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How Do You Solve A Problem Like Soldado?

Roberto Soldado has had a difficult start to his career at Tottenham. Yes, he has netted four goals in nine games, but it is well documented that three of those have been from the penalty spot (and expertly taken they’ve been too). From open play however, the Spanish striker has struggled to find space, struggled to get involved in build-up play, and struggled to be on the end of Tottenham’s attacking moves.

I don’t believe it to be his fault. It’s not that he hasn’t been trying, nor has he been particularly guilty of missing chances when they have come his way. I believe the problem is tactical – surprising given Andre Villas Boas’ reputation for tactical nous.

What it comes down to is that the Portuguese manager is a bugger for an inverted winger. This season he has generally played the left footed Andros Townsend on the right, cutting in. On the left, he’s played one of Chadli, Siggurdson or Lennon – all right footers, also cutting inside.

If you look at Soldado’s goals for Valencia, a large percentage came from crosses – especially when the team’s wingers got past or in behind the opposition full back. Spurs’ inverted wingers are constantly cutting inside looking for a shot or to bounce the ball off Soldado, the would-be target man. That this has worked once or twice doesn’t detract from the fact that holding the ball up is not the Spaniard’s game. He is the proverbial “fox in the box”. Meanwhile, a true target man – the polarizing Emmanuel Adebayor – can’t even get a game in the Capital One Cup.

It could be argued that Spurs’ wide-men moving inside creates space for the full-backs to bomb on and get crosses in, and that may be true. But anyone familiar with Kyle Walker’s final ball will know that the problem won’t end there. Ultimately, Andre Villas Boas’ system is set up to get the best out of Andros Townsend and Tottenham’s host of creative midfielders, and so far it’s been to the great detriment of Roberto Soldado.

To get the best out of their $26m striker, I think Spurs need to be a bit more traditional in their wing play. Townsend on the left and Lennon on the right would provide greater balance, and the two of them on their natural sides, beating the full-back to whip in crosses and cut-backs would see the team create far more chances not only for Soldado, but Paulinho too whose late runs into the box deserve better service.

Spurs have had a steady if slightly unconvincing start to their campaign. I get the sense that providing the right kind of ammunition for Roberto Soldado might just be the difference between another disappointing end to the season, and a top-four finish.

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3 replies »

  1. This is spot on. I can’t quite work out what was behind AVB’s summer dealings. We added some great depth to our squad, but I can’t help but feel that not enough thought went into what we brought in.

    This is AVB’s favourite formation. Surely he knows that it best suits a target man – someone who will hold up the ball, win aerial battles, set up others… this isn’t Soldado’s game at all. So why spuff £26m to bring him in?

    And while it may be a little early to pass judgment, Lamela doesn’t look like the best piece of business. A BBC update during the Everton game ominously reminded us that David Bentley (another Spurs record transfer, and right winger) is currently unemployed having been released by us on a free in the summer.

    Then we have a central midfield choice of Paulinho, Sandro, Capoue, Dembele, Eriksen, Sigurdsson, Holtby. But only Danny Rose at left back. No left-footed left wingers (classic Spurs – Jose Dominguez was a freak anomaly). No real pace brought into our front three. Not the right complements for Soldado.

    I believe in AVB’s “project”; the problem is, he doesn’t seem to properly understand what it needs.

    Everyone says that Spurs have never had a stronger team. I’m not sure.

    2011/12: Gomes, Walker, Dawson, King, Ekotto, Lennon, Modric, Parker, Bale, Van der Vaart, Defoe

    2013/14: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertongen, Rose, Townsend, Sandro, Paulinho, Sigurdsson, Holtby, Soldado

    • Hi David,

      You bring up some good points. I feel that last year AVB didn’t have the clearest attacking style of play either with Bale coming up with one rescue super goal after another. Now with Bale gone he tried to rebuild differently. I was watching Spurs vs everton and it just felt that there were too many similar players. When you have Erikson, Siggurdson, Chadli and Lamela all on the bench then you have definitely over bought as these are all proven-ish players. Also, i dont think AVB saw Townsend’s rise of form coming anytime soon. That took him by surprise and now it seems he is trying to make him the main man ala Bale.

      Alex’s points, as is yours, about how this style will not suit Soldado is correct as it requires a target man. It requires a Giroud. Soldado at Arsenal for example wouldve also failed miserably as all we need from our top guy is to link up play and we dont deliver that many crosses into the box. Same at Tottenham. Its all cutting in and soldado finds himself just crowding the space as the cutter ins are running into him and he just is trying to get out the way.

      Your next couple of games are tough. But they are against top quality opposition which means they will be attacking you. Spurs play best when teams attack them so they can go all out on the counter. So these next couple of “hard” games might suit your playing style. But then again soldado isnt a counter attacking type of guy. So we’ll see how it goes!

      Good luck! Atleast there’s solace in that you are still in touching distance to the top while not playing at your very best.

  2. Good points raised by both of you. I do think it’s ridiculous that there are five “wingers” competing for two spots, meanwhile Kyle Naughton is the only real reserve full back in the squad. The loss of Danny Rose has definitely hurt the side’s natural width down the left.

    David – I think those two line ups are fairly even, but there has been a definite improvement in the squad depth over the summer, despite the left back issue. For the last few years Spurs wouldn’t have been able to compete on multiple fronts (see Redknapp playing the kids in the Europa League/trying to get knocked out as soon as possible!), whereas now there are enough good players to handle it, and injuries won’t be as deadly to Spurs’ chances of success as in years past.

    Could it just be a case of all these new players needing more time to gel?

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