Other than the Carling Cup victory in 2008, there aren’t too many fond memories from Juande Ramos’ time in charge at White Hart Lane. But one memory that sticks with me is that for a brief period during his first year in charge Spurs had arguably the finest striking quartet in the Premier League. Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov were in their prime and forming a fearsome partnership, and if either of those two weren’t firing then Darren Bent or Jermain Defoe could step in. Things didn’t quite work out and one by one they left the club, but the striking talent was never in question.
In 2007/2008 these four strikers scored 58 goals between them in all competitions for Spurs. The question that then springs to mind is: Are Tottenham’s current forward four of Roman Pavlyuchenko, Robbie Keane, Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch capable of getting anywhere near that tally this season?
As of 25th October they have notched up 11 goals (but note that three have come from the penalty spot). For a team who have come on so far from the mid-table frustration of the aforementioned 07/08 season it is interesting to see the notable decline of striking options.
Of late Harry Redknapp has been playing Peter Crouch as a lone striker and to his credit is linking up well with Rafael Van der Vaart, but he misses far too many opportunities. Saturday’s clash with Everton was a game with few chances, so when one does fall to your striker you need him to at least give the goalkeeper problems. Too often Crouch fluffs his lines at the vital time and for all of the good work that he does (and the hard time he gets from referees) he needs to develop more of a killer instinct. Roman Pavlyuchenko is too ineffectual for too long in games and despite scoring five times this year, it seems like his ‘Redknapp Renaissance’ has somewhat worn off. As for Robbie Keane, I fail to recall a fall from grace that has been so stark or sudden, far from instilling confidence when he comes on, it seems that unfortunately he does the opposite.
A lot of hope is being pinned on Jermain Defoe’s return and much has been said on how he could link up with Van der Vaart. Defoe has scored four goals for Spurs since January, and while this has included some time on the sidelines he seems far from the striker who started last season with five goals in four games.
I don’t believe I am being hyperbolic when I say that Spurs have one of the best midfields in the country, and with 13 goals they are doing a good job of masking Tottenham’s striking frailties.
Tottenham’s injury problems in defence are currently starker than ever, they have used more than seven different partnerships in the centre of their defence already this season and have only kept one clean sheet in the league. So with this in mind it is clear that Tottenham are going to have to score more than one goal to win games. Spurs are yet to really ‘beat’ a side, their only win by more than one goal was against Wolves and that came with a large slice of good fortune – had Stephen Ward not conceded the penalty I believe Wolves would have won the game.
So it appears that Harry’s top job during the next window is to find a new striker to keep Tottenham in the upper echelons of the league, but how hard is that going to be? The Champions League has made Spurs a more attractive destination and had added to their financial clout, but what good is it if the right player isn’t available? There would be no point in bringing a player to the club unless they are better than what Spurs already have, but any striker of real quality is likely be ineligible for the Champions League, and even if they’re not, teams are reluctant to let their best players leave in the January window.