Jermain Defoe: What Is His Role Under Andre Villas-Boas at Tottenham?

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2013

Jermain Defoe's two goals in Tottenham Hotspur's 3-0 Europa League win should help answer the growing questions over his a role at Tottenham.

They were his third and fourth goals of the season, following an earlier brace versus Dinamo Tbilisi. 

Despite reported interest in Defoe from Queens Park Rangers and Stoke City during the summer, manager Andre Villas-Boas was never likely to sell. With Emmanuel Adebayor out of favour and young Harry Kane still developing, it would have left too much of the goalscoring burden on new signing Roberto Soldado.

As the Portuguese told following the Tromso win:

Villas-Boas fielding just one proper forward in his lineup obviously means only one of Soldado and Defoe can play at a time. For the moment, the Spaniard is his preferred choice for more regular duty in the Premier League.

Having Defoe as an option of the bench and as the go-to guy in cup competitions is no bad thing for Spurs. In helping swiftly dispatch their Europa League opponents thus far, he has shown he remains a considerable scoring threat.

The nature of both strikes against Tromso—sweetly taken finishes from well-measured through balls by Erik Lamela and Lewis Holtby—demonstrated his compatibility with his new teammates and his suitability to Spurs' current style of play.

Defoe said as much to his club's official website: "Erik—what a ball! He was just waiting for my run, but we worked on that in training, the wingers coming inside and me making that run. I just had to finish."

Unsurprisingly though, the England international has felt frustrated at being behind Soldado in the pecking order. As he told BBC's Football Focus:

I don't want to be sitting on the bench and be an impact player because at the end of the day you want to start games. At times you come on and you can't make that impact you would like to make because it's difficult. Obviously people might look at me and think "he comes on and is always sharp."

But its only because I sit there and I'll analyse the game and think where can I get in, where am I going to get opportunities to score. I really study the game when I'm sitting on the bench...

You might come off the bench and score one goal, but you might start the game and play 90 minutes and score two. I'd rather do that.

Defoe does not come off as whiny in the BBC interview, but determined to prove his worth. Unfortunately for him, Soldado's status as first-choice striker for Spurs is correct for now.

Roberto Soldado celebrates his winner versus Swansea.
Roberto Soldado celebrates his winner versus Swansea.Michael Regan/Getty Images

It was Soldado's excellent scoring record in Spain that convinced Tottenham to spend £26 million, then the club's record transfer purchase. He has started decently at Spurs, with four goals so far—a solid return for a player in the process of settling into his new environment.

It will be intriguing to see Villas-Boas' response should Soldado's form waver with any severity. Defoe had his own issues late last season, but this time around he is looking sharp and focused. The evidence is there that he remains a quality finisher.

Defoe's patience level could become a fascinating watch over the coming months. Should a bit-part role firmly become his lot in life at Tottenham, his reaction could have ample repercussions for the team.

Erik—what a ball! He was just waiting for my run, but we worked on that in training, the wingers coming inside and me making that run. I just had to finish.