Preceding him in making a big-money switch from La Liga, and specifically not from one of the Big Two, to the Premier League in recent times has been Fernando Torres, Sergio Aguero, Juan Mata and David Silva. This summer, Roberto Soldado joined Alvaro Negredo in swapping Valencia and Sevilla respectively, each held back by the glass ceiling of Spanish football, to join new, exciting and deserved frontiers.
If there have been concerns over Soldado’s scoring form at this stage in his Tottenham career, then they’re misguided. The Spaniard was Valencia’s most saleable asset in a period of the club’s history when financial strengthening was paramount. In two of his three seasons at the Mestalla, Soldado helped to guide the club into the Champions League, a tandem formed with now departed coach Unai Emery that would see Valencia as the third best club in Spain.
This is a player who Tottenham have not only bought for his scoring exploits, but for his experience and big-match temperament. He’s well suited to the Champions League, as well as finding room to make himself known in clashes with Real Madrid in particular. He may not be as fashionable as Torres was and Aguero currently is, but Soldado has offered a similar guarantee of goals wherever he’s played.
Tottenham would do well to steer clear of the path that was trodden by Real Madrid, who failed to capitalise on the talent of a young Soldado, first farming him out to Osasuna and then moving him on permanently in 2008 to Getafe. Last season, Real suffered in attack due to the inconsistent or altogether poor form of Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema; at Valencia, Soldado was battling for the place as La Liga’s top scoring Spanish striker. On the final day of the season, he lost out to Negredo, finishing one goal behind the then Sevilla striker’s 25.
At Valencia, Soldado was without question the best striker. At Spurs, the Devil may care attitude of Emmanuel Adebayor and the inconsistency of Jermain Defoe has offered the Spaniard the same status. Soldado is not without his flaws too, of course. Only last season did he really do away with those lengthy scoring droughts. At 28, he is the finished product, but how late has the switch away from La Liga come?
I don’t subscribe to the idea that every foreign player needs to “adapt” to English football. It may be the case for some, but it shouldn’t be seen as the default rule. Soldado, however, needs the team setup to get the best out of him.
His quickness was often of use in La Liga, able to counterattack with midfield playmakers releasing him through on goal. The industry of players like Sofiane Feghouli and Jonas were often the perfect foil for Soldado, too. The Spaniard isn’t always likely to play a part in the build up play; despite being able to craft his own chances, he’s very much seen as a poacher.
Instead, Tottenham’s much talked about midfield will need to find a balance in protecting their goal and furthering their good defensive form and bringing the best out of a striker who is more than capable. In Erik Lamela, Andre Villas-Boas has a wide player with creative tendencies and far more experience in a top European league than Christian Eriksen. At present, Tottenham have a lot of players who are capable of shooting from range and adding to the score line themselves, but where is the designated playmaker and direct line for the striker?
Soldado has barely played two months-worth of Premier League games; the goals and performances will come. He’s proved to Vicente Del Bosque that he can cut it for the Spanish national team, improving on his linkup play with a group of midfielders who are unlikely to be instructed to go direct. Villas-Boas will also need to find a balance with what he has, and there should be little doubt that it will come to fruition.
A crucial factor in this is that Soldado is a player who needs very little motivation to succeed.
Is Roberto Soldado’s form a cause for concern at Tottenham?
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