Interview with Rafael Van Der Vaart (Tottenham Hotspur)
Rafael, an amazingly big game on Sunday for the supporters, what does it mean to the players this derby?
It’s a great game, it’s the biggest of the year and for me, last season was the first season where I played a Tottenham-Arsenal game and it’s amazing, I think it’s one of the best games in the league. It was an amazing night and I think it’s good for football, to see a game like that.
Have you ever come across a game with so much intensity coming from the crowd?
No, for me personally I think it was one of the biggest games and one of the best games of my career, and the fans, everyone was so excited to play against them. It was a draw, but in the end everybody was happy because they saw a fantastic game.
And you scored!
I scored twice yeah so that helps!
You also scored one at that amazing game at the Emirates, which was even more remarkable, the turnaround from 2-0 down…
Yeah that was a crazy game, the first half we were so bad and we were 2-0 down and I remember thinking at half time ‘I hope it will be over soon’, because it was so difficult and they were so good. But we made one change, and it was a totally different game and we won in the end, I remember the fans, I saw fans crying in the stadium, so it was a really nice moment.
Can you talk about Arsenal’s start to the season? At the start of the season they looked all over the place and in terrible shape. They were looking a little better over the weekend, but again, last night, their defence looked a little shaky, is that something you’re going to be looking towards on Sunday?
Yeah of course, I think our squad is mainly better than theirs, but they have young players and we have to respect them because they can play great football and I think their game against Olympiacos was not the best game but I saw the first half, especially the first 30 minutes and they played well and created a lot of chances. They still have great players, big players so we have to be careful, but I hope that we are going to win.
Your old international teammate Van Persie is back and fit; he’s an important player for them isn’t he?
Yeah I think Van Persie is the most important player and if we can defend well against him then we have a great chance to win because I think when he doesn’t score then Arsenal won’t win.
Tottenham’s start to the season has been very strong, perhaps that’s because you have a blend of youth and experience?
Yeah, we have a great mix, I think especially with the two new players, Adebayor and Parker, the squad is every stronger and we have great players, it’s amazing sometimes. When we train I feel like it’s Barcelona! We have a great squad and we want to win something this year, it’s going to be a long season, a hard season, but we have a lot of confidence.
One of those new players you mentioned, Adebayor it’s going to be an interesting match for him because he’s coming up against Arsenal obviously, how difficult will that be for him in particular?
It’s not difficult, for him it’s great because he wants to show them how good he is and he wants to beat them and for us he’s a great player because he’s strong and fast and he can score goals and he also has a lot of assists, he did a fantastic job for my goal against Wigan, he helps the team a lot.
But it won’t be problem for him? There will be a lot of noise, a lot of shouting against him…
No not really, we’re playing at home which will be a good thing for him. I think when we play away it’ll be a different story but we’re playing at home.
What are Tottenham’s aims this season? Getting in the top four again is a big aim, but that’s looking more and more difficult isn’t it, there are a lot of teams trying for those four places…
I think it’s so difficult to end in the top four, but it’s possible. You have a lot of teams this year, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, Man United, Tottenham, it’s amazing. It’s going to be hard, but I think we can make it this year. It’s a big call but I looked at our squad, when we played against Liverpool and I think we had a better squad. Everyone has this bad period, but I hope we don’t and have a good season.
You had a taste of Champions League football (last season) it was a fantastic season wasn’t it, I guess you can’t wait to get more of that…
It was amazing for me as well, I played for Real Madrid for two years and only ever made the second round, but then with Tottenham I played the quarter-final against Madrid, so it was great experience for everyone and playing these big games during the week was amazing.
You had a difficult time in Madrid, then you came here and everything worked…
Sometimes players need a change of lifestyle, and with the Premier League I always wanted to play here and you get the opportunity to play here and the first year is easier then the second year. In the first year everything is new and you play, but the second year is difficult because people maybe expect more from you than last season.
A lot of the players that come in from other leagues and say that the Premier League is the quickest league they’ve ever come into, is that what you felt?
Yeah it’s unbelievable in the beginning; I remember that after one hour I was tired. In Spain, Germany and Italy it’s different, but in England, the pace of the game, and for 90 minutes, its difficult and you have to get used to it.
Arsenal’s problems seem to come from the fact that they are a very young side and they have no real leaders, especially at the back. It that something you might take advantage of on Sunday?
Yeah I think so; they also have some new players who are maybe not used to playing a big game in the Premier League, so of course we have the advantage. But you never know, they still have fantastic young players. Rosicky is a great player, Van Persie is playing well, and Walcott and Arshavin, so they have a great squad and we have to be careful.
But is it a surprise that they are struggling in the middle of the table? In previous seasons they have been automatic top four, but not anymore, it’s different now isn’t it?
It’s different because there are stronger teams now, it’s not so easy to go to Blackburn and win there, or it’s not easy to go to Bolton and win there, we went to Stoke for the Carling Cup and it was difficult to play there, they also have a strong team, so every game in the Premier League you have to be 100 percent, or you don’t win.
But also, mentally Tottenham are stronger, because you had a draw and a win last season against Arsenal, and physiologically that’s quite a good advantage isn’t it.
Yeah I think so, but it’s a new season, so I think it’s going to be a totally different game, but I also hope it will be a nice game for the people because football is for the people, so I hope for an open game with a lot of goals.
Goals from you?
I hope so yeah!