Jermaine Defoe: Should He Stay or Should He Go?
181 games. 64 goals.
That is England international forward Jermain Defoe's contribution to Tottenham Hotspur over the majority of the past seven seasons.
Fans and managers ultimately judge the value of their star strikers, rightfully or harshly, on their goal scoring records.
It is perhaps for this reason that Emile Heskey has today announced his retirement from international football. He did not score the goals expected from a front man despite being given an extended run in the national team. The fans got on his back. The media got on his back. He packed his bags.
Perhaps Heskey informed manager Fabio Capello of his decision long before the public knew? This would explain Capello bringing on the Aston Villa striker moments after Thomas Mueller had tapped into the England net unmarked and unchallenged to condemn the Three Lions to a 4-1 last-16 humiliation.
In truth, Defoe, the man Heskey replaced in the 71st minute in Bloemfontein,had not come close to scoring against Germany despite finding the net in his country's must-win group match against Slovenia the week before.
Will Capello now revert to a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation that was fruitful for most of the team's World Cup qualifying campaign and hand more important roles in the team to Aaron Lennon, Joe Cole, and Theo Walcott?
Will the Italian give Defoe another chance to prove that he has not only the ability to score goals but also has the all-round game to help England recover from their catastrophic showing in South Africa?
While 12 goals in 43 games does not compare with either Wayne Rooney or Peter Crouch's records, Capello will surely not discard Defoe, yet. His alternatives, Crouch and Rooney aside, are not too promising: Carlton Cole, Darren Bent, and Bobby Zamora.
Nevertheless, Defoe is an enigma. At his best, his pace is alarming, his eye for goal unique. At his worst, he looks disinterested, and his football is careless, lazy and selfish.
Despite bursting into form at the start of last season for Tottenham with a hat trick at Hull City and five goals at home against Wigan, he chased shadows for the last two months, with only a successful penalty kick against Chelsea to his name.
So Spurs boss Harry Redknapp faces the same dilemma as Capello: is Jermain Defoe really worth it?
Clearly, Redknapp fears that his forward line needs to be boosted ahead of a possible Champions League campaign. Otherwise, he would not openly have expressed his admiration for and interest in Luis Fabiano and Diego Forlan in particular. Otherwise, he would not have arranged to discuss Craig Bellamy's transfer status with Manchester City during the club's imminent participation in the New York Football Challenge 2010.
And perhaps he has finally had enough of Defoe's underachievement? After all, when the 27-year-old burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old Charlton trainee, many thought he could become England's new Alan Shearer.
Technical skills, finishing ability, pace, power—Defoe wants for none.
Hunger, mentality, passion—he is still found wanting too often.
When playing well and with an intelligent front man such as Peter Crouch alongside him, Defoe seems more comfortable when playing in a traditional 4-4-2 formation.
But Harry Redknapp has hinted that he will need to be more cute with his tactics next season as his team looks to keep hold of the ball and control the midfield better. That will require patience, something which Defoe, who is vulnerable to straying offside, seems to lack.
Redknapp has also constantly underlined the importance of attacking contributions from widemen Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale and play-maker Luka Modric while also toying with the idea of allowing World Cup sensation Giovani Dos Santos to resuscitate his Premier League career.
At 27 years of age, it really is now or never for Jermain Defoe.
He must show everyone that he has another gear or two. Capello and Redknapp must decide if they can wait much longer for Defoe to put his foot on the accelerator.
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