Who is the better fit for the forward role in Mauricio Pochettino’s system, Roberto Soldado or Emmanuel Adebayor?
In Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor, Mauricio Pochettino has two very different strikers from which to choose to fill the number nine position.
The Spaniard is a predator in the box, whereas the Togolese is a hold up man who can bring others in to play.
What Mauricio Pochettino requires
If you were following the series on Mauricio Pochettino’s system and philosophy, then you will know the attributes required from forward position. The Argentine 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 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.
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.
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.
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 possesses a lot of attributes for this role and would seem to be an excellent option for Mauricio Pochettino.
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 and he has the ability to pick out teammates with a pass.
If we look at an Adebayor passing chart from our game with Fulham last season, we can see how he drifts out wide in order to get involved in the play. This is similar to how Pochettino used Rickie Lambert at Southampton, as Adebayor drops deep, even in to his own half.
The one problem for Emmanuel Adebayor, as has often been the case for him at Spurs and we can see from the 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 33 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 20 assists in three seasons at Spurs are testament that he can pass the ball, but Mauricio Pochettino also requires his striker to 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 more effort to be more direct and purposeful in his runs to be in the penalty area more often.
Roberto Soldado is sort of the inverse of Emmanuel Adebayor in that 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.
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. Andre Villas-Boas bought him to be used in this way.
For the Portuguese coach, we saw him use Soldado in a similar manner to what Mauricio Pochettino wants, just with a couple of differences.
Firstly, AVB wanted his striker to play much higher up, whereas our new coach likes his centre forward to come more towards the ball.
Secondly, AVB wanted to play through balls along the ground for his forward to run on to. He also coached us to get the ball in-behind the opposition full backs so we would play shorter crosses, often along the floor, or pull the ball back. This was done to take advantage of Soldado’s predatory penalty box instincts.
If we go back to the first Premier League game of last season, we can see how Roberto Soldado fulfilled the role.
We can see, as Pochettino wants, how he drifts out wide to receive the ball in the build-up to pull defenders around, as he often takes longer passes up to him. These were often over the ground rather than aerially, but crucially not through the centre of the pitch.
Up at the penalty area, we can see how he comes more in to the middle to receive shorter crosses. These came in from the left in this game. We can also see the balls played through the defence for him to run on to, especially through the right hand corner of the penalty area, one resulting in a shot through the six yard box.
While it shares some traits with Pochettino’s system, the problem for Roberto Soldado in AVB’s set up was two-fold.
Firstly, he was playing far too high up and this meant there was a disconnect between him and the midfield. Secondly, the build-up play was far too slow and this allowed defences to get set against us.
It was no surprise that Soldado’s goal to break his long scoring drought against Cardiff came off a fast break situation. The ball was moved forward quickly against a defence that was up for a corner. It was also apt that Adebayor, who likes to be involved in the build-up play and can make a pass, fed him the ball to score inside the penalty area.
In that game, where the two played together, we can see how they both fill the wide channels. But just how much more Adebayor floats around to be involved in the build-up play and how Roberto Soldado got many more touches in the box.
This kind of highlights both of their strengths, but also where they need to improve.
For Mauricio Pochettino, so far, Roberto Soldado seems to be making the transition to what the new coach wants. I can’t comment yet on Emmanuel Adebayor due to his brief and very rusty looking cameo against Celtic following his recovery from Malaria.
Soldado though, has been very good at coming short to receive the ball and finding the runners off him. We saw this against Toronto where he found Lamela for the first goal of the game.
He then found the Argentinean once more, as the two seem to have struck up quite a relationship.
In our next pre-season friendly against Chicago, Soldado came short to chip a delightful pass over the defence for Lennon to run on to, round the keeper and score.
Roberto Soldado has not only been coming short to feed others, but he’s also then been getting up in the box to fulfil his striking duties.
We saw this in our first pre-season game with Seattle as he won a penalty after being fouled running on to a through ball.
He also grabbed his first goal from open play against Celtic, with a finish after a nicely squared ball from Lewis Holtby.
These are all promising signs that he understands what the manager wants from him.
Roberto Soldado or Emmanuel Adebayor?
Emmanuel Adebayor would seem to be a good option with his size, strength and his love of being involved in the build-up play, along with his ability to pass. The Togolese will need to be more direct with his runs to get in the box.
Roberto Soldado is a penalty box striker who will thrive on service and is an under-rated passer. He often played too high up for AVB, but it appears that he is improving; testament to his three assists so far this pre-season. His struggles with finding the net and being a hold-up man when the ball is cleared forward aerially may be his only issues.
Whether it’s Roberto Soldado or Emmanuel Adebayor, Mauricio Pochettino does have quite a choice on his hands.
Ironically, they worked together well last year. I thought Ade’s effectiveness diminished when Sherwood brought Kane into the team, i.e. that Kane’s goals came at the expense of goals from Ade and possibly Soldado as well.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Good comment and I agree with you on that, as Ade and Kane are very similar types of player and often took up similar positions. That was the reason Soldado and Adebayor worked as a partnership due to the different qualities they possess and areas of the field they operate in.
Dr JAB says
Great series of analytical articles. A pleasure to read. Do you see any circumstances in which Ade and Soldado could be played together other than a 442 formation? We have often battled with a single striker being marked out of the game although this year with Lamela and Erikson chipping in some of the attention will come away from the CF. Other formations such as 352 will allow this but I dont think we want to give up the raiding fullback concept.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
The pair would suit a 4-4-2 but i could only see this being used if Pochettino was chasing a goal in a game or against a side we’d be expecting to sit back and defend deep. The 4-4-2 does have its defensive liabilities though and doesn’t lend itself as much to Poch’s fluid attack. What we have seen Pochettino do at Southampton is play with a second striker as a number ten, admittedly this is more of a running, dribbling player, so would suit someone more like Lamela, but Adebayor could play this role and i wouldn’t count out seeing it being used against defensive bus parking teams.
I quite like 3-5-2 mainly against teams playing with twin strikers as i talked about last season, but i think it’s a formation that is going to be quite fashionable this year with a number of teams using it.
Cheers for the article :) As you know, I think Ade is the key but as you imply ‘the key to what’. The combination of tactics and strategy is what it’s all about for me. Everybody loves (and there is a clear advantage in being first too) a new formation for bring one 3-5-2! Unfortunate but understandable that we sold caulker then; since I think he will be quite a player and could probably adapt to a 3-CB system quite well (fast, young, strong, scores, seemingly humble ect.) I know I am just being lazy now and hoping that you will do the work for (you are re very good at these and compliments never hurt anybody) but I would find it interesting to do a statistical analysis of how much deeper a squad has to be in order to perform in both Europe and at Home. It would obviously fall short of a complete picture but I was wondering if there is some way that I can get access to the same stats as you? I must admit you’re style is so approachable it seems to be encouraging me to have a go……
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Hey SomeDude. I get my stats from all over the place, Squawka, WhoScored, Transfermarkt and the fourfourtwo stats zone app to name a few. Most stuff is out there somewhere if you google it.
In terms of how deep a squad needs to be, then i think you could study this forever. There may be an optimal number, but ideally teams would like to have two players for every position, but then you cannot count for injuries or suspensions which will affect/stretch a squad. Another factor to consider is miles travelled during the campaign as this will fatigue players and thus you would like more for squad rotation – this was a key during the World Cup as some teams travelled up to 4000 miles further than others. The Europa League usually sees teams travel much further than the Champions League. I would imagine a study of number of miles travelled and then performance in next match would give some info on this and maybe there is a trend or pattern that emerges with greater distance covered. There are more factors that would affect the squad, such as time zone changes, hours for recovery (AVB had his famous 48 hour resting period for full recovery) that I fear that the permutations could go on forever! Its a very interesting subject and i’d be interested to read a study on it if you do it or if there is other research out there…
Hello Mark / All,
Thanks for the great series!
I can’t help but wonder if it could be more a case of:
Roberto Soldado, Emmanuel Adebayor or Someone else?
The way I see it we currently have one off form striker in Soldado and one in-form but unpredictable striker in Adebayor… Is it enough to start the new season with just 2 senior strikers?
Add to that a couple more points.
1) the Europa League has a Champions League place for the winners, it’s surely our best chance this season to get into the CL and is worth taking seriously meaning extra matches…
2) Adebayor’s contract is up and the end of the season (I think)
I guess my point is if Adebayor gets injured early in the season we’d be seriously short if Soldado remains off form and there’s potential for a huge amount of games if we focus on the Europa league, then consider Adebayor is likely to leave next summer (my guess is he’ll want a move abroad) I wonder if now is the time to bring someone else in… I’m thinking a bold move, say Bony….?!
By the way,
The telegraph are running a piece this morning saying Atletico Madrid are after Soldado. One of the interesting points is they claim that if the deal went through a fee of £13m would be break even for Spurs…..
What do you reckon…?
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Great comment and questions Paulo. I think the third striker will be Harry Kane. Pochettino seems to like him from what i’ve seen in pre-season and i think his movement and range of passing suits the centre forward role. He’s just not up there with Adebayor or Soldado yet, but he definitely has potential to be a player that Pochettino improves/develops. He wouldn’t oust those two from the team, but i can see him being a rotation option to start in Cups or the Europa League, whilst definitely being used from the bench in the Premier League.
I like Bony by the way, just not if he’s going to cost a tonne. That is unless we were to sell Soldado or Adebayor.
I read the Soldado to Atletico rumours and these actually have some merit over the ones like Inter. I can’t see it happening as Soldado seems happier and more settled this year, but the decision may be being made by the board and so i wouldn’t be surprised if it did go through. I am no ITK though, so i will be waiting to see where this goes.
Judging by what the papers say, we are heavily chasing a central defender, a young right back for the future, a winger and Morgan Schneiderlin. Plus there has been a few background rumours about a striker…. It’s quite a lot of change and it’ll be interesting to see who goes out if the muted deals go through…
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Yes, Pochettino does seem to be remodeling our defence more than anything, so he may well be happy with our strikers.
Thank you for great article again :)
A lot of Korean spurs fans are disappointed about yesterday’s performance of Soldado. Although he did score once but there were a lot of mistouches he made. So they are saying he will never be like he was again and we should bring Bony in.
In my case, I didn’t watch the game and he did quite well at other pre-season matches. Plus I don’t think we can get paid well from Soldado compared to how much we spent on him. So I think we should keep Soldado and make him be confident again.
What do you think? Should we buy more striker selling one of ours? And will Wilfred Bony be a great player for spurs?
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Thanks for reading Soulchan. I thought Soldado did ok yesterday. He showed a nice range and touch of passing again and created some good opportunities for others. He did fire a half volley over, but it wasn’t the easiest of chances and he did seem to snatch at it. Soldado at Valencia probably would have smashed that in though. His goal from the instinctive header was excellent and showed what he can do when he has less time to think about the chance. I still think the big price tag may be weighing on his shoulders. It’s also noticeable how he does better against the non Premier League teams, so he may just not be suited to English football.
Bringing Bony in so close to the start of the season may not be the best idea now. I do like him as a player, but if he comes in, then someone has to go. Also, like you say, we will have to take a hit on Soldado’s price if we sell him and that is not Levy’s type of business deal.