By Alex Young
When Andre Villas-Boas was appointed as Harry Redknapp’s replacement at Tottenham in June, Jermain Defoe could be forgiven for feeling anxious regarding his future at White Hart Lane.
Indeed, Daniel Sturridge - a similar player to Defoe with his darting sprints and preference to run off the last man - did not have the most enjoyable of times under the Portuguese at Chelsea by being shunted out of position, but the 2012-13 season could not have played out much better for the diminutive forward thus far.
Villas-Boas has put faith in Defoe, and it has paid off. Five goals in just 10 Premier League games – almost half of last season’s total of 11 already – is evident of how much the striker is thriving by being the sole focal point.
But, it hasn’t all been rosy behind the scenes. Emmanuel Adebayor joined after a highly successful loan spell last season under Harry Redknapp but, as exclusively revealed by Goal.com on Thursday, has demanded two talks with his manager after failing to start a game three months into the season.
The solution? Ditch his strict 4-5-1 formation and throw the Togo international alongside Defoe in a two-man attack.
“We set out with 4-4-2 and two strikers, and we'll see how the game goes,” Villas-Boas told ITV ahead of the game.
Well, it went well, Andre. Adebayor was understandably intially rusty after a lack of regular match action, but the pair slipped back into the same understanding that Redknapp forged over the course of last term almost immediately.
With under 10 minutes on the clock, Gareth Bale – in one of many driven crosses from the left – found Adebayor inside the area with his back to goal. A neat flick and turn sent the ball towards his partner in a better position, with only a mistimed half-volley of his own failing to make the net bulge.
And this was the pattern throughout. With the dazzling Bale supplying support from the left, the highly impressive Tom Carroll continually finding space in the middle and the ever-reliable pair of Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker overlapping on the right, the two strikers were able to pick their runs with ease.
Ahead of the game, the possibility of Adebayor stifling Defoe could well have been a feverous one throughout north London but the former Manchester City man was very much playing a supporting role to, in fact, heighten the England international’s presence.
And this was no more evident in the hat-trick goal. With Spurs’ dominance starting to slip and still only holding onto a one-goal advantage, Kyle Naughton’s aimless punt clear was picked up by Adebayor on the right-hand touchline, brought down away from the onrushing Ales Mertelj and weighted into the path of Tom Huddlestone, who sent Bale on his way to find Defoe.
The partnership will have impressed all in attendance at White Hart Lane on Thursday but Defoe will be hoping that Roy Hodgson was, sheepishly, viewing at home.
The England boss announced his squad to face Sweden in the friendly next Wednesday, with Defoe was omitted, despite a goal against Italy in August and, most recently, against Moldova in the World Cup 2014 qualifier in September.
How does a footballer answer his critics? A hat-trick will do.Follow Alex Young on