Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe and Roberto Soldado: key differences being exposed 9

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There was a moment during today’s game between Aston Villa and Tottenham which vividly illustrated why Roberto Soldado is a preferable option to Jermain Defoe at the top of Spurs’ formation.

Defoe came on towards the end of the game, once the points were won, and was in possession as the visitors counter-attacked with a numerical advantage. The forward carried the ball over the half-way line as Paulinho streaked beyond him and into space - but Defoe over-hit the pass.

It wasn’t a big deal within the context of the fixture, but there wouldn’t have been a Spurs fan watching who didn’t respond by thinking “Soldado would have made that” - and they would have been right.

When we talk about forwards being able to ‘link the play’, that’s quite non-specific, and it’s essentially an umbrella term for anything a player does to avoid losing possession. Generally, we associate that quality with big, powerful forwards, but being physically imposing isn’t a prerequisite to being able to play as a single forward.

Arguably, while size may be useful, vision, intelligence, and technique are more so - and that’s really what separates Soldado from Defoe.

We’ve always excused Defoe’s ineffectiveness when he plays on his own on the basis that he’s 5ft7, but that’s probably a free-pass that he doesn’t deserve - it’s his football IQ which lets him down when he’s in isolation and not his height.

When you watch Soldado play, you notice a culture and intelligence that isn’t there with Defoe - and the Spaniard is only 5ft10. The little touches to the flanks, the runs he makes which create space for attacking-midfielders, and the selfless way in which he plays the game: that’s the difference between the two, and that’s ultimately what Spurs lose when he doesn’t play.

I like Jermain Defoe, as a person and as a player, but his unwillingness to accept that there is more to being a forward than just scoring goals is incredibly frustrating.

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