Tottenham Hotspur’s lack of strength in depth of the squad has been exposed by the absence of Dembele and Adebayor during the last week. TheHardTackle argues that Villas-Boas need to address this issue by investing in the January window to have a realistic chance of finish fourth.
Andre Villas-Boas’ Premiership record as Tottenham Hotspur head coach currently reads as five wins in nine games. Those five victories have come in the last six encounters as the North London side currently sit in fourth place, five points off table toppers Chelsea.
Sunday’s 2-1 win over Southampton may not have been the most convincing of outings from Spurs, with the visitors holding out for all three points following a relentless 45 minutes onslaught from the hosts. Nevertheless, it was a much needed win following the 4-2 loss to Chelsea and the abject mid-week performance in the Europa League against Slovenian outfit Maribor. However, regardless of the victory, the display itself highlighted a much larger cause for concern for Spurs, one which came to light, effectively, during the defeat to the Blues the week earlier.
Prior to kick off last Saturday, it was announced that midfielder Moussa Dembele would sit out the encounter with the recurrence of a hip problem he had picked up on international duty with Belgium. When fans realized he was to watch from the stands, any hope of a positive result completely dispersed supporters, many of whom were confident of at least a draw. While Gareth Bale also sat out the encounter to witness the birth of his first child, it was the injury to Dembele that was more cause for concern.
Upon his arrival, the 25-year-old has effortlessly slotted into Villas-Boas’ starting XI, providing the much needed link between the midfield and front-line, which was lacking throughout the opening encounters with Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion and the first half of the draw with Norwich City. Now, with his injury, Spurs once again lack the cohesion in the middle of the park; the creative spark from deep, if you will. While Tom Huddlestone performed admirably against the Saints on Sunday, the speed and power of Chelsea meant he was regularly bypassed in midfield due to his immobility against the slight trio of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar.
The energy and physicality of Dembele could have gone some way to counter-acting the input of the aforementioned trio rather than burdening Sandro with the almost impossible task of containing the three on his lonesome. Missing the Belgian is one of the problems that Villas-Boas will encounter over the course of the upcoming campaign.
As many know, regardless of the acquisition of Dembele, Spurs pursued their summer long interest in FC Porto midfielder Joao Moutinho, which finally ended on deadline day due to personal terms and stipulations being set by third party owners. Missing out on the Portuguese international could have serious consequences to Spurs throughout the season, most notably as and when Dembele isn’t available. The depth of the squad is evident; it’s the strength of the depth that is the worry.
The standby players available to Villas-Boas don’t offer the same threat as the former Fulham star, as witnessed during the loss to Chelsea. But it isn’t only in midfield that Spurs are lacking. Looking further forward, there is still room for another striker. Once Jermain Defoe left the field of play on Sunday, summer arrival Clint Dempsey was pushed further forward in a ‘false nine’ position. This came as a result of Emmanuel Adebayor suffering a back problem, which ruled him out of the draw with Maribor.
Let me get this out in the open before I make my case; Defoe is good striker. He has come on leaps and bounds this season after a season of discontent, which saw the England international linked with a move away from White Hart Lane, before he committed to a new long-term deal at the club. At the time, many were of the opinion that it was the wrong move by Villas-Boas. Defoe is a striker whose forte is scoring goals. But, in terms of team effort, he offers very little else. He can rarely hold the ball up and his shoot-on-sight mantra often sees teammates in better positions overlooked in order to fire his effort away.
While this is the sixth sense of a natural goalscorer, in terms of the system implemented by Villas-Boas; it isn’t ideal for Spurs. Adebayor, on the other hand, is better suited to the needs of the 35-year-old manager, his assist and goal-scoring record last season a testament to this. However, having sat out the last two games with a back problem, it goes to show the lack of striking personnel available to Villas-Boas. Granted, Dempsey may have been acquired to fulfil the need for a target man, per se, but he is far from the answer to the conundrum that will undoubtedly slap the 35-year-old in the face come January.
As many know, Adebayor will be jetting off for international duty with Togo during the African Cup of Nations, after reverting his decision to retire from international football back in 2010 following the harrowing incident in Angola, in which the national side were involved in a shooting which saw nine people wounded and the bus driver, sadly, killed.
Be it through injury, suspension or international duty, Spurs need to invest in January if they are serious about launching an assault on the top four. With Dembele and Adebayor both unavailable, the squad suddenly looks devoid of quality. Granted, the duo are likely to be available for the weekend encounter with Wigan Athletic, but it remains a problem that must be addressed once the transfer window reopens. If not, there is the distinct possibility that Spurs, will drop away in the race for a top four finish, which could have dire consequences when it comes to holding onto the club’s prized assets, most notably Gareth Bale.