Striking a balance
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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:
FC Twente (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.