Defoe injury provides Adebayor with the chance to finally make his mark on Villas-Boas' Tottenham

The nightmare scenario was realised as the 30-year-old hobbled off in Spurs' win at West Brom but form of Bale and Lennon and addition of Holtby gives the club reason for optimism
By Jay Jaffa

Andre Villas-Boas has a headache. The ankle injury Jermain Defoe sustained in Tottenham's 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on Sunday was the nightmare scenario the club feared following a transfer window that saw the north Londoners neglect rising concerns about their forward line.

Villas-Boas predicted a three-week lay-off for Defoe, though that remains speculation until the 30-year-old undergoes scans to ascertain the full extent of the damage, but the Portuguese will already be weighing up his limited options as the club prepare for their next Premier League game at home to Newcastle.

Privately though, Villas-Boas may view the situation as an opportunity to experiment, especially given Defoe's underwhelming form. Though Defoe has 16 goals in all competitions this season, he has hit the back of the net just once in his last 10 games for Spurs and those that have followed his career know that without goals, it is akin to playing a man light. Of the 38 minutes he spent on the pitch against West Brom, Defoe touched the ball just nine times.


Fortunately for Spurs, Gareth Bale is in the form of his life, compensating for his goal-shy strikers with two stunning goals in a week to secure Spurs four points and fortify their position in fourth.

Bale spoke of adding “another dimension” to his game by playing centrally and it certainly has its merits, but Tottenham will be better off providing him the freedom to drift from his natural left flank and into bothersome areas – after all, he has always been more damaging when he is driving from deep positions and carrying the ball, rather than latching on to balls in behind the defence. Why complicate things further?

So let us have a look at the options available to Villas-Boas. After Defoe's withdrawal, Clint Dempsey was pushed further forward, but his involvement shrank as the game wore on. The American should have been more accurate with a first-half header, in what was his best chance of the 90 minutes, and although he has shown a welcome tendency to score important goals, Dempsey remains a source of frustration for supporters.

For the second time in a week, Holtby's introduction spurred Tottenham on to an improved second-half display and his availability should play a big part in Villas-Boas' thinking. The short but stocky playmaker has already been labelled as the “bargain of the century” by his new manager and the early signs are good. His intelligent one and two touch play between the lines has Spurs resembling the Harry Redknapp team of last season that utilised Rafael van der Vaart so well.

Holtby's true value may not be realised until Spurs find a striker capable of linking with the supporting cast of widemen and No.10, but following Togo's elimination from the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday evening, Spurs can once again turn to Emmanuel Adebayor.

This season has certainly been the 28-year-old's difficult second album; he arrived at the club unfit after a non-existent pre-season, has suffered injuries and has seen rumours of a falling out with Villas-Boas surface. However, he remains the best striking option the club have, especially in a system deploying one forward, and Spurs can look forward to an uninterrupted spell with him until May.

66/1 Emmanuel Adebayor is 66/1 to be Tottenham's top scorer this season with BetVictor
Partnering Adebayor with Defoe has been a laboured experiment. Whatever understanding the pair might have had deteriorated week after week, to the point that some may be thankful that misfortune and international duty have kept them apart for what could be a total of a couple of months.

Entirely contrary to last season, Adebayor has started as the lone striker just three times for Spurs this season – a win, a loss and a draw in the FA Cup, the league and the Europa League. There are the aforementioned caveats behind his sporadic employment as a line-leading striker, as well as the early season form of Defoe, but Villas-Boas will see the rangy forward as his best option in the coming weeks - particularly when the alternatives are rookie forwards in Jonathan Obika and Harry Kane.

It was his performance in the loss, the 2-1 defeat at Manchester City earlier in the season (one of the three games mentioned above), that should provide comfort to those questioning whether Adebayor is the answer. That day, perhaps motivated by facing his former employers, Adebayor put in one of his best displays in a white shirt as he harried the defence, ran the channels with purpose and bustled his way past challenges. It was the Adebayor who so impressed the doubters last campaign and the one who made a brief appearance for his country against Tunisia last week.

He is not the ideal forward for this Tottenham team but his ability to bring others into play with intelligent link-up, coupled with the addition of Holtby and the form of Bale and Lennon will provide hope rather than despair following Defoe's injury. There is a sense that he has been written off already, yet his record last season as both a goalscorer and creator (18 goals, 12 assists) make a mockery of such fears.

It is inescapable that he has not performed for Villas-Boas yet and the money men may feel a little short changed since making the move permanent. However, in Tottenham's hour of need, the Togolese and a change of system could see Spurs strengthen their claims for Champions League football.

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