The lone striker role has been adapting in the Premiership rapidly of late. Instead of the tall hold up man, there are plenty of smaller, technically skilled players being used to help move the ball around and build up play.
Jermain Defoe does not quite fit in either of those roles, he is not quite strong enough and not quite adept enough at passing. Instead his role at Spurs, particularly in away games, is to stretch back lines through his pace and movement around and behind the defence, and snaffle any half chance he gets to score. This has been effective so far this season, but there are still frustrations with Defoe that he will need to address if he is to remain first choice ahead of Adebayor, who had such a successful season last year.
At home Defoe's role is much less effective, especially against teams that are expected to lose at White Hart Lane. Defences sit deeper, midfielders also protect their back four more. Defoe is not given space, in fact the whole Spurs side has less chance to counter attack as teams don't commit so many people forward.
In this situation Defoe can become an albatross around the neck of Spurs' build up play. Whilst he is stronger than most give him credit for, his passing ability isn’t the best.
At times it has appeared like Spurs simply cannot play a pass to the point of their formation, with their attacking midfielders needing to turn and play the ball backwards rather than play it into Defoe, who will struggle to get the ball back to them under pressure.
This was somewhat addressed by moving Dempsey behind Defoe in the second half against QPR, giving the defence another man to think about. Dempsey is also a better link up player, and may be crucial in allowing Defoe to play in his best role when Spurs are at home. Here he has to be to constantly moving defenders around, creating space for Spurs' array of attacking midfielders, and allowing a more patient build up play, rather than the rapid counter-attacking moves Spurs can utilise away from home.
When playing away, Defoe's role is clearer - get on the end of counter attacks and take a shot. But not always, never looking for a pass can still be detrimental to the team. Strikers have to be selfish, so we are often told, it's that attribute that gets them the goals that help their team. However sometimes Defoe takes this way too far, ignoring teammates in far better positions to fire a shot into the defender right in front of him.
Also, at Old Trafford, when Spurs where clinging onto their lead Defoe wasted possession twice by taking a couple of ambitious pot shots that ceded possession, when his team would have been far better served by him holding on to the ball.
I'm not always Defoe's biggest fan, but his form this season has made me re-assess him to the point where he should be the preferred choice of starting striker in both home and away matches.
I like that Villas-Boas has backed him, rather than dropping him as soon as another striker was available, something that has happened to Defoe too many times in the past at Spurs.
This may have made him even more concerned with getting off shots than he was in the past, fearing that only a goal will make him undroppable. This isn't the case, Defoe has been dropped before as managers believed he can only score goals, and offers nothing else.
If he can rein in his selfish streak slightly and realise what else he is capable of offering the team, he can be one of the most important players for Spurs this year, and may even end up with plenty of assists to go with his goals.
image: © OliverN5