Tottenham managed to get back on track this past weekend with a 2-1 away victory over Swansea City. This win stopped a run of 3 consecutive defeats for André Villas-Boas’ side as they look to improve their consistency in the hopes of securing Champions league football next season.
Spurs showed character and persistence valiantly defending a two goal lead for 60 minutes, whilst missing a few decent chances to extend their lead in the process. Although this was a very encouraging display from the team at what is a crucial point in the season, the result saw the continuation of worrying trend for AVB, no striker on the score-sheet.
With just seven league games to go, it is imperative that Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor step up and start banging in the goals. Since the beginning of 2013, the two of them have 1 goal between them which is simply unacceptable. If it were not for the emergence of Gareth Bale as a consistent goal scorer this term, Tottenham would have had a serious problem scoring goals this season.
In the 2011/2012 season, Defoe and Adebayor scored 28 goals between them in the league, assisting 12 in the process. In comparison, the pair has scored just 12 goals and assisted 3 so far this term. The massive gulf in productivity exhibited by Defoe and Adebayor this season only emphasises the clubs failure to lure a world class striker to White Hart Lane. I will attempt to unravel the possible reasons for this alarming slump in form from the pair and decipher if they have a future at Spurs or are destined to make way for striking reinforcements in the summer.
The stuttering form of Jermain Defoe
Coming into the season, many wondered if Jermain Defoe would be transferred away from the club. The reason for this was his supposed inability to play the lone striker role in AVB’s preferred system. Defoe lacks the aerial presence and link up play of an effective target man, often leaving much to be desired in his pass completion rate.
As the season began, Defoe began to silence his critics however, scoring many important goals for the team whilst slightly improving his passing accuracy. The campaign had started off so brightly for the often referred to ‘reborn’ Jermain Defoe but what has happened to him since then?
Too trigger happy – Possibly the biggest impediment in Defoe’s game is his over-eagerness to strike the ball whenever he sees the white posts in his peripheral vision. Jermian averages a shot roughly every 28.1 minutes, with a lot of them struck from outside the box. He often takes out his frustrations from fading in and out of games with an ill-advised pop at goal, resulting in a poor chance conversion rate of just 13% this season, down from his 22% of last season. Not only does this shoot on sight policy hinder Defoe’s progress into a top class finisher, he also hurts the team’s passing moves, more often than not opting to shoot in favour of passing to a teammate in a better position.
Not involved enough – Defoe lacks any sort of physical presence and so a physical battle in the air or down the channels often results in him losing the battle. Instead, Defoe likes to pull off the front of his defender and the 18-yard box early to allow him more time and space on the ball. Recently he has been very ineffective with this style of play though, he has had only 219 touches of the ball in 2013 thus far which is simply not enough. Most of these touches have not been meaningful and are usually him passing backwards. In order for Jermain to build a level of consistency in his performances again he must demand more of the ball and utilise his great dribbling ability to manoeuvre himself into better goal scoring positions on the pitch.
Even worse with a strike partner – In a few games where Clint Dempsey was injured, Andre opted for his side to field a 4-4-2 system where both Adebayor and Defoe led the line. Struggling in the lone forward role, Defoe could only improve with a partner right? The simple answer is no. In fact, Defoe appeared to perform at an even lower level with a strike partner, going away from his usual ‘drop off the 18 yard box’ game, to a more static style of play, often waiting around aimlessly in the box for any sort of ricochets to fall his way. This effectively negated Defoe’s best abilities, which is to pick up a head of steam with the ball at his feet and look to smash the ball into either bottom corner of the net.
The anonymous Emmanuel Adebayor
Adebayor’s permanent transfer from Manchester City in the summer took much longer to complete than at first expected. As a result, he missed pre-season with the team which lead to a lack of fitness and to him picking up niggling injuries.
In the 2011/2012 season, Adebayor proved himself to be the perfect forward for the lone striking role. He notched 17 league goals and racked up 11 assists which indicate Emmanuel’s ability to find the back of the net as well as his teammates. This term however, he has looked a shadow of his former self with a pitiful 2 league goals and 0 assists to his name, where has Ade’s ability gone?
Poor first touch and hold up play – Adebayor this season has shown himself incapable of receiving the ball into his feet and holding onto it, possibly his biggest asset last season. This term, Adebayor has been dispossessed every 29 minutes, more than any other Spurs player. Most of his difficulties come when he attempts to hold off a defender behind him whilst controlling a pass from the midfield. Adebayor has a very good physical presence though, meaning with more confidence he could possibly eradicate this from his game.
Limited creativity – Last season saw Adebayor become a huge creative spark for the team. He created a total of 61 chances in the league last season, using his pace and power to glide past defenders, then cutting the ball back on a plate for a teammate to convert. In contrast, he has created just under a third of the chances he did last year; with 20. Adebayor has the tendency to drift wide with the ball at his feet, but from the wide areas his passing has been very unadventurous, far too often opting to play the ‘safe’ pass rather than looking for teammates in goal scoring positions.
Lacking confidence – The biggest problem with Adebayor’s game this season is his lack of confidence and self belief. This season Adebayor is averaging a shot every 54 minutes, down from a shot every 32 minutes from last season. Emmanuel has shown a hesitance in front of goal, often looking to avoid taking shots in favour of playing a riskless pass. He has been unable to shake this lack of confidence all throughout the season and really needs a few simple goals to get him going. In order for this to happen though he must show a higher level of desire to battle defenders for position in the box, something he is yet to do consistently this season.
A loan move is different from a permanent one – From a psychological stand point, Adebayor being on loan last season was the perfect scenario for him and the club. He had a constant chip on his shoulder which he thrived off game by game, looking to prove his parent club wrong about his abilities; he flourished as a result. Essentially it was brilliant for the club, a top quality forward that cost Spurs absolutely nothing in regards to a transfer fee, great business on Levy’s behalf. It would seem though that now Emmanuel Adebayor has been purchased from Manchester City, he has lost that cutting edge to his game, relentless aggression making way for a lacklustre work rate, creative flair taking a backseat to unadventurous passing and ultimately goals fading into next to no goals.
So where do Defoe and Adebayor go from here?
Defoe and Adebayor’s sudden slump indicates to striking reinforcements being brought into the club in the summer. As for the transfer targets themselves, we’ve heard of a few names: long time transfer target Leandro Damião, Aston Villa forward Christian Benteke and Lyon’s Bafétimbi Gomis to name a few.
For Tottenham to make strides towards challenging for the league title in the future, strength in depth is vital and as such, selling Defoe and Adebayor may not be the answer. Instead, AVB should give himself the task of revitalizing the pair in order to make them consistent contributors to the team. This would mean the club only needing to buy 1 more forward for solid inter-squad competition, as opposed to selling the pair and bringing in 3 new strikers, freeing up funds to strengthen other positions. Also, if two popular members of the current squad can begin to do well it would act as a major boost of morale to the rest of the team, I’m sure they’d love to see their friends doing well.