Tottenham 2 Stoke City 2: Spurs must add to Jordan Njie to ease burden on Harry Kane

Tottenham 2 Stoke City 2

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It has become something of a dilemma for managers of all those teams now playing the fashionable 4-2-3-1 formation, or any variation using only one main striker: how many top-class centre-forwards can one squad carry?

Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho has always insisted three is the optimum number. Liverpool currently have more, Manchester City and Arsenal fewer. Manchester United had four before selling Robin van Persie.

Retaining the right number and keeping them happy – even on vast salaries – is the problem. Tottenham have clearly not resolved it, allowing Roberto Soldado to move and leaving Emmanuel Adebayor in limbo before finding replacements.

Supporters worried about what would happen when Harry Kane was unfit had their answer in Saturday’s  2-2 draw with Stoke City. Once the England striker was taken off, with almost half an hour to play, Spurs used Nacer Chadli as a target man with the ineffective Erik Lamela out wide.

Kane had just been denied a mathematically neat 25th goal on his 50th Premier League appearance by Jack Butland that would have meant a 3-0 lead. But with nobody to hold the ball up for the home side, Stoke were able to build on their increasing self-belief and two excellent substitutions, Joselu and Stephen Ireland, brought about the goals that earned a deserved draw.

 

Although Kane appeared to put some ice on his ankle, manager Mauricio Pochettino made no mention of an injury, only that he was behind everyone else in match fitness after playing for England’s Under-21s until mid-June.

On Saturday morning, Tottenham announced the signing of Clinton Njie, a 22-year-old Cameroon international from Lyon, who comes recommended by former club-mate Hugo Lloris but is not regarded as a No 9 and admits: “I’m still learning”.

Pochettino therefore suggested another new striker was still required. A Saido Berahino or Charlie Austin would go down well, although either would have to be prepared to take their turn in the dug-out once Kane was fully fit.

Asked why Soldado had gone, leaving resources so thin, the manager said: “It was a club decision. The player wanted to leave. On the first day of pre-season we knew that he wanted to leave and we found the best solution for him and for the club. Harry Kane was tired today but we scored two goals and I think that was enough to win the game. We conceded two goals and I think my concern is to improve our defensive situation, not offensive.”

He will need to do both, judging from the way Stoke recovered. As Ireland said: “If the game had continued for another five minutes I believe we would have got a third and gone on to win.”

Match of the Day showed his unsuccessful late header but Mame Biram Diouf was closer to a winner with his fifth scoring chance of the afternoon, the previous one of which had been glanced in for the equaliser from Ireland’s cross.

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