Barn doors everywhere have breathed a sigh of relief when Emmanuel Adebayor has taken the field this season. A mixture of injury, fitness problems, poor finishing and worse luck have transformed last season’s top scorer into this campaign’s misfiring bit part player.
His farcical, crossbar hitting miss from a yard out at Sunderland was compounded by several other sub-par efforts that, in his sharper 2011/12 form, would have nestled seamlessly in the back of the net. If ever a player needed a goal to bolster his flagging confidence it was Adebayor and, against an improving Reading side, the Togo striker delivered with a hanging header that evoked memories of Les Ferdinand in his pomp. “It was important for him to score today,” said Andre Villas-Boas afterwards with classic understatement.
But, while his goal return has been minimal, never underestimate Adebayor’s all-round contribution and the testing time his movement, physicality and rubber-legged skills give opposing defenders. His presence adds a natural balance to the team and invites others into play. He also one of just two strikers on Spurs’ books and one hopes that Adebayor will decide not to play in the African Cup of Nations, otherwise Louis Saha might be getting that call again.
For the second match in succession, Spurs triumphed after falling behind to clinch a staggering seventh victory in nine league games. Michael Dawson’s deft header cancelled out Pavel Pogrebnyak’s surprise early strike before Adebayor’s overdue goal nudged the home side ahead. Clint Dempsey’s looping, deflected strike sealed the points shortly after Reading had enjoyed their most promising spell of the game and tested Spurs fans’ ever-fragile nerves. A whopping thirty Tottenham shots at goal (twenty on target) indicate that this victory was more than merited.
Since Villas-Boas switched to a 4-4-2 formation against Swansea and accommodated two strikers, Spurs have looked more fluid. It’s the system where Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon have always flourished and, thanks to the tireless Sandro and forward drive of Dembele, this is Tottenham’s most well-balanced engine room for some years. In Sandro and Lennon, Spurs possess two of the most underrated players in the game and yet their contributions have been long appreciated at White Hart Lane. Sandro has a greater tackle than John Holmes and stamina to match whereas there are few more exhilarating sights than watching the whippet-like Lennon run at pace at defenders. Aaron is currently in the form of his life.
Like a pacifist gunslinger, Spurs don’t do draws. Teams like Everton and Stoke may be harder to beat and show greater defensive resolve, but Tottenham’s ‘win or lose' mentality is more rewarding on the eye and in the points column.
So a new year has dawned and Spurs have kicked off 2013, as they ended 2012, with another win. Emmanuel Adebayor is also back in the goals and smiling broadly again. Barn doors beware.
*** There will be no post-Coventry City blog as I will be at Camp Nou next weekend to watch Barcelona and Espanyol lock horns in the Catalan derby. Normal service will be resumed after the QPR game.