Targets & Goals

Jermain Defoe - Header

The transfer window’s been open for a fortnight and so far any attempts by Redknapp or Levy to grab someone by the lapels and haul them through it have been fruitless. The rumours, all which thus far appear to have been signalled by smoke for which there really is no fire, have surrounded midfield players. Sandro is the strongest link but Flamini & Joe Cole have also been used to pad out papers and blogs on a regular basis. Harry was quoted at the start of October at a fans Q&A session as saying he’d like another midfielder, ideally “another Palacios”, so there at least is an indication that there may be some substance to at least one of these rumours.

Anyone can see what improvement Wilson has made to our midfield. From the moment he came his work rate, running and tackling have helped Harry continue to play other more lightweight players (Lennon and Modric for instance) without too much concern that we’re going to get regularly out-muscled. So you can see why he’d like another player like him despite the good job that Jenas (last season) and big Tom (this season) have done playing alongside him.

In making trying to find a twin for Palacios our number one target though maybe Harry has missed a trick? At the start of the season not many clubs would’ve looked at our strikers without feeling at least a touch of envy. Defoe, Keane and Crouch were all experienced regular Premier League goalscorers and Pavlyuchenko, despite the language handicap and having played without a rest for a year, showed promise.

But how about now? Whilst the names are the same, the aura of goals aplenty surrounding the four players isn’t quite so bright. Jermain Defoe (the last minute at Goodison apart) has done all that could be asked of him and Peter Crouch, through hard work and not getting in a huff when he was left out early on, has made himself the first choice partner to Defoe. His league goals have been important (especially the Ewood brace) but rare with only four in 12 starts and eight sub appearances. Watching Robbie Keane play recently has been akin to watching a favourite boxer take on a few fights too many, his experience and obvious desire to do his best is being let down by a lack of speed and an increasingly unreliable first touch. Redknapp re-employed Robbie last January when we needed a leader and he needed a voice on the field and it’s only in the last few weeks that Harry has stopped picking Keane first and then fitting the rest of the team around him. Which leaves Pav.

I think it’s wrong to say that Redknapp has never fancied Pavlyuchenko as a player. The way he took his goals against Liverpool and West Ham in particular last season and even the one against Olympiakos in pre-season showed that there’s a talent there to be exploited and I don’t think the manager would purposely overlook that. Harry was unimpressed by Pav haring off the field when subbed against Man City at the end of last season and there’s no knowing what goes on behind the scenes (though I bet the bleating of his agent doesn’t help him) but I’d say that if Pav has been putting in the effort at the training ground then he’s just been unlucky in that he’s a victim of whatever it is that Redknapp sees in Robbie that most of the rest of us don’t, and the fact that Crouch and Defoe are in form and just more suited to fighting with Premier League centre halves than him. Whatever the reason, it’s safe to say that Pav’s attitude isn’t going to be that of a model pro at the moment. He wants to leave and the chances of getting the best out of him this season must be slim to none.

So from starting the season with four likely goalscorers up front we’re left with one and a half in Defoe and Crouch and an accomplished penalty taker in Keane. The surprise goals from Kranjcar (six so far for us compared to 13 in his whole Pompey career) have helped paper over the cracks but basically we’re over reliant on one man, Defoe, and an injury to him (or a spot of red mist a la Portsmouth) and we’re shafted.

So whilst all the transfer rumours are currently speculation and they may all come from sources  as well informed as I am (and I am about as far from In The Know as you can get), I would say that if our likely targets are midfield based and not up front, then  perhaps a rethink is in order. Given the number of ‘massive games’ we’re likely to be playing in the next few months, to not take the opportunity now to bolster our striker options might be considered a mistake come May.

By MF

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