It is becoming a worrying trend and one that cannot have escaped the son of a chemical engineering professor.
For the third time this season, Andre Villas-Boas spent the first day of the international break coming to terms with another defeat in which his expensively assembled Tottenham side failed to score. Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Newcastle was also the sixth occasion in the past year Spurs have lost in the Premier League having played a match in the Europa League on a preceding Thursday.
Yet it was another statistic that was dominating discussions as the disgruntled home supporters filed away from White Hart Lane, with a return of just six goals from open play to show from their 11 Premier League matches so far.
That would be a meagre return by anyone’s standards, but for a team who spent the best part of £100m in the summer on new players, having sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for a world-record fee, it was no surprise that the club’s chairman, Daniel Levy, looked less than impressed at the final whistle.
A trip to face Manchester City at their Etihad stronghold awaits Tottenham a week on Sunday before Manchester United come to town a week later. Having had some leeway to allow the likes of Paulinho, Roberto Soldado, Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela time to settle in, Villas-Boas will know he is under increased scrutiny from now on.
“We are a relatively new side, we are a young side and we are still getting to know each other and learn each other’s games,” said Andros Townsend, one of the season’s few success stories despite admitting last week that he was one match away from being sent out on loan for a 10th time before his remarkable coming of age for club and country. “Goals will come, I’m sure of it – hopefully, sooner rather than later.”
In particular, Villas-Boas will be hoping that Soldado finds his scoring boots quickly after the £26m signing from Valencia was singled out for criticism by many fans. The 28-year-old has managed four Premier League goals so far –three from the penalty spot – although it is his general link-up play that has been most frustrating.
After Soldado began the Confederations Cup in the summer as Spain’s preferred option in attack, their coach Vicente del Bosque yesterday called up Fernando Llorente as a replacement for the injured Diego Costa rather than recall Soldado for the coming week’s friendlies against South Africa and Equatorial Guinea after his stuttering start to life in England.
Jermain Defoe is an able alternative for Tottenham but the purchase of Eriksen as a playmaker was designed to create a system which does not necessarily suit the England striker. With Emmanuel Adebayor yet to feature for a single minute this season, having been frozen out by his manager, Villas-Boas has the best part of a fortnight to come up with a Plan B.
Striker crisis: Spurs’ lack of goals
Tottenham have scored just nine goals in 11 Premier League games this season – only Sunderland and Crystal Palace have scored fewer in the top flight. Of those nine, just six were from open play – the other three came from penalties.
Last season Andre Villas-Boas’s side scored 18 in their first 11 matches, although failed to earn a penalty all season.