Premier League: Can Roberto Soldado and Jermain Defoe Play Together for Spurs?
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His manager, Andre Villas-Boas, will be striving to ensure the striker kicks on from here. Both in bringing the best out of the Spain international individually and in pressing those around the No. 9 to ensure frequent and flattering service is provided.
Soldado's involvement since joining from Valencia this past summer has primarily been as a lone striker. It is a role he has proved himself comfortable playing, and it's a system Villas-Boas has predominantly favoured in his attack since becoming Tottenham manager.
The notion of Soldado forming a front partnership with one of Spurs' other forwards was one that had been brought up outside of the club prior to the Villa game (this writer did so in a recent article on Soldado). Officially, there has been no indication of this being a direction they intend to go in.
Should Soldado's performance versus Villa turn into a genuine run of form, it is an idea that will go on the back burner.
If not, it is intriguing to see if the idea of Spurs using a front two again gains any traction. Or if solutions to a better goal return continue (as they largely have been of late) to revolve around the midfield and wide support for the sole striker.
Almost certain is that any discussion of Jermain Defoe partnering Soldado would likely be a non-starter.
As Villas-Boas' second-choice striker and main go-to guy in the cups thus far this season, though, Defoe warrants some consideration here ahead of Emmanuel Adebayor (more on him later) and Harry Kane.
The prospect of two quality finishers like Defoe and Soldado in the same lineup is an exciting one in its most basic form. But beyond having creatively unstoppable players around them to constantly set them up (i.e, a grade or two up on some of the already considerable talent Spurs have), their similarities would likely dilute their effectiveness as a combination in more realistic scenarios.
Could Defoe and Soldado form an effective partnership together?
There are differences to their respective games. Of the more notable ones, Soldado is more comfortable in the tighter confines of the penalty area, whereas Defoe is more lethal working the space outside of it.
Their shared desire to dominate the goalscoring agenda is an admirable trait in that it feeds their hunger for goals. In the same side, though, it would take one of them conceding priority in certain areas, or they would risk getting in each other's way.
Given that Defoe is playing second fiddle right now, that is something he might contemplate to see more involvement in the Premier League. But re-engineering him just enough to make him click with Soldado would likely not be worth the time and effort given Spurs' quality other options in Villas-Boas' squad.
Height-wise, Defoe (5'7") and Soldado's (5'10") shorter stature would not provide a substantial enough aerial/physical presence to warrant that change further back on the pitch either.
A more mobile, smaller operator with a bigger, target-man type is not what every strike partnership has to mix. For instance Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge are hardly Didier Drogba-like dominating figures.
But in that duo's case, Suarez especially is a skillful and versatile enough footballer to find other ways of influencing in the final third that does not clash with Sturridge's own instincts. Based on how they have played together so far at Liverpool, there is evidently more to their burgeoning partnership than just not clashing.
Still, any move to a front two for Tottenham would more likely incorporate one of their other forwards.
Erik Lamela would offer a more individually creative counterpoint should Villas-Boas decide to deploy him centrally. Fifteen goals in his second season at Roma more than demonstrated his goalscoring ability.
Kane might be a little further off such involvement in the manager's eyes. At the time of writing it was unknown if Adebayor's selection in Spurs' Europa League squad to take on Sheriff Tiraspol was just to make up the numbers, or if it was a genuine restoration of him to first-team consideration. If the latter, it might result in him once again taking on the "big-man" role alongside Soldado that he has previously performed at Spurs with Defoe and others with varying success.
As for the England man, he remains a great option upfront for Villas-Boas, with his goals in cup games this season having already underlined his value.
So long as Soldado is fit and firing, though, Defoe is going to have to put up with being his understudy on the Premier League stage. Any performances as a duo are going to be reserved for special circumstances.
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