Premier League Scouting Report: Roberto Soldado vs. Manchester United

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Premier League Scouting Report: Roberto Soldado vs. Manchester United
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Welcome to the latest in a new series here at B/R, where we pick up a single player's performance from the weekend and analyse its effectiveness.

Next up is Roberto Soldado, who joined Tottenham Hotspur for around £26 million this summer as Andre Villas-Boas looked to shore up his forward line. He faced up to Manchester United.

 

The Contentious Bit

Soldado was a signing that was universally lauded in the summer, but the player Andre Villas-Boas (seemingly) really wanted was Christian Benteke.

The Belgian striker, currently playing for Aston Villa, handed in a transfer request after hearing of Tottenham's interest in him, but after Paul Lambert refused to sanction a deal, The Telegraph confirmed he withdrew the request and signed a new contract.

David Rogers/Getty Images

Benteke is the perfect fit for AVB's system at Spurs and would have thrived there. His current goal-drought at Villa Park will make the Lilywhites feel better about missing out on him, but he is exactly the type of player who could slot into this side with ease.

His big, physical presence and hunger to get involved means he can sniff out his own chances—Alvaro Negredo-style, if you will—as well as create them for others and become the recipient.

We've spoken before about how Tottenham move the ball too slowly in midfield, and Soldado hasn't been able to find his feet in a system that simply doesn't accentuate his strengths.

AVB's system is built for a player like Benteke or Emmanuel Adebayor but not their £26 million Spaniard. Going into Sunday's contest with Manchester United, it was imperative for something to change on both sides of the coin.

 

The Meaty Bit

Tottenham scored two goals and grabbed a valuable point against a resurgent David Moyes side, but it felt like Soldado missed out on the chance to grab a few strikes of his own. The two scored were courtesy of a Kyle Walker free-kick and a Sandro golazo, meaning no forward player was able to dent the scoresheet yet again.

Squawka.com

Soldado had some bright moments, showed positivity, and his heat map made for far better reading than last week's at the Etihad Stadium.

Late in the first half, he collected a Walker clearance and flicked it on first-time to Paulinho to set up a superb counter. He asked for his colleague to play the ball into the space noted and he did so...but Soldado's shot was high, wide and not so handsome.

Sky/YouTube

It was the picture of a man low on confidence, snatching at his chances—although the player himself will never admit to feeling conscious about whether he scores.

It's not an easy chance, but it's one the Soldado of Valencia gobbles up without issue. 

Minutes later, he collects a flick-on from the midfield after filling the gap between centre-back and right-back and has time to turn. He sits on the ball, gets his head up and picks out a superb Aaron Lennon run with a superb through-ball.

Sky/YouTube

Lennon fires straight at David De Gea, but the pass was absolutely sensational.

As Spurs began building pressure before the half, it felt like they were oh-so-close to a goal and that Soldado may well be the benefactor, but the instincts that accrued the Spaniard 24 strikes last season with Valencia were mysteriously absent at the vital moment.

Lennon surges in behind Patrice Evra and has the chance to fire a ball into the box.

Sky/YouTube

Soldado, who should already be on his bike, would typically head to the near- or far-post with a quick cut to confuse Chris Smalling. It's a Javier Hernandez-esque move that all poachers know well, but for some reason, the Spurs man makes no effort to engineer some space.

 

The Verdict

A mixed bag but a definite improvement.

Soldado wasn't dominant, but Spurs didn't sign him to be; instead, he got involved at the right times and showed some strong skills in spotting runs in the final third. His poacher's instinct, however, was oddly absent.

Spurs won't be appeased just yet, but at least take heart in an improved showing: Spurs moved the ball slightly quicker in midfield, and that allowed their striker to begin opportunistically dipping in and out of the game well.

Soldado took up good position and picked out two amazing passes but didn't quite do enough to break his drought.

 

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