Can he really take Tottenham to the next level?
When it comes to leading a club to the dizzy heights of a title challenge and other major honours, you need more than just goals from your main striker.
Tottenham decided it was time for a managerial change at White Hart Lane during the summer. Aside from any issues there may have been between the club and Harry Redknapp, the consensus was that they believed Andre-Villas Boas was a young, bright manager who could elevate the club to the next level.
The Lilywhites have had a solid campaign so far after a relatively slow start to life under Villas Boas. Jermain Defoe also blossomed under the new boss, enjoying the responsibility of being the main striker at the club after sitting in the shadows of the Adebayor/Van Der Vaart combination last season and failing to ever really gain Redknapp’s trust as his first choice forward.
Although it did slightly feel as though Defoe’s inclusion was thrust upon AVB due to a lack of other options, he did take his chance initially. The form he showed along with the fact there has been little competition for his place from Adebayor, who hasn’t been able to recapture his form from last season, has kept the England international in the side.
The goals have however dried up for him of late, and it is a slump that he seems to go through most seasons, whether he is playing regularly or making an impact from the bench. One that if Spurs were struggling to get results, would possibly be scrutinised more than it is.
Defoe usually scores in bursts, and it sometimes goes without noticing. I am sure it will surprise some people that his 10 goals so far this season in the league have come in seven of the 22 games that he has played. He has also started in all of these apart from the defeat at the Etihad to Manchester City. What may be an even more startling stat is that he has scored in only three of his last 15 league games. Now every player goes through dips in form, but not to this extent. The very best strikers score a lot of goals, and consistently.
That is too many games where he isn’t contributing, especially considering that his main attribute is goal scoring, and he isn’t really renowned for play-making qualities or tracking back as for example Wayne Rooney is, qualities which often bail him out if he has a lean spell in front of goal.
I have always actually been one of Defoe’s admirers, and someone who would back him and vouch for him to be given more of a chance, but I feel Tottenham are attempting to step to a level above now. After seeing him being given the opportunity to be their main man up top, while I still believe he is one of the best finishers in the league and that he is certainly good enough to have a role to play at the club, I don’t think he has the quality to lead the club forward.
It has made me realise that maybe the managers who have looked beyond him as their main striker were right, and not just being unfair. It also speaks volumes that the so called ‘big clubs’ have never really showed concrete interest in signing Defoe. Like Chelsea have shown in their move for Demba Ba, and Manchester United did when they took Dimitar Berbatov from Spurs, if they are good enough then the clubs challenging at the top will come calling eventually. That is just the nature of the game now.
To me the closest comparison to Defoe at one of the other top four would be Javier Hernandez at Manchester United. While I am aware the two players have several differences, what they offer is similar. Would Ferguson allow Hernandez to be the main striker at Old Trafford? He wouldn’t, because like Defoe he is excellent at what he does, but doesn’t offer enough hence why he is almost always left out of the side for the biggest games.
Defoe’s league goals have come against Newcastle, Reading, QPR, Chelsea, West Ham, Fulham, and Aston Villa respectively, all in the bottom half of the table bar Chelsea.
While he is an excellent professional, and a very good striker, if the north London club are to continue pushing the top three sides closer and in years to come mounting a title challenge, they need a striker that is going to offer them more. Champions League qualification will be key to them attracting these kind of players as well, and I believe the lack of it this season is why AVB wasn’t able to necessarily complete his ideal transfer dealings over the summer.