Adebayor, Kane or Soldado – Who best fits Pochettino’s system?

In Emmanuel Adebayor, Roberto Soldado and Harry Kane, Mauricio Pochettino has three different strikers from which to choose to fill the number nine position.

Both the Togolese and the Englishman are hold up players who bring others in to the game, whereas the Spaniard tries to work as a predator in the box.

What Mauricio Pochettino requires

If you were following the series on Mauricio Pochettino’s system and philosophy, then you will have read the attributes required from the forward position. Our Argentinean coach needs his central striker to:

– Come short to take vertical passes out of defence and hit runners going past him.
– Work the channels.
– Hold the ball up.
– Release valve for any long balls cleared from defenders under pressure.
– When the ball goes wide, get in the box to receive crosses.

Rickie Lambert did this very effectively for him at Southampton. Lambert could be forgiven for being thought of as a typically big, aerially strong English number nine. However, Mauricio Pochettino used him to take advantage of his excellent movement and range of passing, as well as his ability to get on the end of crosses.

Lambert was not quick over the ground, but he didn’t need to be. His intelligent moves dragged defenders out and he was able to find faster players running past in to the space.

A great example is here, where he comes short to get on the ball in midfield, trapping Hull defender Paul McShane in two minds as to whether to go or stay. This leaves him in no man’s land and allows Adam Lallana to race in to the space behind. Lambert puts him in on goal with a perfectly weighted through ball.


Lambert drops deep to pull the CB out and feeds Lallana.

Lambert in the above image is in the inside left channel, but his ability to work the channels on each side of the pitch is another trait Pochettino requires.

The centre forward rarely receives the ball in the middle of the pitch until up in the final third. This is also the sign of a good striker, one who moves away from central defenders, giving them a choice to make of whether to track him – as can be seen in the McShane example.

If we look at Southampton’s Premier League match with Fulham, we can see a lot of this going on.


Rickie Lambert passes received against Fulham.

Lambert not only receives the ball from longer passes delivered from the goalkeeper and defenders, but he is also heavily involved in the middle third. He comes deep in to midfield and works both sides of the pitch, only appearing in the centre in the final third to get on the end of crosses.

His passes played in the game see him try to hit those who have moved past him, especially through the inside right channel of the penalty area.


Rickie Lambert passes played against Fulham.

A great example of this passing to those who have run by him came at White Hart Lane. Here we saw him feed in Adam Lallana to get Saints second goal in the game.


Lallana runs off Rickie Lambert who has come short.

This is what Mauricio Pochettino is looking for from his central striker. He has to possess movement, be strong enough to hold it up, have a good range of passing, plus the ability to finish in the box when the ball goes wide to be crossed.

Emmanuel Adebayor

Emmanuel Adebayor possesses a lot of attributes for this role and would seem to be an excellent option for Mauricio Pochettino on paper.

He is big, strong and can hold the ball up when it is cleared or played out from defence. His range of movement is probably one of the most underrated parts of his game when he is in the mood. He also has the ability to pick out teammates with a pass.

If we look at an Adebayor passes received chart from our last game with Southampton, we can see how he drifts out wide in order to get involved in normal play. This part is similar to how Pochettino used Rickie Lambert at Southampton. However, Adebayor comes centrally when the ball is cleared long downfield, unlike Lambert who looked to fill the channels.


Emmanuel Adebayor passes received against Southampton.

The one problem for Emmanuel Adebayor, as has often been the case for him at Spurs and we can see from the above passing chart, is that he can struggle to get in the box. I’ve written about this before and it continues to be an issue for him.

Adebayor loves to be involved with the play and spends much of his time outside the penalty area seeking to get touches of the ball. This can see him struggle to get in the box, which is where the majority of his goals come from. All bar one of his 34 Premier League goals for Spurs have been from inside the penalty area.

Mauricio Pochettino does need his striker to drop off and be a passing link-man and Adebayor is perfect at this. His 22 assists in three seasons at Spurs are testament that he can pass the ball. His involvement in Eriksen’s goal and Chadli’s shot off the post against Southampton highlighted this. However, Mauricio Pochettino does also require that his striker get in the box.

The Togolese front man is dangerous on crosses in the air with his height, but also his long legs give him excellent range on the floor. Adebayor will just need to make a greater effort to be more direct and purposeful in his runs to be in the penalty area more often.

Roberto Soldado

Roberto Soldado is the inverse of Emmanuel Adebayor. He is a penalty box striker rather than a hold-up and be involved with the play man.

Soldado can receive and hold up the play well to a degree. By that I mean that he is not strong in the air, but is very good when the ball is played in to his feet or chest. We’ve seen some very nice layoffs and approach work from him in this respect so far at Spurs.

One of the most underrated aspects of his game is his range of passing. Roberto Soldado was required to be a layoff passer for AVB. Under Tim Sherwood we saw him play a great number of through balls and accurate crosses. The through ball passer is what Mauricio Pochettino requires.

Soldado was very good at coming short to receive the ball and finding the runners off him in pre-season. We saw this against Toronto where he found Lamela for the first goal of the game.


Roberto Soldado plays in Erik Lamela’s run.

He then found the Argentinean to add a second, as the two seemed to have struck up quite a relationship.


Roberto Soldado finds Erik Lamela moving past him once again.

It’s been quite strange that the pair have rarely been on the field together this season. Lamela setting up Soldado’s volleyed goal in the Europa League tie at Limassol was one such occasion.


Soldado volleys home.

The Spaniard had not only been coming short to feed others, but he’s also then been getting up in to the box to fulfil his striking duties.

Roberto Soldado built his reputation in Spain as being a finisher, someone who came alive in the penalty area and was deadly. He would often strike the ball first time to finish, giving the keeper minimal reaction time. We’ve rarely seen it for Spurs, but his goals so far this season against Limassol and Nottingham Forest have both been one-touch redirections of a shot and a cross.

Soldado has played just 40 minutes of Premier League action for us this season. When he did come on against West Brom, he did get our only shot away from inside the box, as well as doing some good work drifting out to the right.


Roberto Soldado passes received against WBA,

These are promising signs that Roberto Soldado understands what the manager wants from him. However, he doesn’t seem to have been put on the field with those that will get the best out of his skill set.

Harry Kane

Whilst both Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado have sputtered this season, Harry Kane has hit the ground running. The 21-year old already has four goals to his name and has shown signs that he can do what the manager requires.

Kane is tall and more in the mould of a hold-up centre forward than a predator in the box, as he comes towards the ball. From there he is able to find runners off him, as he showed on opening day against West Ham.

Kane got between the lines several times during his seven minutes on pitch, as he looked to spring others with a through ball.


Harry Kane passes played, West Ham 0 Spurs 1.

Eventually he did find a target, as he put Eric Dier in on goal to round the keeper and score.


Kane plays a vertical pass to Eric Dier on the run.

The moment was exactly what Mauricio Pochettino required from his centre forward and Kane delivered.

The movement to come short is natural to Kane’s game, something we saw in both legs of our Europa League tie against Limassol. But so too is getting forward in to the box. He did this well to get on to the end of Lamela’s pass to level in the match away to the Cypriots. The Argentinean also found Kane running in to the box with this no-look pass to wrap our Capital One Cup tie up with Nottingham Forest.


Lamela runs in to space to slide a pass for Kane.

Kane definitely has the desire to fulfil both parts of the role, being able to come short and find those running ahead of him, whilst also getting in the box to score.

Emmanuel Adebayor, Roberto Soldado or Harry Kane?

Emmanuel Adebayor looks perfect on paper, but this has often failed to translate to the pitch this season. He has size, strength and a love of being involved in the build-up play, along with his ability to pick a pass. The Togolese international will need to be more direct with his runs to get in the box though.

Roberto Soldado has had limited opportunities since looking good in pre-season. He struck up a real relationship with Erik Lamela prior to the proper games kicking off, but since then, the two have rarely been seen on the pitch together. Eriksen, Chadli and Lamela may just be a better unit for him to function with than Townsend, Paulinho and Lennon.

Harry Kane has improved even more since last season and is playing his way in to contention. He’s scored four times so far, but has featured against lesser teams in the Europa League and Capital One Cup. He’s had limited minutes in the Premier League, so there is still the question of whether he could be a lone striker week-in, week-out against better quality opposition.

Mauricio Pochettino has options, but has still a decision to make. With Emmanuel Adebayor only just returning from international duty, Roberto Soldado and Harry Kane will have a chance to stake a claim against Manchester City.

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2 Responses to Adebayor, Kane or Soldado – Who best fits Pochettino’s system?

  1. DAE BACHO 18th October 2014 at 7:28 am #

    great stuff guys,your analyses have been precise and am enjoying reading your updates from here in Kenya.I have this feeling that we can beat City today.looking forward to your next analysis.COYS!!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 19th October 2014 at 11:03 am #

      Thanks for reading and the great comment Dae Bacho. COYS to everyone in Kenya!