Michael: Today's rumors have Tottenham Hotspur linked with continental strikers, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar of Schalke and Wissam Ben Yedder of Toulouse. Earlier this week Saido Berahino was the man supposedly in Spurs' sight. However you rate those particular players, it does appear that Daniel Levy and Franco Baldini are considering adding a forward in the January transfer window.
I think this is good news, broadly speaking. You're skeptical. Why aren't you happy about this news?
Ben: Between Soldado last season and Adebayor this season, our starting striker has not been of the caliber required to lead Spurs into the top four. I think we can all agree that something needs to change up top. But it's possible that we already have the answer in our squad. Harry Kane continues to look excellent for club and country, and he's earned his chance to start. With Adebayor and Soldado in patchy form, this is the time to take a chance on Kane and see if he can be the real deal. But any striker we sign (with the possible exception of 31-year-old Huntelaar), will necessarily push Kane down the pecking order. If we at all believe that Harry Kane has the potential for greatness, this cannot be allowed to happen.
Michael: So, this is an important point of agreement. We both love Harry Kane. He's the evolutionary Teddy Sheringham. Last year in limited minutes, Kane's expected scoring contribution (expected goals plus expected assists) was inferior on a per-minute basis only to Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez. This season in again limited minutes, Kane has scored or assisted a goal every 90 minutes. There's nothing more that Kane could do to deserve a starting position at this point.
But if Kane deserves to be a starting striker, does that mean we have a good striking corps? I don't think so. Emmanuel Adebayor has been very disappointing this year. He's scored just the one goal. His rate of expected goals per 90 minutes (0.23) is in the same range as guys like Peter Crouch, Charlie Austin and Fraizier Campbell. And it's not like Adebayor is doing all the little things that aren't counted in the stats, either. He's getting old, and I'm getting about ready to give up on him. Roberto Soldado, as much as I want the guy to succeed, has turned in performances ranging from blah to poor in his Cup striker run. Our striker position is a problem even with Kane, and I want to see an upgrade.
Ben: I don't think we have a good striking corps either, but Mauricio Pochettino seems to disagree. Upgrading our stable of strikers doesn't happen in a vacuum, and we have to look at any purchase in the context of Pochettino's decisions this season. For all that you and I can agree that Harry Kane is starting striker material, he still keeps not starting.
Meanwhile, Pochettino has started Adebayor in every league match this season. He's clearly first choice right now. So any striker we buy is probably not coming in to replace Adebayor to play backup to Harry Kane. Kane, much as we dislike it, is the backup. And there hasn't been any indication of that changing any time soon. If Spurs bring in a new striker in January, that inevitably pushes Kane down the pecking order.
If we seriously believe that Harry Kane has the potential to be great (even if he doesn't end up being quite as good as Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez), now is the time to give him the job. Bringing in a striker like Berahino or Ben Yedder means Harry Kane won't get his shot, and that would be terrible.
Michael: I agree that Kane deserves regular starts in the league at this point. But I honestly think that Adebayor is currently playing himself out of the job. A striker with just one goal in seven league matches must be walking on thin ice, whatever the manager is telling the press. I would like Pochettino to be quicker on the trigger, but I think that unless Adebayor makes some major improvements in his play and soon, he is not long for this position.
Back when Jan Vertonghen had that odd two-match run as a Cup starter, a lot of us got worried that Poche didn't recognize talent. But now Jan's back in his correct place atop the defensive pecking order, and while I don't have a great explanation for why he missed the West Brom match, the long-term arc bends toward sense. So I still think that the striker who's played by far the best football this season for Spurs should be on track to start over the two who decidedly haven't.
And if that's the case, if Kane is heading for starts, I'd like to see another quality young goal-scorer added to the roster in January to complement our squad. Neither Soldado nor Adebayor is likely part of the future at Spurs, and indeed neither has shown much value in the present. Both Kane and a potential Ben Yedder could be useful right now and stars very soon.
Ben: Adebayor's started all seven league games so far, and after arguably his best performance of the season last week against Southampton and Man City on the horizon, I imagine Adebayor's bought himself some more time in the job. And if we're honest, I don't know that he ever deserved the job in the first place. Soldado and Kane both had better preseasons than Adebayor, and yet he still got the starting spot when the season began. But he still keeps starting.
I won't pretend I know Pochettino's plans for Adebayor's future, maybe he'll find himself on the bench sooner rather than later, but I don't see any scenario where Spurs buy Berahino or Ben Yedder that is good for the future of Harry Kane. If we're going to give Kane regular starts, buying a guy like Huntelaar makes sense. He's 31, on the downswing in his career, and probably more than happy to pick up one last paycheck and play in the Premier League. He'll have no expectations to start every week, and should be happy battling it out with Adebayor for backup minutes.
But Berahino or Ben Yedder? Those guys are both young and entering the prime of their careers. Berahino's starting every week in the Premier League, and Ben Yedder's scored over 30 goals in the past two season in France. It's hard to imagine either of them happy to play back up to a guy with less experience. If they're coming, they're coming to start ahead of Harry. And while they're both good players, neither one is so good that it's worth marginalizing Kane if we really think he can be something special.
Michael: I think we're basically in agreement on what Poche should do. Unless Adebayor improves significantly, he should not be starting league matches. If Ade is still starting in December without a major uptick in his play and production, I'll be right there with you criticizing Pochettino's choices. But I'm willing to wait and see. If Kane is getting regular starts in the league, I think there will be room for either a rental like Huntelaar or a future star like Berahino or Ben Yedder, especially as both of the latter could more easily partner with Kane and play from wide.
If on the other hand Poche sticks with Adebayor and buries Kane in the Cup team, that would be bad. Spending on a striker without even giving Kane a shot would be a bad move. But I am willing to wait and see what the situation is in January.
Ben: Let's not forget we also have Roberto Soldado. Although he wasn't good last year and he hasn't been great in his limited Cup appearances this season, buying a new striker probably means giving up on him too. We're potentially quitting on Soldado and Kane before giving either of them a real first team run with Eriksen and Lamela supplying them.
Yes, it's kneejerk to make these kinds of assumptions when we've still got a lot of football to play before January. A lot can still change between now and then, and a new striker signing could mean something totally different than my worst fears are projecting. But given that these rumors are coming out now, while we continue to run Adebayor out as our number 9 every week, I can't help but worry about what this might mean. We've got a potential 20 goal a season record signing and the second coming of Teddy Sheringham. The idea that we're looking at replacing both of them without Pochettino even giving them a chance makes me sad and afraid.