Eleven days to go till the start of the new Spurs season and we still find ourselves in the midst of a striking crisis, as Jermain Defoe remains our only established front man.
When Andre Villas-Boas took over the White Hart reigns from Harry Redknapp, the signings of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen quickly followed. Spurs looked ready to go on a signing spree, but the Villas-Boas spending train has hit a Luka Modric sized buffer, as future arrivals look to hinge on the Croatian’s departure.
With the Emmanuel Adebayor deal stalling, interest has been ramped up in Internacional striker Leandro Damiao, as our striking situation has become desperate.
Jermain Defoe struck a timely reminder of his predatory instincts with the only goal of the game against Watford at the weekend. So, could Defoe be the way to go for Spurs this season?
Jermain Defoe had a good season last year, registering eleven goals in the Premier League from his 25 appearances. Not overly impressive, but when you consider the time he spent on the pitch, it equates to a goal every 118 minutes, which suddenly is very good going.
Of players that struck more than 10 Premier League goals last term, Jermain Defoe ranks seventh in minutes per goal scored. Only Demba Cisse (88 mins), Balotelli (107 mins), Rooney (110 mins), Dzeko (114 mins), Aguero (116 mins) and van Persie (117 mins) scored more frequently.
Despite his good goal scoring record, Defoe had to be content with a place on the bench more often than not. Of his twenty-five appearances in the Premier League, fourteen were from reserve.
Although he found himself being introduced late in games, Defoe still had a better goal scoring record as a starter. With seven strikes in his eleven starts, he performed better from the off than the four efforts he managed in his fourteen appearances as an impact sub.
Can Jermain Defoe go solo?
Jermain Defoe was one of the top marksmen in terms of minutes per goal scored in the Premier League, who also performs better when starting a match. Maybe not what you thought you would hear when you started reading this.
So, does it look as if now is the time for Jermain Defoe to finally get a starting run in the side when we need him most?
Maybe not so fast, the problem for Andre Villas-Boas and Jermain Defoe is that ‘Colin’ scores when he has a strike partner.
All bar one of Defoe’s 11 Premier League goals last campaign came when he was playing as part of a pair with either Louis Saha or Emmanuel Adebayor in a 4-4-2.
If we take a look at some matches from last season with Stats Zone, we can see how much Jermain Defoe struggles when he has to operate on his own up top.
When he starts with a partner he is fine. Against Bolton in the 3-0 home victory, Jermain Defoe started up front with Emmanuel Adebayor in a 4-4-2 formation.
Adebayor is the target for any long balls from Brad Friedel or the back, whereas Defoe is looking to make runs in behind the Bolton defence. He gets seven shots away in the game and is rewarded for his efforts with a goal from a Gareth Bale cutback.
Even when he partnered Louis Saha in the 2-1 defeat by Norwich, the same applies. Saha becomes the target for any long balls and Defoe is looking to get in behind the defence, as he does with his goal indicted by the yellow line.
Compare that to the odd occasion where he has had to operate as a lone striker in Harry’s 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1 systems.
Against QPR, Spurs went with a 4-2-3-1 with Sandro and Scott Parker operating as a double defensive pivot in front of the defence. Luka Modric operated in the hole, with Jermain Defoe on his own as the central striker.
In the first half Spurs were looking to put diagonal balls in to Defoe from central areas, but everything was outside the area. In the second half, he was forced wider by a more compact QPR defence and only received the ball in the box once. He struggled, as did the team, as we went down 1-0.
Against Man City we wouldn’t expect to get the lion’s share of possession and Jermain Defoe did score, but he was really working from scraps. He operated at the head of a 4-2-3-1 formation but saw very little of the ball. We can see this from him receiving just sixteen passes in the game and the length of the blue lines in the few long balls that he was able to receive.
That really is the problem for Jermain Defoe, he is unable to hold the ball up or win anything in the air, he is a lethal goal predator who needs a partner.
In a day and age where the 4-4-2 formation is dying out, the central striker in a 4-3-3 or the lone front man in a 4-2-3-1 has to be able to hold the ball up and play with his back to goal. Jermain Defoe just can’t do this.
When he is able to play with a bigger target man like Adebayor or Saha, he is able to play off them and receive more touches of the ball in areas where he can do more damage. When he is forced to play as a lone striker, he is unable to get as many touches of the ball and in areas where he is a threat to score.
Jermain Defoe may be one of the more accurate shooters in the Premier League who is able to convert chances in to goals, but he needs someone alongside him to create those chances.
Harry tried to get him in to the team by going 4-4-2 and partnering him with Adebayor or Saha. Defoe was then supposed to drop off on to the opposition’s deepest lying midfielder when we lost the ball, but it didn’t work. After Harry went back to 4-4-1-1 with Rafael van der Vaart operating behind Adebayor the results picked up again.
Completing the signing of Adebayor or Leandro Damiao before the transfer window closes is imperative. Jermain Defoe is a great goal scorer, but we cannot rely on him to play as a lone striker this season.