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Dealing With A Potential Striker Crisis

Jermain Defoe may be out for a couple months with an ankle injury. Where does that leave Tottenham Hotspur's strike force?

Shaun Botterill

Tottenham Hotspur fans' worst nightmare was realized over the weekend. Jermain Defoe went off injured in the first half against West Brom. There's been no official announcement yet about Defoe, but some sources are speculating that he could be out for up to two months. Fortunately, Emmanuel Adebayor's Togo side lost to Burkina Faso in the African Cup of Nations and Harry Kane was recalled from loan at Norwich.

This leaves Tottenham with two fit senior strikers, only one of which actually has a Premier League goal to his name. There is also Clint Dempsey who is basically the club's emergency striker. This certainly isn't a great position, particularly when the clubs you're competing with have some great striking options. Look at how Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez are doing at Liverpool. Demba Ba seems to be doing well at Chelsea. Olivier Giroud might be rediscovering his form from Montpellier. This is all kind of scary when you consider that none of our options are on form.

The transfer window is, of course, closed. So Tottenham's only options at this point are emergency loans or free agents. The available free agents don't exactly inspire any confidence. Names like Louis Saha, John Carew, Kris Boyd, and Amr Zaki aren't exactly going to strike fear into anyone's heart. Tottenham really aren't in a position to get an "emergency loan" approved. If I recall correctly those usually only go through for goalkeepers. I doubt the FA would care too much that Tottenham don't have enough fit strikers.

So, if we're not going to sign a striker and we're not going to have a fit Jermain Defoe, what are our options? Well, the obvious option and the one that will be employed most frequently is to simply insert Adebayor into Defoe's spot and keep going like nothing happened. That's fine and since Adebayor should be back in time for this weekend's Newcastle match there probably won't be much disruption to the Spurs squad.

What happens though if Adebayor gets hurt or if, god forbid, he make another stupid challenge and get suspended for 3 matches? Well, I suppose then we turn to Clint Dempsey or Harry Kane. Clint has scored a few good goals for Spurs this season, but I don't think any of them have come while he's playing as a striker. Kane's only goal came against Shamrock Rovers, so I'm not expecting him to score any big goals for Spurs either. Similarly, Jon Obika and the rest of the youth strikers can't be counted on to contribute anything meaningful to the squad.

We've often thrown out the potential of a 4-6-0 lineup, but might that be a good option for times when Adebayor struggles or if he gets injured/suspended? I think it's certainly feasible. There are several different ways that Tottenham could play it. Here are some that I think would work best.

football formations

In all honesty, this formation isn't all that different from what we saw in the second half against West Brom. In terms of shape it is exactly the same. The difference here is that Holtby would technically be a midfield player, as opposed to operating in the hole. Dempsey would play as a false nine instead of a poacher or more advanced forward that he usually acts as. In truth, Dempsey may not be ideally suited for this role. It's probably a role that Kane would be more effective in, but Dempsey's experience and goalscoring record win out for me.

For those unfamiliar with the false nine and it's difference between the role Dempsey played at the weekend I'll offer a quick explanation. Typically, Dempsey plays on the shoulder of the last defender, looking to latch onto through balls or crosses. In this formation, Dempsey would be asked to drop deep into midfield to receive the ball. This creates problems for opposing centerbacks who have to make the decision to follow him into midfield, thereby opening up spaces for other midfielders and wingers to run in behind, or to let him go and give him time and space to operate on the ball.

football formations

This lineup is considerably more defensive, but with fixtures at Chelsea and at Liverpool (not to mention home matches against Manchester City and Arsenal) a more defensive approach may be necessary. This formation plays very similar to the 4-6-0 that Harry Redknapp used against Spurs. Unfortunately, Spurs don't have a Stephane Mbia to absolutely destroy people in the middle of the park. However, an active pressing midfield of Parker, Livermore, and Dembele would certainly be a handful for most teams to deal with. Again, Dempsey occupies the false nine position. Most of the offense in this position would come through the pace of the wings, which really isn't different than anything Tottenham normally do.

Obviously, as long as Adebayor is healthy and not suspended Spurs will give him every opportunity to score goals. That would make these formations pointless, but in the event something bad happens, these two formations are probably our best options. Do you have any other unique solutions to a potential striking problem?

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