Emanuel Adebayor looks to be the archetypal striker for Mauricio Pochettino’s system, but do we need more from him than we have seen so far?
Big, strong, quick over the ground and good with the ball at his feet to bring others in to play. Emmanuel Adebayor has all the assets to be the perfect front man in Mauricio Pochettino’s system.
What Mauricio Pochettino wants
Our new coach wants, and needs, a centre forward who can come short and receive the ball early in the final third. This gives opposition defenders a choice to make between tracking him or laying off.
By coming in to these shorter zones, it allows runners to burst past and look to be played in to the space created. With three advanced midfielders that can switch and change position, this means the defence can get caught off guard. They also don’t know where the run will come from or who will make it.
At Southampton, Mauricio Pochettino had Rickie Lambert to execute this.
Lambert is viewed by many as being a big, burly, British centre forward. One who has size, strength and is good in the air. But he also has excellent movement, and as he showed setting up England’s second goal against Switzerland, a nice touch and weight of pass.
The now Liverpool man was never a threat to get in-behind teams as he isn’t a speedster, but his movement allowed others to run in to the space he created.
Just as Adam Lallana does here. Paul McShane gets caught in two minds as to whether to track Lambert so far away from goal and Adam Lallana is off to receive the pass in-behind.
After making this movement to come short, Pochettino then requires his striker to get up in to the box. This can be to support the attacking run he just created or the second option is that the ball is moved wide for a cross. This is where the strength, size and aerial ability of the front man come in to its own.
Lambert scored 13 goals last season for Southampton in the Premier League, but more impressively, he had 10 assists from playing in this style. Saints top scorer was Jay Rodriguez, who notched 15 times from running in to the spaces Lambert created.
Now with Spurs, Mauricio Pochettino has given this role to Emmanuel Adebayor. Our Togolese striker definitely has the movement to drag the central defenders out and has the ability to pass the ball to others. So, how has he faired so far?
Emmanuel Adebayor against West Ham
The match at the Boleyn Ground with West Ham was heavily influenced by two sending offs. The first saw us down to ten men for the majority of the match and this heavily affected the role of Emmanuel Adebayor.
Our centre forward was doing a decent job at the first part of his role, as he was coming short in to midfield to receive the ball. This was partly by design of the system, but also heavily influenced by the fact that we only had ten men.
As we can see, he covers the width of the pitch and is the focus for passes played through the middle third. Adebayor has strength and height and we’ve seen previous managers use this as a way to get the ball quickly forward to him. Pochettino doesn’t like to use the striker in this way, preferring to move the ball in to him with shorter more vertical passes.
After James Collins’ red card, which Emmanuel Adebayor was directly involved with due to his bursting run, this saw him gain the ball higher up in central areas. Prior to this, everything was understandably to him through the middle third. Whereas Lambert didn’t have this run in-behind threat, Adebayor has this bonus weapon in his armoury.
The second part of the striker’s role is to get the ball to others running off him. Understandably playing with ten men for a large portion of the match, Emmanuel Adebayor struggled to do this and his passing reflected that. Everything was pretty much either backward or a layoff.
Harry Kane replaced him on 83 minutes. The youngster’s introduction came with both sides now playing with ten men and much more space on the field.
Like Adebayor, Kane thoroughly understood his role to come short and hit others running beyond him. He attempted a number of through passes before picking out Eric Dier for the dramatic winning goal.
Emmanuel Adebayor against QPR
Our best performance of the season so far saw a much more effective Emmanuel Adebayor.
Being down to ten men hadn’t helped against West Ham, neither had Sam Allardyce’s use of four men in a box to control central midfield. Against QPR though, Adebayor was aided by their lack of a defensive midfielder and the resulting space between the lines.
He was able to freely drift across the pitch and take a high number of passes played short through the middle third. What’s more, with us ganging up down the left, he was heavily involved down this side. Adebayor likes to naturally move out this way so that he can play in on his favoured right foot. Here he combined with Danny Rose and Nabil Bentaleb to overload this flank.
It paid off with him supplying the opening goal for Nacer Chadli to prod home from his cross. He also supplied a number of passes to create shots or crossing opportunities in the final third.
Emmanuel Adebayor was looking a perfect fit for the role and he topped his performance off with a goal from Danny Rose’s cross.
Emmanuel Adebayor against Liverpool
Against Brendan Rodgers’ side, Emmanuel Adebayor had a tough time coming short to get the ball.
The reason for this was Liverpool’s diamond formation getting four men in to central areas. This closed off the space between the lines and made it harder for Adebayor to drop in. Just as we can see here, four Liverpool players confront Christian Eriksen and Steven Gerrard is closing off the space that Emmanuel Adebayor would take up.
As a result, Adebayor received relatively few short passes in the middle third and everything was longer to him or played over the top.
It was no surprise that his best chance came from a pass in-behind the Liverpool defence that he lobbed over an advancing Simon Mignolet and the bar. Later, he flicked another long ball forward in to the path of Nacer Chadli who ran past him and fired straight at the Liverpool keeper.
Finding runners beyond the striker is how the system is supposed to work, just with shorter passes across the ground to Adebayor rather than longer passes in the air.
As a result, Emmanuel Adebayor really wasn’t able to play any incisive passes. Everything was again pretty much backwards, except for a couple of failed balls across the penalty area. There was a huge space at the entrance to the final third, the area his movement should’ve taken him in to, but Liverpool’s tactics crowded him out and stopped this.
Do we need more from Emmanuel Adebayor?
Its been a rather up and down start for the Togolese striker. Could he be doing more? Maybe. He suffered badly from contracting Malaria, which curtailed his pre-season and that has had an affect on how far down the line he is with his fitness and training.
So far his performances seem to have been very circumstantial.
His lack of fitness played a part against West Ham, but he wasn’t helped by the situation of the game and us playing a large portion of it with ten men.
Against QPR he looked back in full flow and like the striker Mauricio Pochettino needs. He was aided by their lack of a proper holding player and the space between the lines as a result.
Up against a well-drilled Liverpool side, he was kept from influencing the game by their diamond midfield. This did also affect the rest of our team though, as we didn’t move the ball or our players quickly enough.
Emmanuel Adebayor has all the tools to do what Mauricio Pochettino requires. With increasing fitness and experience in the new coach’s system we should see something of the player we originally signed. The one who netted 17 times and provided 12 assists in his first full season.