Has Roman come to the end of the road?
WHEN Roman Pavlyuchenko admitted that his lack of first-team football this season may force him out the White Hart Lane exit door, it was hard not to feel sympathy for the forgotten man of Tottenham's strikeforce. The Russian international...
WHEN Roman Pavlyuchenko admitted that his lack of first-team football this season may force him out the White Hart Lane exit door, it was hard not to feel sympathy for the forgotten man of Tottenham's strikeforce.
The Russian international has struggled to make an impact so far this season, with no league goals and just two appearances, and just a solitary Carling Cup goal against Doncaster Rovers to his name.
And as he recovers from an achilles injury that ruled him out of the last four Tottenham squads, the 27-year-old conceded that unless he receives regular match-time in the coming weeks, he will seek a move away from north London.
But with Peter Crouch, Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe all in lethal form in recent weeks, that chance looks like being denied Pavlyuchenko, as Harry Redknapp hinted before Saturday's draw with Bolton Wanderers.
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"I've ended up with four very good strikers here, and at the moment he (Pavlyuchenko) is struggling to get a game," admitted the manager. "But he has been out for a few weeks with an achilles injury, otherwise he would have been on the bench for sure. But I can't play them all.
"It's difficult, because Crouchy, Defoe, Keane, they've all played well. He's had an injury anyway, but they're all playing well."
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Redknapp's suggestion that Pavlyuchenko, even when fully fit, can expect only a place on the substitutes bench, are hardly the words of reassurance the player will have been hoping for, yet it is the only logical solution for the Tottenham boss at the moment.
Defoe and Crouch are, at present, Spurs' most effective strikeforce, having scored 11 goals between them in all competitions so far this season, while Robbie Keane, already with seven goals to his name, is also hammering at the door for a regular starting spot.
Both Keane and Crouch have scored hat-tricks in recent weeks, testament to their value to the side, and Crouch was at the top of his game again at the weekend, using his 6ft 7inch frame to set up Niko Kranjcar's equaliser at the Reebok.
With Defoe also coming on to great effect in that match, all three have laid down compelling cases to the manager to retain their place in the side while Pavlyuchenko, for the time being at least, has seen the door slammed firmly in his face.
"I do understand where he's coming from," conceded Redknapp. "He's a good lad, he's not a problem, trains, works, and technically as I keep saying he's a fantastic player, but I can't do anything about it.
"It was hard leaving Crouchy out against Burnley after he got a hat-trick, let alone getting Pav in the team at the moment."
The problem, it seems, facing Pavlyuchenko is two-fold. The first is that the Russian hit-man does not really add much to the side that his three fellow strikers do not.
Crouch is the ideal target man, whose ariel presence will unsettle the best defences around and, as the England man has consistently shown, he can grab his fair share of goals.
Defoe's pace, trickery and eye for goal make him absolutly crucial to the side, particularly when Spurs counter-attack at pace and, like Crouch, the prize of a place in Fabio Capello's England squad for the World Cup is all the incentive he needs this season.
Until recently, Pavlyuchenko's best chance of re-establishing himself seemed to come in the shape of Robbie Keane, who initially struggled to find his feet back at the Lane, but his four-goal salvo against Burnley has cast him straight back in the spotlight.
Few players are adept at unlocking defences and displaying a poacher's instinct as Keane, and workrate has long-since made him a favourite among the Tottenham faithful.
Pavlyuchenko meanwhile has rarely displayed any of the attributes to match his teammates, as five goals in 19 appearances last season highlights.
The second problem facing Pavlyuchenko, and a question Redknapp will be seriously considering, is do Tottenham need a fourth striker?
Kranjcar and Vedran Corluka became Spurs' 11th and 12th scorers of the season on Saturday, proving goals from elsewhere in the side will hardly be in short supply, and Tottenham have the strength in depth to cope with the inevitable injuries as the campaign progresses.
Spurs have of course been in this position before, when Defoe moved away from the Lane after struggling to establish himself ahead of Dimitar Berbatov, Keane and Darren Bent. Pavlyuchenko may now find himself in exactly the same position.