Everton, unbeaten at Goodison in 2013, are unlikely to get another chasing this season like the one Spurs gave them in the first half yesterday. And if they do its safe to say they wont come through it without conceding a goal. The fact is, Tottenham are a team that can do everything required to win football matches except score and, like any reasonable Spurs fan, I am looking around for someone to blame.
Prime suspect is the man whose whole raison d’etre is to score goals, Roberto Soldado. The 26 million pound Spaniard spent another afternoon failing to notch and frankly his passing wasn’t great either. Is he a dud?
No. Four league goals in ten games is not the worst return for a striker in the early stages of his Premier League career. ‘Yes, but three of them were penalties’ whinge the moaners. So what? I can’t remember a better penalty-taker in a Spurs shirt. Every one has been despatched with icy precision of a world class finisher and the one goal he did pop in from open play was deftness defined.
It’s not as if he’s missed a succession of sitters. In fact I can’t recall him fluffing a single chance that falls into the Sandra-Redknapp-would’ve-scored-that category.
So if it’s not his fault, whose is it? It must be the service he’s getting – the quality and quantity of the chances he’s being supplied with by our extravagantly priced midfield.
It’s not a new chestnut this one. Yet again we find ourselves asking where is the creativity? Who has replaced the guile that we lost when Modric and Van Der Vaart left? In theory, three current players fall into the lock-picker category, Sigurdsson, Eriksen and Lamela. Let’s see if we can blame any of them.
First of the accused is Gylfi Sigurdsson. He’s had the most playing time of them all and he doesn’t have the excuse of being a new boy. The best you can say for him is he’s been inconsistent and, frustratingly from Soldado’s point of view, his most notable contributions have been the goals he has scored himself.
Then there’s Eriksen who made his debut against Norwich looking like he was the ready-made, chance-creating number ten we craved. But in the next game against Chelsea he faded badly and he hasn’t been the same since. He’s young and he’s getting used to a new league and a new country so he’s entitled to some patience. I just wish he hadn’t got our hopes up so much with that debut.
As for Lamela, his settling in process is going even more slowly. He hasn’t even started a league game yet and while his form in the cup games is slowly improving it seems we’re going to have to wait a bit before he’s up to speed.
So with none of the staff playmakers making a convincing case for inclusion, AVB has taken to playing without an out and out ‘number 10’ preferring to rely on Paulinho and Holtby whose qualities are more to do with verve than inventiveness. That’s not to say they aren’t classy – they have caps for Brazil and Germany after all – but they are not likely to open up an obdurate ten-man defence by bamboozling them with the unexpected.
So Spurs don’t create chances through the middle - why can’t they make some from the flanks? Lennon and Townsend are lighting-quick and direct, but right now they are employed as ‘inverted wingers’ so they get on to their strongest feet by cutting inside which leaves them competing for space with the midfielders and tending to shoot. If they were to swap sides they’d be more likely to get to the byline and get crosses in but Soldado doesn’t look the type to clamber above centre halves and thunder headers into the back of the net. Andy Carroll he aint.
So Soldado is stymied. The creatives aren’t performing – they’re not even playing – and the wingers can’t put him in either. In fact, it’s hard not to feel sorry for him.
But despite all this - despite the fact that only five teams in the league have scored fewer goals than Spurs - the team sits pretty in a Champions League place looking down on both Manchester sides. Which leads you back to the familiar conclusion that Andre Villas Boas is actually over-achieving. Of the celebrated seven big summer signings only one was a defender. Assimilating a whole new attack and finding his best eleven was always going to take time but AVB has found a way of keeping Spurs up with the pace while this necessary process takes it’s course. And when it’s complete – when Eriksen and Lamela have started to spark and Soldado is banging away chances like he did for Valencia - the dividends could be handsome indeed.
@theodelaney is a writer and film director with @hotspur_argyle, a director of @fantasistaart and is presenting tonight’s @spursshow