Who Is Better: Roberto Soldado or Samuel Eto'o?
Saturday's encounter between Tottenham and Chelsea will see two of the best strikers in European football's recent history come head-to-head on the White Hart Lane pitch.
Since 2005, Soldado has scored 106 league goals in 216 league appearances—approximately a one-in-two record. Eto'o, though, can trump that tally with a remarkable 141 goals in 227 league games over the same period. Both records are simply outstanding.
However, the 32-year-old Eto'o's goalscoring numbers are already beginning to decline. The 28-year-old Soldado, though, is coming into the new campaign off the best year of his career.
They are two very different players, though, rendering a simple comparison of numbers irrelevant. Let's then take a look at their individual qualities.
|NAME||Roberto Soldado||Samuel Eto'o|
|Last season (appearances/goals)||35/24||25/10|
One of European football's best penalty box operators, every single one of Soldado's 24 league goals last season came within the confines of the 18-yard box.
Soldado's excellent anticipation and reading of the game mean that he regularly finds himself a step ahead of his marker, while he has a natural knack for finishing that sees saw him get nearly 60 percent of efforts on target last season.
Many of those efforts involved some form of improvisation and Soldado is masterful in his ability to conjure up a shot from any form of delivery into the box—as he has already shown at Tottenham.
There have been doubts over his all-round abilities, though, with the former Valencia striker inclined to avoid getting involved in general play and instead wait for the ball to come to him.
However, Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque was suitably impressed by the improvement in his link-up play over the past couple of seasons to hand him a call to the Confederations Cup this summer.
Having worked so hard to improve Jermain Defoe's game outside the penalty area, Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas will expect Soldado to continue his efforts in that respect. What is certain, though, is that he will score goals in any league in which he plays.
The Cameroon international is a very different player to the man who won three Champions League titles midway through the last decade. His incredible acceleration is no more, but his speed of thought remains.
Chelsea are unlikely to use Eto'o in the more creative role that he occupied for long periods at Anzhi Makhachkala, but rather use the striker's expertise in running the channels to stretch play.
It is something that the Blues have too often failed to do with either Fernando Torres or Demba Ba leading the line, with space then limited for their incredible attacking midfield talents.
Eto'o may have lost a yard or so of pace over the years, but few players make more intelligent runs. #bbcfootball— Benjamin (@DYKAF) September 21, 2013
While his finishing has yet to reach former levels of excellence, his movement thus far has been sublime.
Eto'o plays off the shoulder of the last defender and is clever in the timing of his runs to escape his marker's attention. It has been a welcome change from some of the stodgy displays served up by Chelsea's other striking options in recent months.
It is difficult to compare two players of such different styles when at different points in their careers. At his prime, though, Eto'o was undoubtedly better.
Which striker is better?
For the moment, it is a case of each being better for their respective sides. Tottenham need someone to bring into play their direct threats in midfield—the likes of Erik Lamela and Paulinho, in particular. Soldado will do that, as well as score goals.
Chelsea, though, have been less direct in recent years. Frank Lampard cannot burst into the box as he once did, while Hazard, Oscar and the like are more inclined to play laterally than their predecessors. Thus, they need Eto'o's runs to open up space between the midfield and defensive lines.
Both players serve a purpose. However, were it to come down to a question of who will score more this season, then the smart money would surely be on Soldado.
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