With the signing of Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham have now gone from few options up-front, to many, as the Togolese striker proves himself the perfect foil for first Jermain Defoe, and subsequently Rafael van der Vaart in the Spurs attack.
Looking back on last season, the accusation was always the same: Good build-up play, attractive, creative football, but the dangerous element in the final third was lacking – in fact despite finishing in 5th place, Tottenham scored as many goals as the relegated Blackpool. There were signs of a potent partnership between van der Vaart and Crouch in the early season, but the England target-man was unable to convert his Champions League form into Premier League goals. Defoe, when fit, also did not look his normal, threatening self, unable to get brought into the game sufficiently.
But the signing of Adebayor has made both Defoe and van der Vaart much more dangerous, as he brings them into play and creates opportunities. Defoe has netted twice in two games partnered with the former Arsenal man, and van der Vaart scored and showed great promise in his role just behind Adebayor against Wigan on Saturday. Now manager Harry Redknapp must decide which of the two should get the nod to become the regular partner, and who will miss out.
One option that remains open is to play van der Vaart in midfield, even a slightly free role coming in from one of the wings, most likely the right if Gareth Bale remains fit. However this risks not getting the best out of the former Real Madrid man, whose potency in front of goal has been proven time and again – last season he finished top league scorer with 13 goals, four clear of a man who inevitably does not feature in today’s discussion, Roman Pavlyuchenko. In addition van der Vaart offers leadership qualities, and a winning mentality that few in the Spurs line-up can boast.
The case for Defoe is a more difficult one. An excellent player on his day, consistency has always been an issue for the former West Ham man, and four goals in 22 league appearances last season was proof of it being one of his most difficult to date. But the past should not count against him if he is scoring in the present. Alongside Adebayor Defoe is simply a much more dangerous player, able to run through defences while Ade holds up the ball and slides it through. His shooting from outside the box is also very dangerous.
In this writer’s opinion, the class and quality of van der Vaart are too much to be wasted either away from the goal on the wings, or even benched. Defoe would count himself unlucky not to start if he is in good goal-scoring form, but for the good of the team his impact as a substitute, at times of the game when van der Vaart generally tires, would be a very useful alternative.
As it stands, much will probably go down to the form of the individual players – either way, the signing of Adebayor has helped Tottenham to what feels like three new signings, and an attack to match the quality of the rest of the team.
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