This season, Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe has been in incredible form, and has already nearly matched his Premier League goal tally from the year previous. For once at White Hart Lane, the England international has been given the credit his talent and track record deserves, with Andre Villas-boas clearly viewing Defoe as his main man and even left the club’s new signing Emmanuel Adebayor dwelling miserably on the bench for the first stretch of league games at the beginning of the campaign.
The Portuguese gaffer has played down talks of a January spending spree, telling reporters before in the days before Christmas: “[Levy and I] spoke about the January situation and the eventuality that we could look to strengthen the squad to be better. What came out of those conversations was that our level of focus is not to do a lot in January. We feel comfortable at the moment. Our squad will become big even in terms of numbers with the return of injured players. I believe that they will give us an extra edge. I am not ruling out any situation in the market, but at the moment it looks unlikely.”
Despite the hesitant attitude towards bringing in new recruits, Spurs have been linked by the tabloids with a number of the January bargains, including Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Wesley Sneijder, Willian, Christian Eriksen, Fernando Llorente and David Villa. The gossip begs the question – would a new arrival who plays upfront unsettle the in-form Defoe?
Well, it of course depends how AVB is planning to set-up his team. The Tottenham coach has favoured playing Defoe alone up top for the majority of games so far this season, but more recently he has succumbed to the wishes of fans who want to see Adebayor playing either next to or just behind him. Ever the tactician, AVB’s tinkering largely depends on his opponents and who’s available to him. But going forward, Tottenham strike me as a 4-5-1 team due to the fact that their main assets are their wingers – Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon. So should another front man be brought in come the New Year, it is likely Defoe will have to accept becoming part of the rotation or at the least will not feature in every game as he has so far this season, bar a single fixture.
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It would be hardly a new experience for Defoe. In fact, being rather unjustly considered as a third or fourth choice striker has bizarrely been a common feature of his career, especially during his time in a Spurs jersey. Despite often appearing as a substitute, the 30-year-old has managed to consistently score at least ten goals a season in the league for the majority of his career, and has also hit the onion bag on a regular basis in the cup competitions. Should Tottenham sign a new striker, it is unlikely Defoe would suffer in terms of scoring goals. Whenever he plays his potential to score is obvious, and if his role in the first team diminished it would be safe to assume he would return to his old ways of providing a strong contribution of goals for a cameo player.
But this season especially makes you wonder just why the former Spurs bosses have never given Defoe a prominent role in the Starting line-up and assured the England man he is an important part of first-team plans. Well, Defoe’s physicality, or lack of it, makes him tactically less advantageous than many of his counter-parts. Similarly, he is a goal poacher and nothing more. Especially in his earlier career whilst he was still learning his trade, if Defoe failed to score his inclusion seemed somewhat pointless. His natural greed, which I do not judge him for considering his ability to finish, also mean’s the 30-year-old’s game can be somewhat direct and one-dimensional, and he’s certainly not known for his assists.
Should Tottenham even be in the market for a new striker anyway? As a strike force, Defoe and Adebayor rate highly compared to many of the other Premier League clubs competing for fourth spot, and even Chelsea, who are considered to be part of the title race or at the least a dead cert for third place, would probably swap their lackluster pair of Daniel Sturridge and Fernando Torres for the two Spurs front men. But apart from Defoe and Adebayor, there are no out-and-out strikers in the Tottenham squad. Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele are both capable of playing there, but should there be an injury crisis it would be difficult to rely on either for regular goals and the latter footballer has a crucial rule in the Spurs midfield. Similarly, Defoe, Adebayor and Dempsey are all into their peak years now, and bringing in a younger forward and keeping the future in mind would not be the worst move from AVB.
Whether Defoe would take it to heart is the real concern. I do not doubt he is a professional and, although confidence is a factor in every player’s game, I don’t believe it would severely affect his performance. But, it would be a difficult blow to take should Spurs bring in a new man, especially if it were a high-profile striker such as Huntelaar. As previously mentioned, Defoe has been dismissed as a first-choice player for years, despite his goal record, and this season appears to be somewhat redemption for the England man. If he were displaced by AVB, it would be further confirmation that there is some mystic underlying flaw to Defoe’s game that mean his positional rivals will always be a better choice than him.
So would Defoe suffer, in terms of performance and maintaining his prowess in front of goal? Probably not – Defoe has proved throughout his career that given enough game-time, he will score goals. But, to flip the debate on its head, would Tottenham suffer? Most probably – “don’t fix what ain’t broken” as my mother used to say back when she was a plumber.