All eyes will be on Roberto Soldado tomorrow night as he lines up for Tottenham Hotspur in the return leg of the UEFA Europa League qualifying round.
Tottenham carry a slender one goal lead into the second leg thanks to goals from the 29-year-old Spaniard and Harry Kane, although it's Erik Lamela we Spurs fans need to thank, creating both goals inside 10 minutes of coming on as a second half substitute.
Soldado is one of a number of players Argentinian boss Mauricio Pochettino is happy to keep if no suitable offer comes in or let go if they do. There is no doubting that he can finish but he still doesn't ever look like he is going to score. There still seems to be confidence issues with him that hopefully a run in the Europa League can start to solve, assuming he stays.
When he has an instinctive finish he puts it away but when he has to think about a finish he misses or sees the chance go begging. That smacks of his mental processes being all wrong at the moment.
When you are through on goal the only thoughts should be positive, this is a goal, this is going in the back of the net. When he doesn't have to think, the header against Schalke and the volley against AEL in the first leg, he can put them away. When Lamela crossed the ball for him all he had to concentrate on was the ball and catching it right on his foot. You hit them on target and hope for the best basically. It went in.
But against Schalke again when he was put through he didn't take the ball with him, which in confident mode he would have done. His mental processes seems to be where is the defender, where is the keeper, when is the challenge coming, all thoughts cluttering up the one he should be having, this is going in the back of the net. He is fighting against himself, his body wants to do one thing, his mind is throwing up obstacles.
It was a similar story against Celtic where with the keeper to beat he needed two chances to tuck it away. All strikers suffer a loss of confidence and Soldado is working his way back from his, he is not there yet, not as advanced as Erik Lamela in the healing process.
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The UEFA Europa League tie offers him another opportunity to bag another couple, a hat-trick would do him wonders. Jermain Defoe certainly used to score in Europe even when he wasn't in the Premier League side. The £26 million ($43.11m - €32.75m) 2013 summer arrival from Valencia has had regular starts in pre-season games and then the first leg, one week later it's the second leg so not playing Premier League isn't an issue. He is still at the moment playing a game a week and being given that fabled run that so many fans use as an excuse for failure.
Tottenham standards are top 4 and players have to perform to that standard, youngsters will develop to it but the older hands should be producing it, whoever they play. You either take responsibility for your performance or look for excuses for it. When picked, you perform, that's it, that's what you have to do, if you are good enough you take that chance, if you are not you beleat you need a run of games, you need a chance, charity in other words.
Winners are in the former camp, losers in the latter. I'm in the former camp and I expect the players to be too. From Roberto Soldado's point of view he has never made excuses but got on with the job so he is mentally in the former camp.
I hope tomorrow is the difference for him, that he bangs in a hat-trick and goes from strength to strength.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014 Roberto Soldado