Stick or Twist? The Striking Situation At Tottenham

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The Premier League season gets underway on the 11th August, with the transfer window closing at the earlier date of the 9th August, meaning there will be no final day of August drama for Daniel Levy and co as all business will have to be done and dusted before the season starts. So, who will the Tottenham strike-force consist of come the 11th August?

Harry Kane’s contract guarantees the fact that he will lead the forward line as first choice striker for Spurs next term. His £200,000-per-week contract surprised many as the former wage structure was torn up in the process. Kane’s 41 goals in 48 appearances last term proved crucial in guiding Tottenham to a top four finish for the third consecutive season. If we can be sure of one thing for next season, it is that Harry Kane will be first choice striker for Mauricio Pochettino.

All good strikers need effective and efficient backup. Or at least you would think so anyway. The backup provided for Kane has been below par in the past couple of seasons to say the least, and surely it is an area of the squad that needs urgent attention. With two other strikers on the books at the moment, shall Spurs stick or twist going into next season?

Vincent Janssen was brought in as a young and hungry alternative option to Kane, and the signing on paper looked to be an impressive one for £17m from AZ Alkmaar. The Dutchman had fired in an impressive 31 goals in all competitions spread over 49 appearances for AZ and some of those were sublime. As we quickly learned, Janssen’s game is centred around holding the ball up, bringing others into play. His debut came in the opening day 1-1 draw at Everton, where he saw his effort from just a few yards out saved on the line, my feeling is that his confidence took its first big hit at this moment.

Mauricio Pochettino was feeling experimental against Crystal Palace. He played both Kane and Janssen up top in the 1-0 win. Not the perfect partnership judging by those 90 minutes, but it had potential. Janssen’s opportunity to impress came when Kane was injured in mid-September, and the striker led the line for the next few weeks. Despite getting involved heavily in the build-up play, Janssen struggled to find the back of the net and this dry spell continued for the whole season as his confidence took a severe hit over this period. The 24-year-old netted just once from open play in the Premier League and once from open play in the FA Cup against Millwall.

Omission from the 2017-18 Champions League squad seemed to signal the end for Janssen, but a loan move to Fenerbache last September appeared to be one final chance to impress with the potential to revive his Premier League career. However, his season in the Turkish league has been nothing more than average. 17 appearances in all competitions has yielded just five goals for Janssen in what has been an injury hit season. Although he is a favourite of mine and there is nothing more I would like to see than him succeed at Tottenham, it looks more likely than ever that Janssen will be moved on this summer.

That leaves us with last summer’s striking signing Fernando Llorente, who has failed to make the desired impact in North London since arriving from Swansea. Best known for his headed goals and role as a target man, the signing seemed a little puzzling when I looked past his impressive goalscoring record in the Premier League.

Llorente has mainly been used from the bench this season, mostly when the team has been locked in a stalemate or when the team have been chasing the game going into the final minutes. I fully support the idea of throwing on a target man when chasing the game, but if you are going to do it, at least play the man’s strengths! Otherwise, it is simply a wasted substitution. Quite a few times this season, Llorente has been thrown on with minutes to go and we simply haven’t delivered decent quality balls into the box. This is partly why I feel sorry for Llorente, as Spurs simply do not play to his strengths.

As with Janssen, the partnership with Kane was experimented with at one of the toughest places to visit in Europe, the Bernabéu. It proved to be effective as Kane and Llorente linked up well, with Llorente winning all of the knockdowns and first balls as Kane played just behind to benefit from the knockdowns. A 1-1 draw and a point was earned with the potential for this partnership to be developed.

However, as the season has drawn on, the more and more Kane and Llorente play together, the more and more they seem to get in each other’s way, the understanding doesn’t seem to be there. Playing up front on his own hasn’t been much more effective for Llorente. Scoring in a 2-0 away win at his former club Swansea proved to be the Spaniard’s only Premier League goal of the season and a hat-trick against Rochdale in the FA Cup is something Llorente hasn’t been able to build on thus far. Does Llorente have a future at Spurs? I would argue no. He has failed to strike a good partnership with Harry Kane and doesn’t have the desired impact playing up front on his own, with just five goals in all competitions last season.

In answer to the original question, to stick or to twist, I would argue that Spurs should have one last role of the dice in terms of signing a new striker. Ante Rebic, who can play both out on the left and as a striker, has been a name thrown around by Spurs fans following his performances for Croatia at the World Cup, would he be a realistic target?