On Saturday afternoon, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspurs competed against one another in a hotly contested match. It was 2-1 to City in the second half when Spurs fortuitously earned a penalty kick. Through further replays, the foul occurred outside of the box and it did not look much of a foul, but nevertheless, Roberto Soldado stepped up to take the spot kick. Throughout his career, and even with his recent struggles, the man has always been on the mark with his penalties. The Spaniard ran up slowly and tried to place the ball into the corner, Joe Hart guessed the right way and blocked the pen. City went on to win the match 4-1, but that one moment further emphasizes the drop of form of a once proud striker named Roberto Soldado.
In 2013, the former Real Madrid Castilla product was one of the hottest strikers in football, scoring a career high of 24 goals for Valencia CF, and becoming a normal fixture for the Spanish national team. As Valencia CF were going through a transitional period with a new president in Amadeo Salvo, Soldado felt disenchanted with the new regime along with the fact that he thought his chances for the World Cup would be enhanced by moving to a club in England. As if playing in La Liga with a club that you have been a proven goal-scorer with would hinder one’s chances at the World Cup. The player and Toldra Consulting, his representation, tried to force a move to the English Premier League, with a preference for Tottenham. After much speculation, Soldado had his way, and Salvo and Valencia sold the striker to Tottenham for £26 million.
The 2013/2014 season started and the striker looked to be worth every bit of his transfer value. In his first two matches, he scored the game-winner for Andre Villas-Boas’ Spurs side. However with the lack of proper crossers on the wing and Christian Eriksen struggling with early season injuries, he looked out of sorts and was only scoring on penalties rather than open play. His first goal in open play came in an October 20th match against Aston Villa. As he and the other new signings from the money they made off of Gareth Bale’s transfer struggled, the more scrutiny the team and coach endured. It took a turn for the worst; after their December defeat to Liverpool, AVB was sacked and new interim manager Tim Sherwood was keen to bring Emanuel Adebayor off the scrap heap and discard Soldado in the process.
His lack of production led to him not being picked for La Roja’s World Cup campaign this summer, alongside another Premiership new boy, Alvaro Negredo. Ironically, one of the main reasons for both Soldado and Negredo’s moves was that with the competitive nature of the Barclays Premier League, they would be automatic selections for the national team. After the season, both players were on the outside looking in.
Not sure if it was their own thought process or if it was handlers getting in their ears, but it seems as if that was a short-sighted view. Even though they both probably craved a different challenge, packing up and moving to the unknown especially in a World Cup year is a dangerous prospect. One has to adapt to the culture, a new style of play and an entirely new situation. Negredo was bit more unlucky with a string of injuries, Soldado, on the other hand, looked out of sorts and could not finish opportunities he normally puts away.
For those that are not familiar with the footballer, he is a player that preys on solid service. He is not one of those strikers that can create for themselves often like a Suarez or Ibrahimovic. With that being said, the predatory striker was struggling at Tottenham because of that lack in quality. The Valencian-born striker lost confidence with his ability to score goals and make the necessary movement to get in those positions. When that happens, a strikers’ movement in the box becomes inconsistent, thus making it difficult for them to judge when a decent cross comes into the area. So when the crosses got better, he was not in the proper position because he had a mistrust of the server to get him the ball.
To the present day as of now he still is a shell of his former self. Mauricio Pochettino is starting to get better performances from him and it seems as if the player is responding to the manager. He has three appearances for Tottenham this season and two goals (both from cup competition). Unfortunately that penalty miss will be remembered more in the short-term than his decent performances. He is going to have to score a few league goals to gain the support and trust back from his staunch supporters. Even with that penalty miss, things are getting better for him and hopefully he can gain back that confidence that made him the striker Spurs spend 26 million for.