One of the more pleasing stories of this season is the developing success of Andre-Villas Boas at Tottenham upon his return to English football after a disastrous spell at Chelsea.
The likeable Portuguese has been his stylish, calm and cheerful self as he has guided Spurs to fourth place after 23 games, four points behind his former club and four points ahead of bitter north London rivals Arsenal as the race for the promised land of the Champions League begins to heat up.
Villas-Boas was his stylish, calm and cheerful self at Elland Road on Sunday as he witnessed his side go out of the FA Cup to Leeds. He stood typically relaxed for the most-part, right up until John Obika’s glaring miss in the dying minutes which, with the score line at 2-1, ensured a replay eclipsed the Londoners to which Villas-Boas reacted to with a fit of frustration.
The coach, characteristically media friendly, managed to simmer down in time for the post-match interview where he coolly denied the need for Spurs to enter the transfer market for a striker.
The 22 year old Obika, whose only previous experience in a Spurs shirt was a fifteen minute cameo in a League Cup tie at Carlisle back in September, was only called upon for the last half hour at Leeds as Villas-Boas finds his attacking unit stripped to the bare bones.
With Jermain Defoe rested and Emmanuel Adebayor permitted to play with Togo at the African Cup of Nations, Spurs started their fourth round tie with Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson, both attacking midfielders by trade, as centre-forwards. What followed was a limp display which Leeds exposed with some heavy pressing and quick-counter attacking.
When queried about his dearth of strikers however, Villas-Boas remained defiant, “we are happy with what we have, but injuries have put us in a difficult place” he said, “it’s a risk we are willing to take”.
This was bizarre when it is considered Defoe, Spurs’ top scorer this season with 16, has been battling with a pelvic injury in the last couple of weeks and had been due to miss last week’s draw with Manchester United until he declared his desire to play.
There is a growing concern that Defoe will eventually need an injection to get over the pain, highlighting the folly of a refusal to enter the market as it counts down to its Thursday deadline.
Adebayor is hardly proving an able deputy with a return of just 3 goals in 18 appearances after Villas-Boas initially appeared reluctant to sign him back in the summer. The duo have just one goal each in their last eight games as they become increasingly reliant on Gareth Bale to fire them along.
The talented left-winger has eleven goals for the campaign and provided at Elland Road for Dempsey, who now has eight. Underneath those two in the White Hart Lane goal-scoring charts lie Adebayor and Sigurdsson, the latter has just two.
It is a similar position to that of Chelsea who also only possess two strikers, yet in support of them they have Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Frank Lampard and Oscar who have accounted for a combined total of 41 goals this season at Stamford Bridge.
How Villas-Boas must cast envious glances towards his old employers, or even Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City who have all tallied more than Spurs this season and are all littered with goalscoring threats.
With the likely prospect of Adebayor returning to the international scene to play for Togo in South Africa, it did not take a great deal of foresight to predict that Spurs would have been left short up-front for this month, however despite an increasingly obvious need for address, especially palpable as they drew a blank at bottom club QPR, they have only delved into the winter market to sign left-back Ezekiel Fryers from Standard Liege and Schalke midfielder Lewis Holtby for reduced fees.
Interest in Sevilla’s Alvaro Negredo has been mentioned but it does seem as if Villas-Boas was being honest as he stood in the tunnel at Leeds and Spurs will see out the last days of the transfer window without signing the forward they seem to require.
Problems in attack hasn’t seemed to stall momentum too much as Spurs have lost just one in their last twelve league games while Defoe will be back to take the field against Norwich on Tuesday night.
But there has to be a great deal of concern in the way Spurs seem willing to gamble with their top scorer against the threat if his underlying injury purely because they have no other choice, it is something a team harbouring true aspirations of top four finish would not usually do and Villas-Boas may end up finding that out the hard way.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow him on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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