him to be, as previously outlined, the kind of classic winger type. In his respect, he was forced into a system where he was told to stick to the flank and play to assist our main forward, usually Crouch. This approach is at odds with Pienaar's favoured style of play, which sees him dragging in to lose his man. As the chalkboard below which outlines the details of Pienaar's typical play during his first spell with Everton in a match against Sunderland illustrates, he achieves a great degree of providence and contributes more to the team when he's allowed to mix up his game late on in the tie.
So Harry gets in this effective attacking player in the transfer window of January 2011, promptly wastes him for a year by boxing him into a role he doesn't suit, ditches him in the transfer window just gone, and promptly proceeds to try and mould Gareth Bale into exactly the kind of player that Pienaar should have been for us, to highly unsatisfactory ends. The irony of this situation should not be lost on anyone, and it really illustrates how prone Harry is to attempting to pair square pegs and round holes. A competent manager would have either understood that Stevie should function as a different type of winger to Bale and used him to vary our style of play, or used him on rotation with van der Vaart while keeping Bale in the role to which he was suited. In either respect, he should not have attempted to mold Bale into the kind of player that he had deemed unsuited to our style of play when Bale doesn't even have the natural abilities to expand his game in this respect.
Who knows exactly what Harry's inability to perceive exactly what his squad memebrs should do and his comparitive reliance on FRAAB has cost the team this year. The more I watch Pienaar, the more I think that he could have done a good job for us if we'd kept him as a rotation option and took a second to actually figure out what exactly he does. If there was ever a punctuation point needed at the very end of the long and growingly visible narrative of Harry's mismanagement of some of his players, Pienaar's goal against United should be it.