There are 26 players in the Premier League who have scored more goals (six) than Tottenham Hotspur centre-forward Roberto Soldado (five), so here is a scouting report on his drastic dip in form for Spurs.
What Happened to Soldado?
One of the hallmarks of Soldado's game at Valencia was being clinical: This is why he scored 30, 27 and 25 total goals (league, cup, continental) in his three seasons at the club.
His instincts inside the penalty box were world-class.
He consistently evaded tight marking, knew where he was going to place the ball and carried through with his plan.
In a 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid, he timed his run and perfectly volleyed the ball past Atleti goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
In Valencia's 2-2 draw against Levante, his body movement suggested he was running toward the near post.
Levante centre-back Dave Navarro reacted accordingly but was caught out when Soldado stuttered his run to get free.
Soldado latched on to Sofiane Feghouli's pass and confidently shot the ball past then Levante keeper Gustavo Munua.
|Season (League Only)||Goals/Games||Goals Per Game||Shots Per Goal|
WhoScored and Squawka
That version of Soldado momentarily appeared with a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Anzhi Makhachkala and has since vanished.
In the next seven league games, he scored once and created two goals.
The worrying numbers for Spurs supporters is Soldado's 0.43 drop-off in goals per game and his taking 5.44 more shots per goal compared to his last La Liga campaign at Valencia.
Roberto Soldado’s chance conversion rate (excluding penalties) this season is just 2.6%. Just so you know, that's bad. #THFC— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 29, 2014
In the 2010-11 La Liga season, Soldado had Juan Mata, who led Valencia in assists (12) and chances created (74).
The next two seasons, Soldado did not have a teammate who emulated Mata's numbers, but Soldado was the No. 1 option at the club, taking a combined 180 shots.
The key difference at Spurs is that Andros Townsend (3.3) and Paulinho (2.9) average more shots per league game than Soldado (2.4).
Emmanuel Adebayor, who has scored five goals in nine league games, has become the go-to-guy under Spurs manager Tim Sherwood.
The demotion in status has contributed to Soldado being a £26 million role player.
Another factor to consider is off the field: How stable is his support network?
"A month ago she [Rocio, Soldado's wife] was pregnant but unfortunately she had a miscarriage and lost the baby two weeks ago," Soldado said last December, per Jason Burt at the Telegraph.
Roberto Soldado has said his wife's recent miscarriage is no excuse for his recent form on the pitch. #THFC— Hotspur Related (@HotspurRelated) December 15, 2013
Soldado's wife's miscarriage a sad, poignant reminder that footballers are not robots. There are deeper, personal issues away from the field— Mark (@Lustdoctor) December 14, 2013
Can Sherwood Save Soldado?
Sherwood optimistically believes Soldado will prove his critics wrong.
"It's just a matter of time before Robbie [Soldado] hits the target again and he starts scoring and he gets on a run," Sherwood said, per Anthony Chapman at the Express. "I'm not putting any pressure on him and he's not putting any pressure on himself."
The "I'm not putting any pressure on him [Soldado]" reference is Sherwood's way of saying he did not sign a centre-forward in the January transfer window, despite Jermain Defoe's planned departure to Toronto FC on February 28, to keep Soldado in a right frame of mind.
However, Sherwood rebuffed repeated attempts from chairman Daniel Levy to bolster the club's forward ranks, per Matt Law at the Telegraph:
Daniel [Levy is] always asking, "Are you sure you don't need to strengthen in this area. Can I help you in this or that area?"
I'm saying, "Look, I'm confident in the players we've got and I don't need any help to strengthen, thanks very much."
I've said from day one that we've got a lot of players at the club and I've not changed my opinions.
I know the fans want another 10 signings, but believe me it's not always the correct way to go about it.
Sherwood has paired Soldado up with Adebayor in a 4-4-2, but the Spaniard's goals per league game (0.16) is worse than it was under former Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas (0.28).
Soldado should just be a midfielder. Atleast then we'd stop expecting him to score.— Guvna B (@GuvnaB) January 4, 2014
Soldado is heading toward being a transfer bust, a phrase which has been tagged on several former Valencia players.
- Gaizka Mendieta: Signed by Lazio for £29 million in 2001, per BBC Sport. He never scored a Serie A goal for the club. "It's a shame that there were problems at Lazio," Mendieta said, per Jonathan Stevenson at BBC Sport. "Problems with the president, with the changing of managers, there was just a lot of stuff going on."
- Javier Farinos: Signed by Inter Milan for £14.3 million in 2000, per transfermarkt.co.uk. He "struggled to establish himself in Serie A after moving to Inter from Valencia four years ago," per Nadia Carminati at Sky Sports, circa 2004.
- Gerard: Signed by Barcelona for £13.4 million in 2000, per Sky Sports. He was expected to star in midfield, yet 76.6 percent of his games were sub-affected.
- Nikola Zigic: Signed by Birmingham City for £6 million in 2010, per the Telegraph. He cost £1.2 million per Premier League goal in his one and only season in England's top flight (so far). Birmingham manager Lee Clark revealed last November he had spoken to Zigic on four occasions regarding his poor attitude during training, per Gregg Evans at the Birmingham Mail.
Spurs thought Soldado was going to be a success story post-Valencia such as David Silva, David Villa and Juan Mata.
Instead, Valencia projected that Soldado would diminish in transfer value and sold him at the right time just like Mendieta, Farinos, Gerard and Zigic.
With the benefit of hindsight, Spurs should have signed Alvaro Negredo from Sevilla.
Sherwood likens Negredo to Alan Shearer, the all-time Premier League goalscorer, per Sky Sports.
So if Negredo is Shearer, Soldado must be Sergei Rebrov.
Rebrov, Spurs' then club transfer fee holder at £11 million in 2000, per BBC Sport, scored 10 times in 60 Premier League games for Tottenham.