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The received opinion at White Hart Lane was that Jermain Defoe was unable to play as a lone striker. Various managers had tried Defoe in such a position without success. Defoe just didn’t seem to have the ability to hold the ball up, to complement his undoubted goalscoring ability.
It seemed as if Defoe was a player that could only play in a 4-4-2, at a time when that particular formation seemed to be dying out. Harry Redknapp couldn’t find a space for Defoe in his first-choice XI last season and many expected Andre Villas-Boas to ship him out.
Instead, AVB has put more faith in Defoe than pretty much any Spurs manager before him. Implementing a 4-2-3-1 formation, Villas-Boas made Defoe the spearhead of his attack and has been rewarded with 13 goals already this season.
Defoe’s movement and hold up play have improved, but Villas-Boas should be praised for the way he’s integrated Defoe into his team and played to his strengths. Tottenham rely on Defoe less in their buildup play than other teams that employ a lone striker, preferring to allow the England hit man to simply apply the finishing touch whilst the possession goes through Spurs’ array of talented midfielders.