Emmanuel Adebayor has gone missing again through injury when Andre Villas-Boas could have used him in the Europa League match in Slovenia and in the League Cup tie at Norwich. It was the third consecutive European match that Adebayor has been unavailable for through injury. Is it just coincidence or is there more to his absence? Newspapers have already headlined with Adebayor’s dissatisfaction at not being first choice. Jermain Defoe, however, continues to score the goals and repay his manager’s faith in him.
Adebayor arrived at Tottenham in mid-August after the season had started, having missed proper pre-season preparations with Manchester City. He lacked fitness and match sharpness so was restricted to two appearances from the bench against West Brom and Norwich. It was thought by many fans, myself included, and in the media that Adebayor would come into the team at Reading. Villas-Boas decided otherwise and retained Defoe who scored twice. Adebayor cut a very disgruntled figure as he sat out the whole match on the bench. With changes expected for the visit of Lazio in the Europa League, it was the perfect opportunity for Adebayor to start and build up his match fitness. Defoe who had started every match for Tottenham and played for England was in need of a break. In the days leading up to the game Adebayor pulled out with a hamstring injury, requiring Defoe to play once again. Adeybaor was still unavailable for the trip to Greece for the Europa League match against Panathinaikos.
Adebayor returned for the next game at home to Aston Villa when he replaced Defoe for the final twenty minutes and then played for Toga during the international break. On returning to Spurs he was a substitute against Chelsea, coming on in the 74th minute. He then developed a pain in his back which has prevented him travelling to Slovenia and kept him out for the past ten days.
Adebayor, like Defoe and every other footballer, is only happy when he is playing and in the starting team. Defoe has had to cope with the substitute’s role for many seasons and has turned it into an art form – scoring late goals having come on in the closing stages of a game, both for Tottenham and England. His twenty goals as a substitute is a Premier League record that he would prefer not to have. Adebayor is less accepting of the position and becomes restless or even troublesome and disruptive when not in the team. Adebayor was happy during his first season with Spurs as he was Harry Redknapp’s first choice for the striker’s position. Now he has competition and the manager faces a conundrum of how to keep Adebayor on his side even though currently, he is not in the team.
With limited striking options at Tottenham there is concern that the overuse of Defoe in the early stages of the season by both club and country will lead to burn-out and loss of form at a later stage. Villas-Boas spoke of this recently but he has no concerns at the moment believing that Defoe is thriving under the pressure of being Tottenham’s main frontman. Villas-Boas said,
“He still has power and energy in his legs. Also the possibility of him equalling Teddy Sheringham or overtaking him on the top 10 of Tottenham’s goalscorers is something that motivates him.”
The problem remains for the manager of how to get Adebayor involved and playing as without game time he’s not going to regain match sharpness. The Europa League games and Capital One Cup matches were the obvious opportunity but to date Adebayor has been missing.
The defeat by Norwich in the Cup again illustrated Tottenham’s chronic lack of strikers. With Defoe rested and Adebayor injured, Clint Dempsey was called upon as main striker. It was not a good night for him, culminating in the late penalty miss which prevented Spurs taking the match into extra time. Dempsey has scored the winning goals at both Old Trafford and against Southampton but overall has been a disappointment at Spurs. He has, however, had to play in a variety of positions and being the lone striker is not one that suits him, preferring to play deeper in the supportive role. Having scored 23 goals for Fulham last season, he is a pale shadow of the player who so regularly caused Spurs problems. In last night’s match, Gareth Bale was the only player who looked likely to sore even though Spurs controlled the game until the final ten minutes.
Spurs have been very remiss in not having adequate striking options available to Villas-Boas. They failed to strengthen the squad in this area last January and paid the consequences with the loss of form and clearly did not learn the lesson from that mistake. Andre Villas-Boas needs to resolve whatever issues there are with Adebayor and get him fit to play. He also needs to pray that Defoe maintains his fitness and form until the problem can be resolved in the January transfer window.