The international break was certainly not kind to Tottenham Hotspur. Whilst on England duty, Michael Dawson and then Jermain Defoe picked up serious injuries that will rule them out for months. Defoe was looking in great form for club and country before the injury, and Harry Redknapp will be cursing his look, the one saving grace of last week the news that Luka Modric did not suffer a broken leg as was first thought. With the race for a Champions League spot even more competitive than ever, will Spurs strikeline in the absence of Defoe be able to keep up with the pace setters and give them a chance of a top four finish at the end of the season?
Since Jermain Defoe returned from Portsmouth to Tottenham, he has been the club’s most prolific striker, forming a good partnership with former Pompey teammate Peter Crouch. Defoe is still an inconsistent performer but when he is on song he is Spurs’ best striker and can be lethal in front of goal. Crucially Defoe will also miss Spurs’ Champions League group stage in the clubs maiden season in the competition, and Redknapp will be desperately hoping that his other forwards can get the goals to break down the stubborn European defences they will be facing, especially away from home where they face a series of tough fixtures.
In fairness to Harry Redknapp during his time at Tottenham, he has always maintained that a top club needs to have four good forwards, and this is something he has delivered. When one looks at the roster of Defoe, Crouch, Pavlyuchenko and Keane, there are not many teams in the Premier League with better quality or depth up front. However, Defoe has often been the crucial cog, and the man to get the goals.
Peter Crouch has been excellent for Spurs so far in his career, but he is not a natural born goal-scorer like Defoe and his scoring record for the club is not brilliant. Crouch of course offers far more than just goals, everyone is aware of his skills on the deck and his height greatly unsettles defenders. When Crouch and Defoe operate in tandem they are a great partnership in the classic ‘big man little man’ mould, with Crouch receving the ball and feeding Defoe to score. Crouch will be first choice, but can Keane or Pavlyuchenko adequately replace Defoe?
Robbie Keane is quite a similar player to Defoe, in the sense that he is a small, quick striker with excellent finishing abilities. However, his form in recent seasons has wavered, and at 30 years of age you wonder whether he can repeat the perfomances that he displayed in his first spell at White Hart Lane. Redknapp deemed Keane surplus to requirements last season, when the Irishman was shipped out on loan to Celtic, where he did in fact show some great form, albeit in a vastly inferior league. Keane will have something to prove to himself and his manager and he is still a good player, we will just have to wait and see whether he can deputise for Defoe.
Roman Pavlyuchenko is something of a mystery. The Russian is capable of brilliance but equally can be totally anonymous, like Keane you get the impression this is his last season to impress and so there should be hunger in the Russian. Both Keane and Pavlyuchenko are talented players, but they will have to show some improved form if Spurs are not to miss Defoe. With their main man out for three months though, I worry that Spurs could struggle to replace his goals, but Keane and Pavlyuchenko have a great opportunity to prove me wrong.