Last season, Tottenham’s main problem was the distinct lack of a striker that could hit the back of the net on a regular basis. Granted, Rafael Van der Vaart helped the club through a dry spell, finishing with 13 league goals that helped Spurs to a 5th placed finish. But, it could easily have been higher had the man leading the front-line been more prolific.
Jermain Defoe, with the Dutchman behind him, failed to achieve the high standards of seasons past without a ‘big man’ alongside him while Peter Crouch, as good as his knock-downs were for Van der Vaart, never found his goalscoring boots with Spurs while the less said about Robbie Keane, the better.
Yet, it was Roman Pavlyuchenko who, out of the quartet available to Harry Redknapp, finished the season with best goals-to-game ratio despite never really being given a chance to shine under the current Spurs manager. Today, Redknapp has admitted he wants to keep the Russian at White Hart Lane but, if a suitable offer comes in for both club and player, he won’t stand in the way of the 29-year-old should be want to leave.
But is the former Portsmouth boss right to want to keep Pavlyuchenko? Currently fourth in the pecking order behind Emmanuel Adebayor, Defoe and Van der Vaart, he has found his first-team opportunities limited to cup appearances, with four to his name this season. Three Europa League matches and one Carling Cup game, including extra-time and penalties, has seen the striker hit the back of the net just once before tonights fixture with Rubin Kazan.
Many believe his penalty miss during the Carling Cup defeat to Stoke City has summed up his season thus far and his lazy, luck lustre approach may have failed to see Spurs into the next round while compounding Redknapp’s side to back-to-back third round exits in the competition. The front-man appears to have almost given up on his Spurs career after a number of less than impressive outings, despite being given ample chances to prove his worth.
His goal tonight against Rubin Kazan, a 33rd minute strike which turned out to be the winner sending Spurs top of their Europa League group, would certainly have gone a long way to appeasing Redknapp, who is willing to keep him at White Hart Lane. But, the goals don’t come consistent enough and despite starting five games this season, Pavlyuchenko has only mustered two goals against tonight’s Russian opponents and Irish champions Shamrock Rovers, both of which are, arguably, lesser opponents for Spurs.
With that in mind, he never really looked as threatening as a striker should be against Hearts, PAOK and Stoke and his performances were ones that will be forgotten in a hurry. When he arrived in 2008, many were expecting big things from Pavlyuchenko and he has shown glimpses of his ability during his three-year stint White Hart Lane but, as Redknapp said on him earlier today, the performances haven’t been consistent enough which is something that is lacking from his game; one fixture he looks like a world beater, the next a confused player who hasn’t adjusted to his new surroundings.
With the Leandro Damiao links still doing the rounds, many are hoping the commercial relationship between both Spurs and Internacional can come to fruition again but with a number of Europe’s heavyweights fixing their watchful eye on the Brazilian, the North London side have to hope that the same relationship that helped bring Sandro to Spurs will work again in January.
And with the club being linked with a host of strikers around Europe, coupled with the form of Adebayor, Defoe and Van der Vaart, it may be time to cash in on the striker, who never really got his Spurs career on track and use the money gained to spend elsewhere.