Disinterested Soldado Beginning To Hamper

Tottenham are a side with a defence and midfield capable of ensuring Champions League qualification. Unfortunately, right now the forward line looks mid-table...

Last Updated: 04/11/13 at 09:43 Post Comment

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Speaking after his side's 3-0 home defeat to West Ham last month, Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas rejected the notion that his side had struggled to break down their opponents. "I think they scored in a moment when they were very, very strong - it can happen in games like this," was his explanation of the loss.

Three weeks later, it was Spurs' supporters that took the blame for another lacklustre attacking display, this time in victory over Hull City owed largely to a debatable late penalty decision. "We played in a difficult atmosphere with almost no support," said Villas-Boas. "We don't need the negativity of today."

Whilst such words provoked a meaningful (and not wholly positive) response, it was a fairly transparent reaction from the manager to some fairly evident struggles. This was the 'quick, look over there, nothing to see here' methodology, a classic diversion tactic acting as a fa├žade over Spurs' very obvious inability to effectively break down an away side content to sit deep and narrow.

If that was AVB's aim, he should have ensured that all of his squad also got the memo. Speaking in the days before the game at Goodison, Kyle Walker admitted to looking forward to an away match. "Away from home, the pressure is off us and we have freedom to express ourselves. At home, it's different, where a lot of teams are coming to park the bus."

Against Everton, therefore, Spurs found things easier. With the Goodison faithful fully expectant that their side would take the game to their opponents, the trio of Aaron Lennon, Lewis Holtby and Andros Townsend found space in behind the midfield line, typified by the fact that, for the first time this season, a Spurs midfielder had more touches of the ball than Kyle Walker.

The issue for AVB, however, is that his side still seemed blunt in the final third. Again less than a third of their shots were off target, again the majority were from outside the area, and again it was Andros Townsend that took the majority.

One of the most effective weapons in a race for the top four is the possession of a striker that can make something happen out of nothing, can take a dreary 0-0 and turn it into a victory. In Roberto Soldado, Tottenham currently have a striker that seems at best quiet and at worst wilfully ineffective and disinterested.

At Goodison on Sunday, an interesting comparison could be drawn. Neither side's most obvious goalscoring threat, Soldado or Romelu Lukaku, performed particularly impressively. Lukaku was dispossessed more times (20) than any other player in a display that brought just one shot, off target. However, Lukaku provided in other ways, and during a first half in which Everton were poor for large periods, often pinned back through their own sloppiness, he acted as a defensive presence - no other player on the pitch made more clearances. Furthermore, with his five goals so far this season, Lukaku has already displayed his effectiveness. Finally, this is a striker still six months short of his 21st birthday. And he is on loan.

In contrast, Soldado did not even evidently attempt to get involved. No other player that lasted the duration had fewer touches of the ball, and the Spaniard's afternoon comprised of two shots, both off target. In fairness the forward was also involved in four duels for the ball... he lost all four.

A perfect demonstration of the forward's worrying futility came in stoppage time, when his side had a free-kick near the corner flag. As the set-piece from Eriksen passed across the face of goal, perhaps three yards from Tim Howard on his line, Soldado could be viewed 15 yards out on the edge of the area, stood in his gloves, watching the action unfold. The desire to make the difference is seemingly lacking - one league goal from open play in the league doesn't go far in justifying a £26million fee.

Tottenham supporters should not, as yet, have cause for genuine panic. They sit fourth in the table, and a new transfer window opens again in nine weeks, in which much-needed attacking reinforcements can be brought in. A point at Goodison is as much as any side has got during 2013.

However, the nagging concern remains: In defence and midfield Spurs are now a top four side, but in the opposition area they still look rather mid-table.

Daniel Storey - follow him on Twitter

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