Like your nan probably used to tell you when she gave you some money, ‘Don’t spend it all at once.’
The same holds true in football. Liverpool blew their Luis Suarez money on a collection of players that failed to gel together: split like a bad hollandaise sauce. Tottenham did even worse with their Gareth Bale money, the flops from that venture are being offloaded as we speak. Etienne Capoue is now a Watford player and Roberto Soldado might flee back to Spain with his tail between his legs.
So the windfall Aston Villa have come into after the sale of Christian Benteke to Liverpool should be regarded in the same caution. It’s not quite so spectacularly large, but Villa would do well to replace him and build the team as they would’ve done with the burly Belgian.
And so it makes complete sense to see Tim Sherwood raid his old club Tottenham for Emmanuel Adebayor.
Is it a risk? Yes, Benteke is a great striker with a real future ahead of him. His goals have kept Villa in the Premier League in at least two season. Adebayor, on the other hand, hasn’t shown his quality since Sherwood was in charge at the Lane. And before Sherwood was in charge it was much longer ago than that.
But Adebayor is definitely a quality footballer. He’s also big and strong, and like Benteke he knows where the goal is. And Sherwood is confident he can get the best out of the Togolese once again.
So it might be a risk, but it looks like a calculated one that learns from the mistakes of other clubs. We’ll have to wait and see if Villa spend their money on other players too, of course. But if Villa do get their man, they’ll be able to build just as they would’ve done had they kept hold of Benteke.
We would call him a traditional number 9. In Brazil, the lone striker is known as the point of the lance. Benteke has been Villa’s bayonet, and with the direct style employed by Sherwood since his arrival, favouring pace in and around the lone striker, Benteke has been effective. Adebayor would surely fit the bill as a striker who can play in that role.
But replacing Benteke at the point of the lance will only be effective for Villa next season if the point is sharp. Adebayor played only eight times last season, scoring two goals, so it’s not clear that he’ll still be a striker with the quality to do it in the Premier League.
And Villa perhaps rely on their lone striker too much as it is. Benteke’s goals have been crucial in Villa’s survival bids over the last few years, but clearly that shows that the blade at the end of the lance is sharp. There’s something to be said for a blunt instrument too, of course, but it doesn’t have the penetrating power that a sharp one does.
And that’s the gamble that Sherwood is taking if indeed he does plump for Adebayor. If he does, he’ll be getting a striker he knows and trusts, a striker with obvious class and pedigree and someone who is very comfortable and totally adept at playing in the role that Sherwood wants him to play. But is he still up to the task?
Tim Sherwood needs a new bayonet, and there are lots of plusses to choosing Adebayor for the job. But the two questions are: is he sharp? And is he rusty? Because if Adebayor can still do it Sherwood won’t have to build his team in a different way and he won’t have to buy lots of new players to create new options for the team like Spurs and Liverpool did.
But if Adebayor isn’t up to the task it could be a long season ahead for Villa. Playing a direct and pacey style with no one up front to score the goals could turn out to be hugely frustrating and ultimately a knife through the heart of Villa’s Premier League survival hopes.