If you don’t shoot, you don’t score. Or in the case of Jermain Defoe, if you do shoot, you often still don’t score.
Having started him in 10 of 11 league games so far this season, it is clear AVB prefers Jermain Defoe to Emmanuel Adebayor to spearhead the Spurs attack. Given this is a complete reversal of Harry Redknapp’s preference from last season, it begs the question: Why?
There has been a lot of noise from AVB about Defoe’s impressive start to the season, reaping five goals from 10 starts so far, and the national media was quick to jump on the Jermain Defoe bandwagon. So, has JD had a renaissance since last season (and every single season before that)?
History has shown that Defoe is not a top class Premier League striker. He is good, maybe even very good. But he falls short of the standard required to establish Spurs as regulars in the Premier League’s top four. From 10 full seasons as a Premier League player, Defoe has never scored 20 league goals in a single season. Defoe’s best return to date is his 18 goals for Spurs in 2009/10. However, five of those came in the 9-1 stroll against Wigan, meaning that he scored only 13 league goals from his remaining 30 starts and three sub appearances that term, nothing special.
Since Defoe made his Premier League debut, 19 different strikers, on 30 occasions, have achieved the magic 20 league goals mark. Ignoring his obvious shortcomings against the likes of Henry, Rooney and Drogba, surely Defoe will be disappointed not to have joined the ranks of Andrew Johnson, James Beattie and Darren Bent, who achieved this feat over far fewer seasons in the top flight?
More relevant to Spurs’ current dilemma, Adebayor struck 24 goals during his second full season in the Premier League, from a mere 101 attempts on goal.
Not only does Defoe find the net less frequently than the greatest (and some of the not-so-great) Premier League strikers, he gets most of his goals against the weaker teams and in matches where his team has dominated. From 25 appearances against Manchester Utd, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City since 2009/10, Defoe has scored only seven times, a record of 0.28 goals per game, or one goal every 241 minutes played.
So Defoe does not score goals in great numbers over the course of a season and he doesn’t often score against the strongest teams, but what about his strike ratio? In his 57 games since the 2010/11 season, Defoe has scored 20 goals from a total of 181 shots, or a miserable one goal from every nine attempts (11%). Glenn Hoddle famously derided Andy Cole as ‘needing six or seven chances to score one goal’, a strike ratio Jermain Defoe could only dream of.
Adebayor’s league stats over the same period, albeit across three different clubs, read 60 games and 23 goals. This is a marginally better goals to games ratio, but, crucially, Adebayor’s goals to shots ratio is a far more respectable one from every 6.3 shots (16%).
The consequences of Defoe wasting so many opportunities to every goal he scores can be seen in his woeful number of assists, a meagre 31 assists from 352 Premier League career games. This goes far beyond his self-professed “striker’s instinct” and boils down to a selfishness which ultimately costs far more points than his one goal every 2.5 games has helped to win.
By his own admission, Defoe lives to score. But too often White Hart Lane reverberates with groans, as Defoe chooses to lash the ball against a sea of defensive legs, rather than play the obvious pass to an unmarked teammate. On many occasions last season, Bale and Van der Vaart could be seen screaming at Defoe in frustration, after Defoe chose to strike on goal, rather than play them in.
Edin Dzeko demonstrated on Sunday all of the qualities that Defoe lacks. Whilst Dzeko has stated that he does not want to be seen as a Super Sub, he does his talking with his boots, scoring decisive goals from the bench on four occasions already this season. Jermain Defoe seldom makes this type of game-winning impact. Only the man himself knows if this is down to an attitude problem, but it is clear that Defoe does not perform at his best in a supporting role.
Without a doubt, Defoe has the ability to find a yard and give himself a glimpse at goal, complementing his great strike. But his inconsistency and wastefulness does not fit with the lone striker role in a club with top four ambitions. Were Defoe to embrace a supporting role, his game would surely benefit, as so many of his attempts on goal are clearly destined to fail and stem from his desperation to score and to prove himself worthy of a start. In making such implausible attempts, invariably better options are forfeited, to the cost of the team.
Defoe does little to contribute for the team in ways which are less easily measured, dropping deep, linking play and unsettling defenders. These are attributes which Adebayor exhibited consistently throughout last season and at times against Manchester City on Sunday, despite his lack of match fitness.
So why has the Togolese been sat on the bench, watching Defoe fail to score with 8 out of every 9 shots? True, Adebayor joined the party late, having wrung every last penny out of both Sheikh Mansour and Daniel Levy. It has also been suggested Adebayor has been ill and injured, neither of which have helped his cause. However, there have been plenty of occasions when Adebayor has been fit to start and has not been selected.
AVB waxed lyrical following Defoe’s goal in the 2-1 win over QPR:
“He is getting continuous opportunities that maybe he didn’t have in the past…I am sure there is an impact on how he feels about himself.”
Is this an indication that AVB feels held to ransom by the delicate nature of Defoe’s ego, fearing that if he does not start him then he is lost to Spurs’ cause for the entire season? Defoe himself has not been shy about stating his dissatisfaction with a supporting role to the media. Unfortunately, history suggests the same is true of Adebayor, with both Arsenal and City suffering through his mood swings.
So what to do with two temperamental strikers, both vying for one starting place? Surely you start with the player who brings the most to the team and performed so solidly for the entirety of the previous season? That player is Emmanuel Adebayor.