Why a clinical striker, not Holtby, is what Tottenham really need this January

Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe have been wasteful in front of goal all season and the recent dip in form could have a damaging effect on the club's top-four chances
By Jay Jaffa

The January transfer window is lurching into its final stages, leaving Tottenham with just a week to conduct any business. Based on their history, this is no bad thing: the club and Daniel Levy traditionally come alive in the final scramble for a deal.

While the money men at White Hart Lane and Schalke haggle over a nominal fee to bring forward Lewis Holtby's north London arrival by six months, there is one position that remains glaringly weak.

Andre Villas-Boas will be more than aware of his side's recent problems up front and if Spurs are to keep their grip on the top four, signing a striker is of the utmost importance.

Many felt that Jermain Defoe would be one of the first casualties of the Villas-Boas regime and subsequent tactical shift but, in fairness to the 30-year-old, he went some way to confounding his critics. In the course of this Premier League season, the England man has been on the pitch for 90.9 per cent of the 23 matches played, starting 22.

DEFOE 14.9%
That is in part due to the limited options that Villas-Boas has though, even when Emmanuel Adebayor reached full fitness, it simply meant that Spurs moved away from 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-2 to accommodate the pair.

Defoe has scored 10 league goals so far but alarmingly has only netted once in his last eight games. The same goes for Adebayor, who looks increasingly like the unsettled, unhappy problem child who Manchester City had on their hands two seasons ago.

If you look at the Tottenham starting XI, their greatest strength lies on the flanks. In Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon, Villas-Boas can call upon two of the quickest and most penetrative wide men in the land, fundamental contributors to one of the most dangerous counterattacking teams in the Premier League.

The stats support the suggestion that Tottenham have almost everything in place. They are the 13th most accurate passers (83.5%) in Europe's top five divisions and take the fourth-highest number of shots at goal per game (18.4). Yet, for all the accuracy in the build-up and the ability to find the space to fire shots at goal, Tottenham are only the 13th highest goalscorers (40) across the big five divisions (England, Italy, Germany, France and Spain) and that includes playing more fixtures than each other nation in question.

It seems likely that, in finally replacing the influential Rafael van der Vaart with Holtby, Spurs will click into gear and prove more efficient in front of goal but, at the moment, it remains mere speculation. The Schalke playmaker has one more assist to his name (seven) than Lennon, Spurs' most creative player, yet plays fewer key passes per game (1.5) compared to Lennon (2.2), Bale (2.3), Mousa Dembele (2.1) and Kyle Walker (1.9). He is an efficient playmaker.

Of course, Holtby has been feeding Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, one of Europe's most prolific strikers (though experiencing a barren season by his standards with five goals from 17 games), whereas Lennon and Co. are loading the bullets for Defoe and Adebayor.

So what can be done? Tottenham need a more well-rounded, complete striker but it is about obtaining the right kind of forward. At some point Villas-Boas will return to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation and that requires a lone striker capable of more than what Defoe offered when in that position.


DEFOE IN 2012-13
13 in 22
1 in 8
Crucially, Spurs must find a more clinical option than Defoe or Adebayor, who both register below-average chance conversion rates. A commonly held belief in England paints Defoe as a lethal, penalty-box striker but this is nothing more than a facade. He has struck the fourth-highest number of shots at goal (94) in Europe but his conversion rate is a meagre 14.9%. Adebayor has hit just 23 shots in his 14 appearances, with a conversion rate of 12.5%. In short, Tottenham's two strikers are tremendously wasteful.

Villas-Boas is a well-known disciple of the school of statistics and should be scouring the rest of Europe in search of strikers who both fit his remit and are affordable. The club have been linked with Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo but, worryingly, with a 14.5% conversion rate in La Liga, it would appear that he would be a futile investment.

Roberto Soldado (29.7%), Stefan Kiessling (23.2%), Ruben Castro (30%) and Bafetimbi Gomis (24%) all represent viable options for Tottenham in the next week of the window, with only Ruben Castro measuring in similar proportions as Defoe.

The strongest case can be made for Bayer Leverkusen's German hitman, Kiessling, who has scored a bullish 13 goals in 18 Bundesliga games. Standing at six-foot-three, the 29-year-old would be a threatening target for the deliveries of Bale and Lennon, while his link play is streets ahead of the aforementioned options. The 33 chances that he has created for Leverkusen puts Kiessling ahead of Defoe (23) and Adebayor (19), who commendably register well in this area.

There are likely to be doubts over the longevity of a player close to his 30th birthday, though – Kiessling would hardly represent a long-term solution. Closer to home, there are two strikers who the club should consider. If not in January, Tottenham may wish to earmark the pair for a summer move.

9/2 Jermain Defoe is 9/2 with PaddyPower to score the first goal in Leeds v Spurs
Steven Fletcher of Sunderland is finally receiving the recognition that years of goal plundering deserve. Despite plying his trade at some of Britain's less fashionable clubs, the Scot has remained a goalscoring threat and is the best British finisher on these shores.

The alternative would be to take a punt on Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea's Belgian striker, currently on loan at West Brom. His chances have been limited in west London but Lukaku is quickly demonstrating the talent that convinced the Blues to fork out £13 million for him a year-and-a-half ago. Fletcher (30%) and Lukaku (24%) have shown themselves to be measured when presented a chance and that has shown in their hauls of 10 and nine goals respectively.

Adebayor's ability to win aerial duels (40%) adds a string to his bow but it is one with which Fletcher (42%), Lukaku (45%), Kiessling (55%) and Gomis (42%) all compete. Unfortunately for Defoe (15%), there is no solution to his natural proportions.

Bale and Lennon have created 93 chances between them this season – the fourth-highest from a pairing in the league – yet at the moment their targets are firing blanks. It may be temporary – both strikers have a history of running hot and cold – but Spurs should be looking to snap up a clinical finisher this January to ensure that they do not finish the season, and games, ruing missed chances.

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