Jermain Defoe flew out of the gates for Spurs this season, scoring nine times in our first fifteen Premier League games.
He was in such good form that Andre Villas-Boas came out saying that he stood alongside Radamel Falcao and Didier Drogba among the world’s elite strikers. Lofty praise indeed from the head coach who had urged Defoe to “stay in preseason, sign a new contract and score goals for the club.”
Since those comments it’s not quite happened for him in front of goal, with just one strike in the eight Premier League matches that have followed. So, what’s up with Jermain Defoe?
Jermain Defoe feast and famine
Jermain Defoe began the season on fire, feasting on Premiership defences and at one point was the joint top scorer in the league. He fired two against Fulham to take his tally to nine in fifteen matches, but since then he has only found the net in our away trip to Aston Villa on Boxing Day.
If we take a look at these two periods of feast and famine from a statistical standpoint, we get some rather interesting figures.
|Mins on pitch||1229||732|
|Mins per pass received||5.7 mins||3.8 mins|
|Mins per pass received in penalty area||18 mins||21 mins|
|Mins per shot||20 mins||22 mins|
|Mins per shot in penalty area||36 mins||46 mins|
|Percentage of shots blocked||28%||30%|
In our first 15 Premier League matches, Jermain Defoe actually receives less of the ball overall, but gets more frequent touches in the penalty area. This has a knock-on effect to his shooting location.
Although Defoe is hitting the target with the same accuracy (36%), he is taking fewer shots overall. In his first fifteen matches, he takes a shot every 20 minutes and since then it has been every 22 minutes. This is not much of a fall off, but when you take into account his shots from inside the penalty area, where 9 of his 10 goals have come from, you see that location is making a difference.
The increase from a shot inside the box every 36 minutes to one every 46 minutes, highlights part of the reason for his current drought. So could there be other factors at work here?
For me, there have been three main reasons for this decline. The introduction of Emmanuel Adebayor in to the starting line-up, the consequent formation shift and the tactics of the opposition we have faced in these matches.
The introduction of Emmanuel Adebayor
Defoe’s recent fall off in goal scoring unfortunately intertwines with the introduction of Emmanuel Adebayor in to the starting line-up.
The Togolese international hasn’t really got going this season in a Tottenham shirt. Last term, he arrived eager to hit the ground running and win over the Spurs faithful who questioned his possible commitment to the Lilywhite cause. This season, contract disputes, injuries, suspensions and being away at the African Cup of Nations have all meant that Adebayor has been in the side fits and spurts.
He didn’t start a Premier League match until our trip to the Etihad in November; then he was sent off the following week at the Emirates. As a result, Adebayor hasn’t secured a regular starting birth until after Defoe’s brace against Fulham. This was the start of his barren spell, which has seen one goal in these eight matches.
This run of games has seen Jermain Defoe get less of the ball in the penalty area and if we look at our 3-1 home win against Reading on Stats Zone, we can see just that.
Although we put three past the Royals and Defoe received the ball 36 times, only a few of his touches are inside the box and even those are right on the edge.
Emmanuel Adebayor saw even more of the ball, collecting it on 49 occasions, but he gets plenty more touches of the ball inside the area. Defoe is pushed out to avoid congestion and although he takes a massive 7 shots in the game, five are from outside the box.
This is not just limited to the Reading game, as we can see the same thing happening at home to Stoke. Defoe is once again forced out of the area as Adebayor is looking to gain the ball in the box. Of Defoe’s four shots in the game, three are from outside the area, as once again he fires from distance.
The formation shift
The introduction of Emmanuel Adebayor also meant moving away from a 4-3-3 that had seen Defoe feasting on opposition defences, to more of a flexible 4-4-2.
After the formation shift, the two front men are supposed to work hard without the ball. One closes down the central defenders in possession to force a pass back to the keeper. Then the second forward presses the keeper in to a long clearance and hopefully a turnover.
In possession, one comes short and drops in to link the play, whilst the second operates further up to occupy the central defenders. The man dropping off should have more freedom, as the central defenders have to make a choice whether to come out and mark or leave their partner one-on-one.
Once the ball is moved wide, both forwards are supposed to get in the area to get on the end of crosses.
The problem for Jermain Defoe is that this shift has seen him go from a central striker in a 4-3-3 to playing more as the linkman in the loose 4-4-2.
Before, he was very much able to play high up the pitch on the shoulder of the last defender. Since Emmanuel Adebayor has come in, Defoe is forced in to deeper positions, when actually it should be The Togolese man who drops off being the better passer. We all know Defoe isn’t good at developing the play in the build-up and is a finisher, so this doesn’t help his cause.
Nowhere was this better highlighted than in QPR 0 Spurs 0 where our incisiveness in the final third was caused by the lack of a linkman.
The average position of Adebayor (10) in advance of Defoe (18) and the consequent gulf between them and the four-man midfield showed this.
Coupled with the shift in formation, as in the match against QPR, has been the opposition tactics.
In this eight match run in the Premier League, we have encountered a number of teams that have dropped off and allowed no space in behind. Swansea, Stoke, QPR and even Man Utd have adopted this ploy in our last eight Premier League fixtures.
Even at the start of the season. Jermain Defoe was struggling to score against defences that sat deep, especially at home. Norwich, West Brom and Wigan all frustrated him by adopting this tactic, as he struggled to find space in the box.
What’s up with Jermain Defoe?
For me, the source of Jermain Defoe’s struggles to score over the last eight Premier League matches come down to him getting good quality chances in the box.
This has been hindered by the introduction of Emmanuel Adebayor, the formation shift and opposition defences playing deeper to negate any space in behind.
Whilst Adebayor is away at the African Cup of Nations, Jermain Defoe will have the chance to get himself back on track as he returns to being a lone striker again. Five shots at goal against Man Utd at the weekend, three of which were in the box and two on target was a good sign that a goal is imminent.