Gareth Bale howitzer inside a week, during their displays against Norwich and West Brom, but will the club’s decision not to bring in another striker prove costly down the home straight as the campaign wears on?
Firstly, it looks as if Jermain Defoe is going to be sidelined with an ankle injury after hobbling off against the Baggies in the 39th minute, with manager Andre Villas-Boas placing his initial treatment time as three weeks, but it could be longer with ligament damage. The silver lining to such an injury is that Togo were eliminated from the African Cup of Nations on Sunday evening, so Emmanuel Adebayor could not be returning at a better time.
Villas-Boas said immediately after the West Brom victory: “We will have to see the full extent of the injury. But we will miss him badly. We didn’t stop attacking when we made the change. I can understand you don’t see a striker but I think we have goals throughout the squad. It is difficult without Defoe but we have to adapt as and hope for his comeback as soon as possible,” later describing the move not to bring in another attacker as a ‘gamble’.
You can see where the Portuguese is coming from, and after Defoe limped off the pitch before the break, Lewis Holtby came on as his replacement, with Clint Dempsey pushing further forward into a more central striking role. Once more, the Germany international was impressive in that creative role behind the line forward, with his probing, incisive play and driving runs causing problems in the second half, but it’s clear that while Bale and Aaron Lennon are capable of picking up the slack for the time being, that Dempsey is little more than a stop-gap option.
The side still has a sequence of tough fixtures coming up soon, with Liverpool, Chelsea and Stoke away all to come while they also host Arsenal and Manchester City over the course of the next month or so. Given that they sit just three points ahead of Everton in fifth place at the moment, what they really need above all else is Adebayor to return as quickly as possible and settle in a way that he’s been unable to this season, with the prospect of a flourishing future partnership with Holtby an ideal solution to a troubling problem.
It’s clear that the club have missed yet another opportunity this transfer window to strengthen from a position of strength and really press home their top four claims by adding another striker to their forward ranks. They needed another fresh face and extra body up top before Defoe’s injury and Adebayor’s departure to the AFCON.
Granted, the 30-year-old England international has struggled to replicate his early season form these past couple of months, hitting just one goal in his past 10 games, while Adebayor has just three goals in 18 appearances since moving permanently to White Hart Lane in the summer, never quite looking as sharp as he did last term after missing out on a full pre-season while trying to haggle for a move away. If anything, the fragility of the club’s forward line should have been woefully apparent at the start of the season, but even more so during January and they look set to just try and make do until the end of the season now.
There were certainly deals to be done, with some more complicated than others, with Leandro Damiao at Internacional, Alvaro Negredo at Sevilla and Fernando Llorente at Athletic Bilbao all open to offers at the start of the window, while you have to wonder why the club never even bothered exploring a short-term move for former Chelsea man Nicolas Anelka who left Shanghai Shenhua shortly after Didier Drogba to join Juventus.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy’s obsession with a bargain will see them benefit until the end of the season by bringing Holtby to the club six months ahead of schedule, while Adebayor arrived for just £5m in the summer, but you could hardly blame Villas-Boas for feeling a little short-changed at the moment as he seeks to piece together a hotch-potch of an attack at what represents the most crucial point of the season. Should the club slip out of contention over the coming weeks, which is entirely possible considering the tricky fixture list, then they will have only themselves to blame.