After Kenny Jackett praised the Dutchman’s substitute appearance in Wolves recent Capital One Cup win, David Evans looks at whether the jury is out on Rajiv Van La Parra.
“The Greatest Dutchman to have ever played the game”. That’s what my Fancast colleague Ben Husband sort of said at the start of last season.
However, performances last season meant that Van La Parra courted a mixed opinion from fans and the pundits on the Fancast. So, why have fans split on VLP?
After signing on a free last summer from Heerenveen, the Dutchman had a mixed first season at Molineux.
Van La Parra had the swag of a man of the match style performance in his debut against Norwich City. From then, he continued his dazzling form against Cardiff City and Fulham before disappearing into the wilderness.
Rajiv made his return in the new year and provided a threat down wing which helped Wolves close play-off push.
Perhaps like Sako at times, Van La Parra can be both exciting and frustrating. Although he does not have the pace and power of his former Wolves colleague, Rajiv can swing in a sweet ball into the box. The pin point crosses that have helped Dave Edwards goal tally last season.
In his initial games, Van La Parra seemed to take his man on, cutting inside and out to weave himself to the byline.
However, come the second half of the season, the Dutchman started to slow his play down, almost coming to a full stop. Rajiv would almost toy with his opponent, repeatedly over-stepping the ball to try to put them in knots.
This approach slowed Wolves momentum and at times his over-eagerness got the better of him and lead to botched chances.
If VLP continued to dart down the wing rather than slow down, this would not only help his chances of setting up play, but the teams overall goal threat.
Van La Parra also lacks a goal threat. His three goals at Wolves have come with extraordinary luck. His FA Cup goal against Fulham re-bounded over the sliding defender before going in. His goal at Brighton was a cross palmed in by the keeper and a looping cross against Derby last spring was punched into his own net by the opposing goalkeeper.
Add in a six yard miss against Middlesborough near the end of the season and Rajiv luck in front of goal is as bad as when the NBA stars lost their power in ‘Space Jam’.
Jackett has said that VLP can play up front. But on the evidence we have seen so far, this is far from the truth.
It was surprising to see Van La Parra not utilised more in pre-season. Giving him more game time. An advanced role could have helped his confidence and goal threat coming into the new season.
Don’t shrugg off VLP too easily after reading this.
A little fact for you. Rajiv had the most assists for Wolves last season. A stat which has gone a miss outside the deserved plaudits given to the like’s of Afobe, Dicko and Stearman.
It’s all about confidence with Van La Parra. Give the Dutchman a goal and the floodgates could open.
This is a big season for the winger. It’s odd to say that after only one season at Wolves but as Jackett implements a more narrow approach on the field, this will push out the need for his services.
The gaffer offered praise to the Dutchman after Wolves 2-1 victory against Newport County and seemed to hint at more game time.
With Jackett siding with Henry (and even Doherty on the wing on Tuesday night), VLP is down the pecking order. He needs to grab any first team opportunities by the neck and create some magic.
Creating moments such as assisting Edwards goal against Norwich and running Da Silva ragged against Cardiff. He needs to push himself back into Kenny’s plans.
This season is make or break for Van La Parra. Now is the time for him to show us how he can fly.
Do you think this is a crucial season for Van La Parra? Drop us a comment below and join the debate.