As far as the Portuguese is concerned, Emmanuel Adebayor’s stint at the African Cup of Nations will not derail Spurs’ efforts to consolidate their place in the top four, nor their emerging title challenge. It will only take an injury or red card, however, to make the Villas-Boas prediction unduly optimistic.
Without Adebayor — who flew out to join up with Togo immediately after the game, and will not be back until the start of February, at the earliest — Spurs will be reliant on Jermain Defoe and, to a lesser extent, Clint Dempsey to provide their forward options at a decisive stage of the season.
And as so many of their Premier League rivals, notably Chelsea and Liverpool, have already demonstrated this season, a shortage of forwards can force a hasty rethink of ambition.
“We went through a period without Adebayor through injury and suspension and Clint did extremely well with Defoe, it was one of the good link-ups we had through the season,” said Villas-Boas, confidently. “So he is a player we trust a lot, he always comes strong in the team and scored three goals in the last two games before this. He is always a goalscorer, one of our highest goalscorers, so we believe in him.”
Dempsey and Defoe must justify that belief if Tottenham are to make the most of the period between now and the resumption of their Europa League campaign on February 14. Next Sunday, Manchester United visit White Hart Lane before three distinctly winnable games against Norwich, West Brom and Newcastle. If Tottenham can continue their current run, they could enter the final third with the top two firmly in their sights. Just as they did last season, in fact.
Then, their campaign drifted off course against a backdrop of uncertainty surrounding the future of Harry Redknapp, then in charge at White Hart Lane. To avoid a similar fate, and ensure a Champions League return , it’s hard not to avoid the conclusion that an extra striker will provide an invaluable option both during Adebayor’s absence and after his return.
Not that Adebayor offered a copper-bottomed case to be regarded as a vital cog in the Tottenham machine at Loftus Road. The striker, so often an infuriating mix of talent and apparent indifference, missed the best chance of a drab game to secure an eighth win in 10 league games for Villas-Boas’ side.
Alvaro Negredo, the Sevilla striker, is one of the names linked with a move to north London and the Spaniard offered encouragement to potential suitors by suggesting he would welcome a move to England. Certainly a striker of Negredo’s quality would have helped at Loftus Road as Spurs confronted a QPR invigorated by the recent win at Chelsea and in the process of being transformed by Redknapp.
“We’re a different group of players here now,” said Shaun Derry, the captain. “There’s huge belief amongst the squad now. We’re a lot harder to beat. The changes over the last few weeks have made a big difference. Every one of us now knows what our jobs are on a Saturday afternoon.”
The basics clearly count for a lot, but both managers are about to discover if their squads possess the extra quality needed to deliver success.
QPR (4-3-3): Julio Cesar 9; Onuoha 6, Nelsen 7, Hill 7, Fabio 6; Mbia 8, Derry 7, Park 5; Mackie 7, Taarabt 7, Wright-Phillips 6.
TOTTENHAM (4-4-2): Lloris 7; Walker 6, Dawson 6, Vertonghen 7, Naughton 6; Lennon 5 (Sigurdsson, 79, 6), Dembélé 7, Sandro 6 (Parker, 25, 7), Bale 6; Defoe 6, Adebayor 6 (Dempsey, 69, 6).
Referee: Lee Probert.