Defoe – Time to change

At the beginning of the season I wrote an article on how the modern game of football has passed Jermain Defoe by. My argument was that a player of his style and stature just isn’t cut out to lead the forward line as a lone striker. To a certain extent I was right, but he hasn’t been nearly as ineffective as I thought he might be.

Defoe – Time to change

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November 13th, 2012

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Andreas Villas-Boas is obviously better placed to make an assessment on Defoe’s ability than I – and he believes in the pocket dynamo. Defoe, well he’s repaid the faith shown in him by returning goals, and plenty of them. Eight in 16 games so far this season. After all that’s his job… to score goals.

But despite this he still isn’t convincing in the role we need him to play. There have been countless times this season, with only Defoe as a forward outlet, that our defenders have been forced to play out from the back rather than hitting it long with purpose when under pressure. It’s the prime argument against Defoe’s involvement in Villas-Boas’ formation.

Aside from Defoe’s size, which he can’t do much about, there is his selfish style of play. As soon as he gets the ball his first instinct is to hit the target. Running through his brain is “how do I get this ball in the net in the quickest way possible.”

Ironically, a striker’s first thought when he’s leading the line shouldn’t be about hitting the target. It’s about bringing the midfield into to play so that the defence of the opposition can be overloaded. Crouch did it perfectly when alone up front with Van der Vaart just behind him. As limited as a player as Crouchie was for Tottenham, he understood what his role was, and how to be effective in bringing the Dutchman into the game.

Fundamentally Defoe needs to become a more intelligent player, and rely less on his instincts. Luckily for Spurs and Defoe, professional footballers tend to do this as they get older. They lose their speed, they become less agile, and their reactions fade. They have to rely on their experience to keep up with the game and the young players around them. Defoe is 30. That’s about the age when a forward’s archetypal game, one that he has had to rely on for his entire career, begins to change. In order to keep his place in the Spurs eleven and prolong his top-flight career, Defoe will need to learn how to bring other players into the game. He will need to find vision and craft, to go along with his eye for goal and shooting abilities.

If he does so not only will the latter part of his career continue to be filled with the same accolades that the earlier part has already had showered upon it, but Tottenham Hotspur will have an altogether new type of player at their disposal.

If Defoe’s game doesn’t change then it’s only a matter of time before we see him benched and ultimately moved on. This would be a massive shame given the years he’s devoted to Tottenham Hotspur.

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