In a week that saw Spurs’ new stadium plans predictably challenged yet again, the bad news kept on coming when it was announced that Roberto Soldado is a major doubt for Saturday’s clash against Sunderland, following neck and back injuries picked up in our abysmal encounter against Liverpool.
I’m acutely aware that his spell at Spurs has been nothing short of abysmal so far, and there’s an argument to be made that he’s a Sergei Rebrov for the noughties.
However, there’s a simple reason for this, and one that if corrected, I believe could honestly see Soldado come into a class of his own.
It’s this: he’s never been a lone wolf and his success for Valencia wasn’t an individual effort. Instead, he flourished in an environment where he could team up with playmakers who could feed him opportunities, he just had to be in the right place at the right time.
This goal from against Valencia in 2011 typifies this, although there’s countless other examples too.
It’s interesting then, that Soldado’s old strike partner, Jonas, could be on his way to the Lane. It’s a move that could finally see Soldado justify the £26 million club record that we paid for him.
Back to Saturday though, and it’s a trip to the home of the Mackems where the focus, inevitably, will be on the debuts of recent signings Benjamin Stambouli and Federico Fazio.
Stambouli, particularly, has been widely touted as being brought in to fill a distinctly Morgan Schneiderlin-shaped gap, and is an exciting prospect in this role. Firstly, he made more tackles than any other player at Montpellier last season and was known for short, precise passing. In a nutshell, he’s already been playing the kind of football that Spurs are traditionally known for.
It’ll be interesting to see the impact that Christian Eriksen will have on the game, too. Undoubtedly the brightest star in Tottenham’s strike force last season, the Dane has had a remarkably quiet start to the season, but having admitted that he wasn’t up to standard on international duty against Armenia this week, we’ll be hoping that he’s back to his best.
In terms of the opposition, Sunderland’s home record against Spurs speaks volumes, having lost all four of the previous encounters. However, they’ve certainly improved under Gus Poyet and have done well to bring in Ricky Alvarez from Inter Milan on a season long loan.
Despite the fact that Sunderland haven’t won a single game yet, Spurs can’t afford to indulge in complacency. Mauricio Pochettino recently remarked that his team need to “learn lessons” after their humbling at Anfield, and he’s not wrong. Whilst Jan Vertonghen is renowned for his strength and imposing style of play, he failed against Liverpool in his inability to deal with the speed of Daniel Sturridge.
In tomorrow’s game, Connor Wickham leads Sunderland’s strike force. It’s unlikely that he’ll prove too problematic for Spurs, but he’s a highly rated prospect and is still young. He’s exactly the kind of player that’ll be the undoing of Spurs, should we slip into that state of aforementioned complacency.
If we’re mentioning youth, however, Spurs have the upper hand in the form of Eric Dier. He’s the boy that’s seemingly come from nowhere and set himself out as one of Spurs’ most exciting prospects. Part English, part Portuguese, and all brilliant.
We’d be reluctant to call this as an ‘easy’ tie, Spurs don’t do things by halves, and whilst we’ve got a team that should, on paper, have no problem in dealing with Sunderland, it’s really not that simple. Sure, the black cats might’ve not won a game yet, but they’ve had some extremely convincing draws against the likes of West Brom and Man United. Could Spurs be a third name on that list?