Twelve months ago, Jermain Defoe was Tottenham’s only striker. Emmanuel Adebayor was returning to fitness after a late transfer from Manchester City and injury problems so Defoe was enjoying a goalscoring spell in the team as Andre Villas-Boas’ first choice. He scored 14 goals in the opening months of the season, including the 200th goal of his club career in the home game against Chelsea. Unfortunately, in the second half of the season he scored only one more goal.
Jermain Defoe has now scored 139 goals for Tottenham in his two spells with the club and has moved into fifth place on the club’s all-time goalscoring record. He is hoping to be selected for the England squad for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil, if they qualify, but at present the signing of Roberto Soldado has relegated him to the substitutes bench with Spurs.
As he accumulated the goals he was also moving up the Tottenham all-time goalscoring list, overtaking his old sparing partner, Robbie Keane (122) and Teddy Sheringham (125). He ended the season level with Alan Gilzean on 133 but his 4 Europa League goals this season took him on to 137 – past Gilzean and Len Duquemin, to joint 5th with George Hunt and last night’s brace against Villa has moved him into 5th place with 139 goals. The European goals have also brought him to just two behind leading scorer Martin Chivers who scored 22 goals.
Defoe is a goalscorer who tends to score frequently during a ‘purple-patch’ in the season when in top form and with every shot seeming to be on target, he hits the back of the net with regularity. Unfortunately, when he loses that touch he can go for long periods without scoring. We’ve seen it before at Spurs – in season 2010-11 he scored only 9 times but the previous year he had 24 goals when he got the season off to a blistering start with a hat-trick against Hull and had 16 by the beginning of January, including 5 against Wigan. The 8 goals he added in the latter part of the season included a hat-trick against Leeds.
The signing of Roberto Soldado from Valencia has reduced Defoe to second choice, consigned to the bench, Europa League games and Cup matches. His contribution in the Premier League has been limited to 38 minutes as a late substitute in Spurs first three games. His lack of playing time influenced Roy Hodgson in his selection for the recent internationals and Defoe was omitted from the team even though England were short of strikers with Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge absent.
Defoe in the two home Europa League games displayed the goalscoring touch that he undoubtedly has by scoring twice in both games. He did what he does best in both games – he scored twice in 5 minutes late in the first half against Tbilisi and set Spurs on the road to success against Tromso with two nice finishes in 8 minutes midway through the first half. Having been set up by Erik Lamela’s pass, he clipped the ball over the goalkeeper as he dived low at his feet and then from Lewis Holtby’s pass, he shot across goal for his second against the Norwegian side. If it hadn’t been for the keeper’s alertness, Defoe could have had three or four in that first period. Even though he hadn’t been in the team, he came out in both of those games and looked sharp and eager to play and get among the goals. He was the same against Villa constantly looking to strike at goal and brought saved from the keeper before heading the opening goal seconds before half-time. His second on the final whistle when through one-on-one was his 6th goal this season from 3 starts yet he can’t get into the Tottenham team ahead of Soldado for league games.
Through his career Defoe has often been used by his managers as an impact sub, able to come off the bench and score important goals against a tiring defence. It is a role he has fulfilled successfully as his 21 goals as a substitute is a Premier League record. He has also done that for various England managers.
Having spent the summer searching for a striker and after breaking the club’s transfer record to sign Soldado, AVB with his strategy of using a lone striker has the Spaniard as his first choice. There seems little way back for Defoe at present, something which is of concern to him as he considers his prospects with England. Ahead of last week’s Europa League match, Defoe spoke of his frustrations, which were reported in the Metro,
It’s important for me to play this year. I want to play games because it’s a World Cup year. Having gone to a World Cup, it’s something you want to experience again as a player…..It’s frustrating when you have worked really hard in pre-season.
For the present, Defoe will have to be patient but come the January transfer window what will happen?
From Tottenham’s point of view, they need Defoe as he is their only senior alternative to Soldado. Emmanuel Adebayor is not in AVB’s immediate plans and Harry Kane at 20 years-of-age lacks exprience at this level. Defoe has always been prepared to wait his time and take the opportunity when it arises. He has had to fight for his place in the team before, vying with Keane to partner Dimitar Berbatov under Martin Jol and waiting for an opportunity after the arrival of Rafael van der Vaart when Harry Redknapp preferred to play with one striker.
The ‘lone’ striker role is not one to which Defoe is ideally suited although he worked hard at it in the early part of last season but in away games he failed to contribute greatly in Tottenham’s build-up play and his lack of size did little to help the Spurs’ defence when they needed the striker to hold-up play and link with the midfield.
For the present, Defoe is at White Hart Lane but with rumours of Tottenham’s interest in other strikers for the January transfer window, there must be the possibility that he could be on his way out if they do complete another signing. Defoe has always divided opinion among Spurs fans but he has shown loyalty to the club. He will be 31 next month and he knows that this will be his last opportunity to represent England at a World Cup Finals, if they get there, so he may well look for a move to a Premier League club where he will be guaranteed regular football, something that is not going to happen at Tottenham unless there is a dramatic change in circumstances. Or will Defoe’s current run of goals force Andre Villas-Boas to reassess the striker situation?