Tottenham Hotspur: Villas-Boas Faces Dilemmas in Fitting in Goalscoring Threats
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Amidst all the typical transfer scuttlebutt, stories over the early part of the week suggesting Emmanuel Adebayor was considering quitting Tottenham Hotspur in January due to being overlooked for a starting spot have stood out.
The Togo international's difficulty in settling at Arsenal and Manchester City in the past lend some credence to the rumor if, as suggested, he is unhappy at currently being behind Jermain Defoe in the competition for the sole striker position in the current formation.
However, it is also easy to dismiss the story, considering that Adebayor's lack of a proper preseason left him short of fitness initially following the confirmation of his permanent transfer (as one of the Daily Mail stories mentioned) and a hamstring injury cost him a couple weeks.
Accompanied with Andre Villas-Boas' dismissal of the rumours through various media outlets on Wednesday, it all combines to the common sense realization that there have been legitimate reasons Adebayor has not been playing and that he will get his chance soon enough (though the manager's decision to leave him behind for Thursday's 1-1 draw with Maribor was a tad perplexing).
Now the forward's fitness issues are seemingly out of the way, there are legitimate questions to be asked about his role in the team/squad and how that affects the wider look of the Tottenham starting XI.
The 4-2-3-1 (or something loosely akin to that) which the Spurs have been deploying so far this season is utilized with the obvious caveat that only one out-and-out striker can be played.
Defoe's form has been such that there is little to no reason why he should be replaced by Adebayor in the immediate future.
Five goals and two assists from eight games is evidence enough of that, but the way the England international has contributed much more besides has negated any concerns Adebayor's absence might have caused.
Perhaps the lone striker role is one Defoe could not have played (at least, not as well as he is now) a couple of years ago, but the increase in his all-round productivity over the last year has gone some way to alleviating concerns that a comparatively smaller player such as himself would be left isolated.
Intriguingly, when Adebayor was brought on in the game against Chelsea, he was the one pushed further forward with Defoe cast in a supporting role.
It was a decision that was likely taken in the hope he could make his greater size count in unsettling the Blues defence, but it instead pushed the previously dangerous Defoe further away from the chances.
There is an argument to be made that Adebayor would have had greater impact in a deeper position.
Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson have had mixed success in the central position found between Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale on the wings.
Sigurdsson looked more threatening against Chelsea when he came in from the flank, while Dempsey has performed decently enough without convincing anyone that the role is his to keep (as of yet).
Adebayor has the kind of ball control and skill that could make him a useful central pivot for Spurs to operate around, while (individually) he would demand attention from opposition players who might feel uncertain of the best way to deal with him.
It sounds ideal on paper, but the concern would be that the team would lose out defensively with the attack-minded Adebayor, so much so they would all but revert to a 4-4-2. It is a genuine possibility, but—even with the extra man in midfield the current formation theoretically lends—it does not guarantee greater defensive strength at all times.
Juan Mata's first goal last Saturday partly came about through Dempsey ball-watching—the American's failure to be alert to the Spaniard's presence allowed the Chelsea man a split-second advantage when the ball came back out of the Spurs box.
In the Europa League, Maribor found themselves bursting through the middle with alarming frequency as Tottenham looked overwhelmed at times, even with Sigurdsson getting back to help out.
For now, if Defoe remains first choice (as expected) as his team's main striker, Villas-Boas faces what most people like to call a selection headache: Should Adebayor, Dempsey or Sigurdsson be played off the main striker?
And that is before even considering Moussa Dembele, who some argue should get the role.
Somebody is going to be disappointed, but—having not tried Adebayor there previously—it has to be worth giving him a shot in seeing how effective he could be in this deeper position.
It will involve duties that are not especially familiar to him, but also several which are part of his game already.
Indeed, the uniquely skilled African might find that he flourishes with a different level of involvement.
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