It’s been season that started with such promise for Tottenham, but soon looks to finish in the sort of chaotic mess Spurs fans have become all too accustomed with in recent seasons. Failure of this particular Premier League campaign is far from simple, with the issues clearly running a little deeper than simple aesthetic alterations. But one standout problem for Spurs this term has clearly been the inability to integrate new players effectively into the existing first team squad.
Roberto Soldado’s turbulent first year in England epitomises this, with the highly rated Spaniard failing to get anywhere close as yet to justifying his lofty £26m price tag.
When you spend these extraordinary sums of money on an individual the least you can expect is to do your upmost to make things work out for the best; so have Spurs really done this?
Roberto Soldado has gone from one of the most coveted strikers in Europe, consistently ranked amongst the top 5 on the continent, to a Premier League dud scratching around for the odd goal or two.
People that have memories longer than a year will be quick to realise players don’t simply lose their inherent class in a matter of months. There is no doubting that Soldado is one of the most exceptional finishers of a generation, so almost certainly much of the fault here has got to lie with Spurs.
It baffles me that Spurs’ coaches don’t wheel out some Valencia DVD’s from recent seasons to work out the flaws in their own master-plan. Soldado was a hit at Valencia not because he was lumped together in a strike partnership, but because the 4-2-3-1 that Unai Emery looked to play was geared towards getting the most out of the Spanish poacher.
Pundits across England think the solution is to play him alongside Emmanuel Adebayor in a 4-4-2, but to date this set-up has remained on the whole unconvincing. Spurs need to do their upmost to find a second striker to play in just behind Soldado rather than alongside, and they shouldn’t look any further than raiding the Spaniard’s former La Liga club.
The great-unsung hero of Soldado’s success at Valencia has got to be that of attacking midfielder come second striker Jonas. The 30-year-old Brazilian ensured that a portion of the attacking burden was taken off Soldado, allowing the Spaniard the freedom to take up position on the edge of the six-yard box where he is most effective. At Spurs of late he is expected to be the target man, to run the channels and hold up play. The only time Soldado has been able to get in behind the defence was against Aston Villa where he netted thanks to a well-placed Paulinho through ball; these balls have so rare that Soldado has simply given up even attempting to make the runs in behind the defence at all.
Clearly the solution is to stop pumping the ball up to Soldado and instead try to play someone in behind him to ensure he never gets as isolated as he has been this season. Some think that Eriksen is this man for the job, and my personal preference has been for a fully fit Lamela to take up this role; but clearly reuniting Soldado with his former teammate could well pay dividends over the next few seasons.
The Brazilian looks set to break into double figures for goals once again this year to match the previous two, and if he can do anything to rekindle Soldado’s La Liga form Spurs will surely be onto a winner here
This is a low risk deal for Spurs, something that Levy may well appreciate given last summers antics. Cash-strapped Valencia value their man at just £8m, a low price to pay for someone that could well have the ability to get Roberto Soldado firing once more.
The secret for Spurs is to get someone to play in close to Soldado, delivering the right kind of service to ensure that the club get the most out of their one time record purchase.
Yet to go about doing this the right way so far, a potentially cheap acquisition of one of his former teammates could well turn out to be a shrewd piece of business for Spurs.