Andre Villas-Boas believes that Roberto Soldado, Tottenham’s record signing, could provide the cutting edge the club have been missing, after the Spaniard marked his Premier League debut with the winner against Crystal Palace.
The £26m purchase from Valencia was calmness personified as he sent Julian Speroni the wrong way from the penalty spot and was generally impressive throughout. With Gareth Bale’s future unlikely to be unresolved until the end of the transfer window, Tottenham fielded four debutants, including Paulinho, Nacer Chadli and the second-half substitute Etienne Capoue.
All played their part in seeing off a spirited Palace but it was Soldado who caught the eye, and Villas-Boas expects the 28-year-old to reach at least the 20-goal mark in his debut season. “Of course, I think so. His career speaks for [itself],” he said.
“To see him so confidently step up and put it to the same side as against Espanyol [in a pre-season friendly] was important for us. It’s good to see him creating some chances out there. Most of these players arrived at a later stage – particularly Paulinho and Soldado, who had only two or three weeks with us. We can only sit and develop towards the future. Bearing in mind that for all them the Premier League is a different proposition to the leagues that they have played in terms of intensity and passion for the game, I think they did extremely well.”
A furious Palace manager, Ian Holloway, took more than an hour to emerge after the match, having made a beeline to speak to referee Mark Clattenburg. He claimed that there had been a foul in the build-up to the penalty and argued that Dean Moxey should not have been penalised for the handball from Aaron Lennon’s cross. “Was it deliberate? I don’t think he had a chance of getting his arms out of the way. I’d better learn quickly what a foul is in this league,” he said. “It’s going to be a long hard season for me with these people [referees]. I had this with Blackpool. Certain clubs get fouls and others don’t. Tottenham will feel that if they play Manchester United.
“Do I think I would have got that at Tottenham? No I don’t. I just want a bit of fairness. I want a foul like anyone else would have got one. I’ve got a horrible taste in my mouth after that. The lads were starting to believe in themselves but then in the end we had to change it because they scored. We had to go a little bit more gung-ho and we caused them some problems.”
Villas-Boas confirmed that Bale would definitely miss Tottenham’s next two matches against Dynamo Tbilisi and Swansea City with a foot injury, having played just once in pre-season. His departure to Real Madrid for a world record fee could mean the arrival of more new faces before the 2 September transfer deadline, although for now the Portuguese manager is still weighing up whether to strengthen his defence, having sold Steven Caulker to Cardiff.
“At the moment we don’t have lots of options in defence,” he said. “We might still [make a signing] but we haven’t decided yet.”