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Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe.
Replacing players as good as the previously mentioned trio was always going to be difficult. As noted, Tottenham managed to compensate for their departures. That the club finished with a higher points total than they ever did with those players says as much.
Obviously, the situation is more complicated than that. Especially in relation to Spurs' eventual league finished.
Numbers-wise, the depth of Villas-Boas' squad was good in some positions. Two quality goalkeepers (plus Heurelho Gomes still knocking about), plenty of options in central defense and midfield (though the injured Sandro was missed in some respects).
What ultimately proved damaging was a personnel shortage in some areas, while in others there was an absence of quality in the depth.
The latter is harder to deliver, with very few clubs having two good-to-great players in every position. Even those who arguably do are susceptible to other problems (Manchester United's defending was poor early on this season, Manchester City's performances did not live up to the standard set in their title-winning campaign).
However, ensuring you have suitable cover in every position should be a requisite—especially for a team with Tottenham's ambitions. Whether it was down to Villas-Boas miscalculating his team's needs, or the club's (particularly Daniel Levy's) inability to sign needed players, Spurs were lacking.
Having only one proper left-back certainly contributed to unsettling the defense, with Villas-Boas frequently rotating players to suit the position. Even when Benoit Assou-Ekotto returned to fitness after Christmas, his indifferent form meant others (namely Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Naughton) who were better suited elsewhere were being used in the position.
Gareth Bale's move infield and Aaron Lennon's injury issues in the spring left Spurs light on the flanks. Sigurdsson, Dempsey and Lewis Holtby performed adequately when moved out there as cover, but none offered the pace the aforementioned pair had utilized so dangerously.
All the more frustrating for Spurs fans was seeing Danny Rose and Andros Townsend playing so well on loan at Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers respectively, when they could have been doing a job for their team.
Then there was the biggest bugbear of them all—only having two experienced, proper strikers.
Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor delivered only intermittently. Although Bale stepped up to keep Spurs firing later in the year, it was not the same as having a reliable penalty box presence.
The lack of that consistent goalscorer (besides Bale) seriously hurt Spurs. The three top scorers at each top-five club only highlights the discrepancies.
||Top Scorer (Premier League goals only)
||Second Top Scorer
||Third Top Scorer
|1st. Manchester United
||Robin van Persie (26)
Wayne Rooney (12)
||Javier Hernandez (10)
|2nd. Manchester City
||Edin Dzeko (14)
||Sergio Aguero (12)
||Carlos Tevez (11)
Frank Lampard (15)
Juan Mata (12)
Eden Hazard (9)
Theo Walcott (14)
Santi Cazorla (12)
||Lukas Podolski (11)/Olivier Giroud (11)
|5th. Tottenham Hotspur
||Gareth Bale (21)
||Jermain Defoe (11)
||Clint Dempsey (7)
Timing of the goals is obviously important too. But when you consider Defoe—Spurs' second top scorer—only scored once since Boxing, you can see part of the issue.