Tottenham broke their transfer record to sign Roberto Soldado from Valencia during the summer. A regular scorer in Spain for Valencia and Getafe over the previous five seasons, he has found it difficult to find the back of the net in England.
Tottenham’s lack of goals in the Premier League is hindering the progress of the team and the situation is clearly illustrated by the lack of goals from the strikers in 2013. That Emmanuel Adebayor who has not played this season is joint top goalscorer among the strikers just about says it all concerning their limited contribution to the team. Since 1st January, 2013 the three Tottenham strikers have contributed a total of 9 goals between them with 3 of those being penalties. Since January the individual striker’s goal tally has been:
Roberto Soldado – 4 (3 pens) in 10 starts + 1 sub appearance
Emmanuel Adebayor – 4 in 11 starts last season
Jermain Defoe – 1 goal from 9 starts + 13 appearances from the bench. His only League goal was as a substitute against Manchester City in March.
The lack of goals from the strikers in the second half of last season was cited as one of the reasons Tottenham missed out on a top four finish in the Premier League. The need for a goalscoring striker had been evident for some considerable time so in the summer Spurs spent £26m in buying Roberto Soldado from Valencia. He arrived with a reputation for scoring with 81 goals in 141 appearances for Valencia in all competitions. His record in La Liga was equally impressive with 59 in 101 league games over three seasons.
Goals For/Against Stats
Spurs problem with a lack of goals from the strikers has carried over into this season with a total of only 9 goals scored in 11 Premier League matches. Only Sunderland and Crystal Palace, the bottom two teams in the Premier League have scored fewer. Spurs are on the same total as Hull City, Cardiff City, Norwich City and West Ham United who boosted their tally by scoring three at White Hart Lane. In the goals against column Spurs have one of the tightest defences having conceded 6 goals with only Southampton on 5 having a better record.
The problem for Tottenham is not that Soldado is missing golden opportunities to score but that he is receiving very little service with few clear cut chances having been created in any game. Tim Krul had an outstanding game for Newcastle and made 14 saves but few of those were from situations inside the penalty area or the six yard box. Most were shots from distance with a couple of exceptions coming from set-pieces. There was the double save he made as Younes Kaboul followed up on the rebound from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s free-kick and the save from Jan Vertonghen’s header at a corner.
Lack of Creativity
Roberto Soldado has not turned from a proficient goalscorer who was being included in the Spain team into an incompetent one in three months at White Hart Lane. It is a lack of clear cut chances which is making it very difficult for him. it is the same problem that Tottenham strikers have suffered in recent seasons. The difficulty was overcome last year with Bale’s contribution but now that has gone along with his ability to get behind defences and create chances for a striker with dangerous crosses into the box.
This season the midfield players have rarely played a pass to Soldado in behind the defence. There are times when he makes a run but it’s not picked up by the player in possession or played quickly enough. High crosses into the area are meat and drink for every central defender in the league. as Soldado is not going to win the ball in the air. The lack of chances leaves Soldado a frustrated figure when the ball isn’t played in to him. He showed against Aston Villa that he can finish with aplomb from open play when he scored his only League goal which didn’t come from the penalty spot.
What To Do?
Some suggest that Soldado is not suited to playing as a lone striker but it is a similar role to the one he played for Valencia last season who played 4-2-3-1 similar to Andre Villas-Boas’ favoured formation. Constantly playing through the middle with wingers cutting inside makes it very congested around the opposition penalty area and Soldado has had few clear cut sights of goal. AVB tried playing with both Soldado and Jermain Defoe late in the games against West Ham and Newcastle but it made no difference and created no additional threat to the visitors’ defence.
I could see Soldado, however, benefiting from playing alongside a tall striker who could hold up the ball and lay it off to him or challenge for the ball in the air so that the Spaniard can pick up the loose ball around the penalty area. In the current situation that may require a recall for Adebayor or using Harry Kane as a more central striker to create space for Soldado.
The immediate task for AVB is to devise a plan to get the best out of a player who has been a regular goalscorer over the past five seasons in Spain. He needs support and service or else his goalscoring ability is going to be totally wasted and in his frustration he may decide to return to the warmer and more familiar climes of Spain.