It was widely assumed that Tottenham may live to regret passing up the opportunity to add more attacking depth, particularly up front, to a side competing on two fronts down the home straight this season, but with new signing Lewis Holtby settling in well to an increasingly adaptable and versatile side, do they still require more striking reinforcements in the future?
Andre Villas-Boas’ side still remain well in the driving seat for the fourth Champions League spot this season as they hold a four-point lead on rivals Arsenal in fifth, with both Everton and Liverpool close behind, but with upcoming games against Arsene Wenger’s side at White Hart Lane plus a tough away trip to Anfield to contend with yet, it’s far from in the bag, not to mention testing ties against Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton.
Nevertheless, one of the overriding factors about the team this season has been their ability to grind out results, having won eight games this term by a solitary strike and despite having kept just seven clean sheets so far in the league, while they may not be the toughest nut to crack, they are a tough side to beat.
Of course, having a player of the quality of Gareth Bale within your ranks helps matters quite a lot, even if the hyperbole, with Sky the guiltiest party, has gone a bit too far and over the top at times. The thing is, Bale is so good on his own that he just doesn’t need all the faux hype; he’s an exceptional talent who could potentially become one of the best players in the world in time, but he’s not helped by the quite frankly silly comparisons to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo every week and a double against Newcastle and Lyon, while it does show the level of consistency needed to reach those heights, has only just started to become a regular occurrence, so let’s not put the cart before the horse.
Along with Bale, though, with Aaron Lennon on the opposite flank and Holtby settling in extremely well since moving to England six months ahead of schedule and his planned summer move, they have helped to cover up the fact that Emmanuel Adebayor hasn’t ever really got going this season and Jermain Defoe’s form has fallen off a cliff.
The England international has only ever been a player that has scored in patches and against lesser opposition, but at the start of the campaign, in an unfamiliar lone striking role that never looked particularly suited to his strengths, he did exceptionally well, but he’s scored just 10 times in 25 appearances across all competitions this season, which is a deceptively poor return considering the plaudits he was on the receiving end of just a few months ago.
Meanwhile, Adebayor has just three goals in 19 appearances this term after crucially missing the majority of pre-season trying to force through his move back to the club where he enjoyed such a successful loan spell last season. That Bale has just one league assist this campaign but 13 goals to his name only serves to highlight that his role within the side has shifted and so have his responsibilities. He’s such a good player that at the moment, even though to a degree he may be carrying the side, the burden has been shared out in a creative sense. It’s not a solution that looks a viable approach in the long-term, but between now and the end of the term, it may just be enough.
It’s clear that the club require more depth up front, and in that sense, choosing not to strengthen from a position of strength during January was something of a gamble, but with Bale in such effective match-winning form at the moment in his dual role drifting in off the left flank, they have someone capable of covering up a notable weakness in their armoury. Holtby, Lennon and even Clint Dempsey have all contributed over the past few weeks, and even if at times the lack of a focal point to their attack can prove troublesome, they are muddling on by through a mixture of sheer force of will and dogged consistency. It’s not quite the hallmark of champions, but they appear to be getting on just fine without striking reinforcements for the time being.