Striker light! We find ourselves in the same place again. Confused and blinking, like an alcoholic turning away from the first rays of sunlight. Keira Knightley has more up front than Tottenham.
Spurs’ long-running allergy to strikers proved costly once more as, from a position of apparent security, a mish-mash team imploded in the last 10 minutes and crashed out of the Capital One Cup conceding two late goals to an unambitious Norwich side. A late penalty miss was extra salt in the wound with competent spot-kick takers Rafael van der Vaart and Emmanual Adebayor since sold and injured. Today Rafa’s face peered knowingly from the November page of the official calendar.
A prospective home draw against Aston Villa made the elimination more galling, especially with only Chelsea and Arsenal remaining of the more fancied sides in the quarter-final line-up. A realistic shot at silverware has been needlessly squandered.
Jermain Defoe, the only fit striker on Spurs’ books, was perhaps understandably wrapped up in cotton wool for the trip to Carrow Road. No recognised striker played until Defoe’s belated introduction on 90 minutes. With Adebayor still frustratingly crocked and already planning his travel to the African Nation Cup, the sheer farce of a Tottenham squad with a solitary striker has reared its head. Can someone contact Louis Saha on BBM?
Yet Tottenham bizarrely boast four goalkeepers (three over thirty - 31, 39 and 41) in their basic 25-man list; the squad is unbalanced, like an elephant and an ant on a see-saw (apologies to legendary hip hop lyricist 'the Gza'). At the start of the season, Andre Villas-Boas defended 'his' decision to have a trio of strikers, championing rookie Harry Kane as the third frontman. Spurs fans breathed a collective sigh of relief. We’re okay with three strikers. Phew.
Wait a minute! ‘Clipboard Chris’ suddenly waves some late cash and a bag of Werther’s Originals in the direction of N17 and Kane is dispatched to Norwich on a season long loan with no hint of a replacement. Kerching! The deadline day signing of Clinton Dempsey was some appeasement. But, as we’ve already seen this season, the US international is a forward-thinking midfielder rather than a striker who can lead the line. Oddly, no-one from the youth ranks has been promoted to take Kane’s place on the bench.
The reliance on solitary fit striker Defoe and the world class runs and finishing of Gareth Bale is a concern. In the continued absence of Adebayor, you look at the team and wonder, ‘Who will score the goals?’ The Norwich and Southampton games have illustrated, somewhat alarmingly, that Spurs are too often toothless in the final third and unable to make long periods of possession count.
There is always an upside, however. Teams who reach the League Cup Final have a tendency to peak too soon and unravel in the final months of the season. Spurs’ post-2008 Carling Cup winning form was an unmitigated disaster whereas 2011 winners Birmingham were subsequently relegated and last year’s finalists Liverpool and Cardiff fell away alarmingly in the home stretch.
Late cup elimination is hard to swallow, especially for those die-hards who travelled midweek to East Anglia, but nothing three points and a performance against Wigan won’t heal, striker or not.