On the morning of their game against Blackpool, Harry Redknapp identified Tottenham’s biggest problem this season. To put it concisely, he highlighted his strikers and their lack of Premier League goals – a rather eerie prophesy of the evening’s forthcoming events .
They say a picture paints a thousand words, well the same can also be true about statistics. Looking at the stats from Blackpool vs. Tottenham you can get a good idea of the game, even if you didn’t watch it.
Spurs had 62.8% possession, 20 shots on goal and seven corners, and what was the product from all of this industry? One goal and no points. If we delve a little deeper we also discover that of the 20 shots that Spurs mustered, a whooping 15 of them were off target. Last night Spurs’ problem was stark and it made clear the reason why they were linked with deadline day moves for no fewer than four strikers in January.
To finish in the top four you need at least one striker that can win you games single-handedly. Manchester United have had it this season in Dimitar Berbatov, Arsenal have had it in Robin Van Persie, Manchester City have had it in Carlos Tevez and Chelsea have had it in Didier Drogba. But I fail to recall a league game this season when Spurs have won a game where the performance of a striker could be highlighted as the key reason for victory.
For three international strikers to have only scored eight goals between them since the start of the season is simply not good enough. It is clear that Tottenham have been relying too heavily on the midfield goal-scoring contribution of Gareth Bale and Rafael Van Der Vaart who have contributed nearly half of their 38 strikes so far this season, and their absence last night became more damaging with every chance that flew over the bar.
It hasn’t always been this way of course, it wasn’t too long ago that White Hart Lane provided the home for the best striking quartet in the league. Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane, Darren Bent and Jermain Defoe were all vying for places and the problem was who to leave out rather than who to pick.
Fast forward to now and Spurs’ goal difference and goals scored record lies some distance behind their closest rivals. A key contributing factor to this has undoubtedly been the injury, and alarming lack of form, of Jermain Defoe. The injury that he picked up on England duty has kept him out of the team for a prolonged period, but not to score a single league goal in 12 appearances is a shadow of the form that he was showing at the start of last season. Defoe has always seemed to prefer power over placement in a one-on-one situation, but his composure in front of goal appears to be severely lacking this year.
So with the chance to move up to third and extend their lead over fifth place to five points now gone, maybe Harry needs to try his hand at science and invent a machine which will keep Van der Vaart fit because without him, winning league games looks a great deal harder. And if Defoe is planning on going on a scoring spree like Harry Redknapp so desperately hinted at, then now would be a great time to start.