The summer transfer window in July saw Andre Villas-Boas break the bank for former Valencia forward Roberto Soldado, paying 26 million pounds for the Spanish striker’s services.
Fast-forward to November however, and the forward has scored just four times in nine Premier League starts and just one of those came from open play.
While it is fair to suggest that a fair few of Tottenham’s contingent of summer signings have struggled to adapt to the rigours of the English game, a return of just one league goal in nine matches is hardly what Spurs would have expected from a man who scored 24 goals in the La Liga last season.
His current goal-per-game ratio of 1:9 would see the Spurs number nine finish the season with just four goals from open play, which would definitely not suffice to carry Spurs to a top-four finish.
Soldado’s arrival at the White Hart Lane saw one Jermain Defoe get relegated to the second string, and AVB has clearly indicated that Soldado is his ahead of Defoe in the pecking order.
This begs the question; has Roberto Soldado done enough to keep Jermain Defoe out of the starting XI?
Defoe is a striker that needs no introduction to Premier League fans, a direct, goal-oriented and battle-hardened striker who has made a name for himself terrorising opposition defences since his days at West Ham United back in 1999.
He has 47 league goals in 92 appearances for his current club Spurs, and has nine goals (all bar one coming from open play) in the Capital One Cup and Europa League matches that he has started so far this campaign.
In fact, with Jermaine Defoe starting all of Spurs’ Europa League ties, the side have scored nine goals in four games. Tottenham also have nine goals in the domestic league, but have taken 10 games to get there (and Soldado has started nine of these). His penalty in Thursday night’s 2-1 victory over Sheriff meant that the England forward overtook club legend Martin Chivers as the club’s leading goal-scorer in Europe with 23 goals.
The manner in which these two players involve themselves in the game also differs. Statistically speaking, Defoe attempts an average of 3.7 shots and 25.7 passes per game (in the Europa League), while Soldado makes 2.1 attempts on goal and 21 passes per game (in the league). Defoe is naturally more of a ball-carrier as compared to Soldado, and he spends less time in and around the box as well.
He will drop to either flank time and again to add fluidity to his play and allow for rotation between himself and the midfield players, something which is a bit of a rarity with his Spanish counterpart. All this builds a good case for Defoe then, but one factor sets Soldado worlds apart from him and that is chance conversion.
Spain’s no. 9 came to England with a burgeoning reputation of his clinical finishing, and with these statistics it is easy to see why. Here is a statistical comparison courtesy of WhoScored between Roberto Soldado (in La Liga) and Jermain Defoe (in the Premier League) last season:
Looking at those figures, one will understand why Soldado plays the way he does. While Defoe has no qualms rotating his positional play during the game, Soldado would much rather play on the shoulder of the last defender, play “one-twos” with his midfield and get himself in a position to score.
He always looks to his midfield to create the chances for him to tuck away in the penalty area, because he doesn’t like to shoot from distance either. Interesting to note is that of his 24 La Liga goals last season, none came from outside the box.
This just underlines how reliant he is on the players around him creating enough goal-scoring opportunities for him to score. The onus then falls, not on Soldado himself, but manager Andre Villas-Boas to find the right dynamic for the team and the right players for his main man to thrive.
Simply put, if Spurs create more chances, then Soldado will score more goals. The team has to play to his strengths to ensure he is regularly on the score-sheet. Until then, maybe AVB should stick to Jermain Defoe who is able to create more for himself.
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