BARCELONA SPAIN - FEBRUARY 20: Fernando Llorente (L) of Athletic Bilbao is fouled in the penalty area by Sergio Busquets of Barcelona during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou stadium on February 20 2011 in Barcelona Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Over the last few years Tottenham Hotspur have been working with a pretty diverse group of strikers. Their talents are varied enough that manager Harry Redknapp can deploy them in a number of different partnerships. Jermain Defoe is a goal poacher. A classic fox in the box, if you will. Peter Crouch is obviously a target man. Roman Pavlyuchenko is more rounded than both Crouch and Defoe, he's big enough to win some headers, but doesn't really hold the ball up well, his best role is as an advanced forward in a partnership with a deep-lying forward or a target man. Robbie Keane, when he was good. Was excellent at coming deep to get the ball, but could also play as a poacher.
The problem is that most of these players lack a certain something. And that something is the magic ingredient for a striker: work rate. On his day Keane was usually one of the hardest workers on the pitch and that work rate carried him to 121 career goals for the Club. Peter Crouch has a high work rate and "good touch for a big man", but he is not, nor will he ever be an elite striker.
Consider this for a moment, perhaps the best striker in the Premier League the past two seasons has been Carlos Tevez. The Argentine is dogged in his work on the pitch. He drops deep to receive the ball, moves into channels, and always puts in a full shift. Something Tottenham players, I'm looking at you Pav, could all learn from.I know what you're thinking. Certainly there are excellent strikers who don't have a high work rate. Look at Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian is capable of a moment of magic at any time, but his laconic approach to the game was maddening to many Spurs fans. Berbatov succeeds because, during his time in England, he has partnered with Keane and Wayne Rooney who both have extraordinary work rates. Berbatov has benefited from their partnership. Unfortunately for Spurs, our current crop of strikers won't be able to carry a "lazy" partner and in lone striker formations, Rafael Van der Vaart certainly does not work hard enough to support a player like Berbatov.
Harry's goal seems to be to play a lone striker formation with a three-man attacking midfield composed of Gareth Bale, Van der Vaart, and Aaron Lennon behind that striker. Playing alone up top makes work rate even more important. Crouch and Van der Vaart's partnership worked reasonably well because the lanky Englishman was constantly working, unfortunately Crouch himself was not much of a goal threat otherwise he would be an excellent choice to lead the line.
Additionally, there are strikers out there with great work rates who just aren't very good. Look at Jason Roberts. He's a hard worker and that will often endear you to the fans, but that does not make you good. The same is true for Crouch. It is when work rate is combined with excellent technical ability (like with Tevez and Rooney) that you wind up with an elite striker, the kind of player that can carry a club into the top four.
The strikers Spurs have thus far been linked with: Guiseppe Rossi, Pablo Osvaldo, and Leandro don't impress me as having the work rate required of them. Rossi, first of all, is not the lead the line striker we need. Osvaldo, is believe by many to be a target man, but I fail to see how he is an improvement on Peter Crouch. Admittedly I don't know much about Leandro outside of Football Manager, so I'll reserve my judgement for later.
So who should Tottenham Hotspur be looking at, based on the criteria set forth? Well, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez probably aren't going to be Spurs players anytime soon so we'll have to look elsewhere. Giampaolo Pazinni of Inter Milan would be an ideal addition, but he too is not going anywhere. Likewise for Edinson Cavani. Romelu Lukaku is going somewhere, but not to Spurs. Fernando Llorente seems like a much more realistic target. The Basque striker is big enough and strong enough to deal with the rigors of the Premier League and could easily lead the line. He also is very sound technically and has scored at least 18 goals in each of the last 3 seasons.
Another good option might be Dynamo Kiev's Andriy Yarmolenko. Yarmolenko is often compared to countryman and teammate Andriy Shevchenko, who memorably failed rather dramatically in his time at Chelsea. Yarmolenko is a much harder worker than Sheva. Other potential options could be Bayer Leverkusen's Stefan Kießling, Blackburn Rovers Nikolai Kalinic, CSKA Moscow's Tomas Necid, and Dynamo Moscow's Kevin Kuranyi.
Certainly few of those players, Llorente being the possible exception, offer the excitement the many Spurs are looking for. Harry Redknapp and chairmen Daniel Levy must be mindful of the type of player that they buy though. Would the signing of Rossi be exciting? Almost certainly. Would it make us a better team? Maybe. The signing of a player like Llorente though would almost certainly improve the club.
Tottenham's new striker must have that rare combination of work rate and technical ability. We've had this sort of player in the past, most recently in Robbie Keane, but the Club needs it again in order to propel itself back into the top four. No more Roman Pavlyuchenko's and Dimitar Berbatov's please. Give me a hard working striker who puts in a good shift every game and can also put the ball in the net. That's not too much to ask, is it?