March 21, 2011

Striking a balance


Follow me on Twitter – @WindyCOYS.

Much has been made of our lack of “big name” striker signing, going back four transfer windows (although strangely, more from fans than the mainstream media). Levy and Redknapp’s failure to acquire a top class centre forward has been attributed to lack of funds, lack of effort, lack of knowledge of who is available, and a lack of need (i.e. they are happy with what we have). The reasons, in truth, are probably a combination of one or more. In the meantime our rivals have been busy, with the likes of Carroll, Torres, Dzeko and Suarez moving in the last few months alone.

It is so tempting to dwell on this and continue to think “if only…”, but we are stuck with what we have got for another few months, so who should we use, and why?

Defoe took many of the headlines for all of the wrong reasons after the West Ham game; he looked lethargic, wasteful, and lacked any sort of sharpness/striking instinct. His reasonable career record, his 18 league goals last season (by far his best tally in a league season) and the “natural finisher” tag that has often been attributed to him have covered up what has been a disappointing twelve months in front of goal.

For Spurs this season, he has scored against:

Young Boys
FC Twente (2)
Charlton (2)
Wolves (2)

In his other 17 matches (started 13, and played 45 minutes or more in 15) he has failed to find the net. In the league, he has played 1070 minutes and scored just 2 goals.

Defoe’s bad run of form is not a recent phenomenon – at the end of last season he went 4 games without scoring, only scored 1 (a penalty) in his last 8 games and 2 in his last 12.

I tend to not want to blame Defoe too much – all strikers go through bad patches, and he has been relatively consistent for most of his career. However, Redknapp’s decision to stick with him through his rough patch, however laudable, is costing us, especially when there is a viable alternative waiting in the wings.

I wrote in mid-December on ‘Why Pavlyuchenko should be first choice in the league‘, and statistics still back up my opinion that, whilst he is not perfect, he is the best that we have to partner van der Vaart, at least for the time being.


The difference in the average points gained when starting is particularly striking, but it is also worth noting that Pavlyuchenko is now 6th in the Premier League in terms of average minutes per goal scored (of those who have played 900 minutes or more) – the top 10 is:

Robin van Persie (87.18)
Dimitar Berbatov (98.90)
Javier Hernandez (100.6)
Carlos Tevez (119.3)
Theo Walcott (141.1)
Roman Pavlyuchenko (146.6)
Andy Carroll (147.7)
Rafael van der Vaart (149.8)
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (169.7)
Salomon Kalou (170.3)

Pavlyuchenko is far from the perfect striker – he sometimes gives the impression that he is not totally bothered, his first touch can be heavy, he tends to take on some silly shots, he is not particularly good at holding the ball up, he is not particularly strong in the tackle, and he’s not particularly great in the air. But he scores goals at a rate which is currently better than that of any of our other strikers and, at a time when we’re struggling to put the ball in the net, that should not be under-valued.

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  • Jill says:

    Harry’s description/excuse about JD’s bereavement and his decision to play him was just bizarre. I was wondering before the game who would play with VDV and it didn’t even occur to me that he would the try the inevitably disastrous combination again. Even if JD were in form it wouldn’t work. (And he obviously is so far out of form…) VDV needs someone who can head the ball and hold things up – neither of which are talents JD has – he is an out and out poacher who if he’s not scoring does not merit a place. Pav is VERY hard done by this season – he definitely should have started and I strongly contend that if he had we would have won on Saturday – how many goals should JD have had? Somewhere between 2 & 5 depending on your perspective. ‘Arry’s favouritism is costing us big time.

  • James says:

    I remember waking up one morning, about this time last year, hearing an interesting story on Radio 4’s Today show. It claimed a London based premier league player was paying protection money so that he could attend the world cup. Perhaps this same player is still paying, perhaps this player is ours.

    Did anyone else hear this or of such a story? Something seems to be bothering Defoe may be this is it.

  • JimmyG2 says:

    You can see it, I can see it and have blogged and referred several times to the foolishness of ignoring Pavlyuchenko’s claim to be picked ahead of Defoe.
    Why can’t Harry see it?
    He is risking his own reputation and the success of the team by his ill-judged loyalty to a player he has trusted over several years.

  • Anonymous says:

    Windy you are great with stats but how many games did he line up with Crouch and was Huddlestone playing. Lets be honest hear how many of you fans would be happy after scoring two great goals and then find yourself sitting on the bench. Whst would this do to your head and any player will tell you ankles can take a long time before you are back to 100 percent just look at Hudds and Bale Defoe came back a month before his 3 months date Hudds his just attemptingy to get back . The lad asked to play even though he was up till way past 2oclock with a sad bereavementof his gran. What you should look at Wuindy how teams Tempo rises when they play Spurs i no and so does Toure Defences are on top because of top up energy this . Just look at the Blackpool game the way his shot at goal and the defender headed the ball from under the bar theis defending is happeneing every week wake up windy there is storm of energy abuse and Toure never took a slimming pill but an energy one and his ex team mate Bridge had is best game against Spurs also a defender and the other energy offender Goalkeeper Paddy Kenny now windy there is a true stat that i discovered a team just behind us who i no is energised.

  • Anonymous says:

    The point is that tactics come into play: perhaps Pav has a good record because he is playing only in games where he can make an impact. For example, Harry was 100% right to play Defoe vs W Ham. This was proven by the sheer number of chances he had. Against Upson, the pacier striker should be chosen. When Pav came on, all his chances were outside the box, and Green lapped them up. However, I do agree that Pav’s record is “striking”. I have been compiling stats too, and if you take it from 1st Feb (after the transfer window) Pav is one of the best in the league for mins per goal. Wheras Drogba, Torres, Dzeko, Chamakh, Bendtner have played more mins, and scored nothing. Pav also has a better rate than say Rooney – who has scored more, but played more – and since he hasn’t been playing that well, perhaps Pav should play too – goals may result. However, goals aren’t everything – the performance vs West Ham was one of our best. We controlled the game and limited West Ham to scraps – despite their attacking line-up – and we had many chances, so the tactics and line-up were spot on. When Pav came on, then it opened up in both directions – mainly due to 4-4-2 from 4-4-1-1, but I am not so sure that Pav on from start would have been any better. However, Crouch has played a lot less in the league lately (it was not long ago since he played part of every league game since he joined! – but not now). So I expect Pav to be alternated – where appropriate.

  • Windy says:

    Jill – I tend to agree. I could see why Redknapp started with Defoe – his former club, two goals in previous game, and of course his endless faith in him. If Defoe’s two goals against Wolves had been poachers goals, I might have had faith in him having rediscovered his touch but, although they were fantastic strikes, they were pot-shots.

    James – fascinating, I’d not heard that. Difficult to speculate without knowing more but I will see if I can dig anything up on google.

    JimmyG2 – He doesn’t hide the fact that he’s no great fan of Pavlyuchenko, or that he really likes Defoe… but he’s waited too long for Defoe’s form to change now.

    DAV – I know you love your conspiracy/steroids theories, but I’m not quite sure they’re relevant here…

    Anon @ 05:41 – Appreciate your response, some very interesting points. I do disagree with your comment on Defoe (‘This was proven by the sheer number of chances he had.’). In my opinion the sheer number of missed chances proved why he should not have started. Defoe is not as quick as he once was, and I don’t think there’s a great deal of difference pace-wise between Pavlyuchenko and Defoe. If there is, Defoe’s current lack of sharpness renders it irrelevant. He was so slow to react in and around the six yard box on Saturday. Totally agree with you about our tactics though – we played really well, controlled the game as you say, and deserved to win.

  • drwinston001 says:

    just a quick observation with regards to stats in general. I think we’d all agree that Defoe has had a shocker but what if he’d managed to score two goals more, lets say in the Blackpool and West Ham games. We are after all only talking about a little bit of luck or a slightly better placed shot. If he had managed to do that he’d have a minutes to goal of 267.5, mins per goal/assist of 178 and a points per game of possibly 1.8. None of which are miles away from Pavs.

    I’m with you and I think Pav should be given a start but then I would’ve also kept the JD / Pav partnership from Wolves instead of starting an unfit vdV.

    While stats are fun, it doesn’t take a lot for them to change quite drastically.

  • Windy says:

    drwinston001 – Interesting comments as usual, mate. Likewise, though, look at Pavlyuchenko hitting the post in recent weeks and having efforts off the line vs Blackpool. You could argue this either way.

    Yes, it’s a game of tight margins, but I’d rather rely on someone who IS currently delivering the goods rather than someone who is NEARLY delivering the goods.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi.

    Looking forward to hear about the U18 match against Arsenal. Can you send your email addresse to me? nilsruneholt@getmail.no

  • Kees says:

    Good piece Windy.

    I do feel that Redknapp is playing his ‘favourites’, but I think he has Defoe and Crouch ahead of Pav because of the lack of a work ethic that Pav shows.

    Defoe has never been on a drought like this, and all of us are hoping he starts scoring regularly again and to me, this would solve our issue.

    I was looking at some stats the other day and after 14 home matches we’ve scored 19 goals, compared to 30 in the same period last season.

    Looking at the team as it is now, Defoe and Pav would be my first choice strike partnership.

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