Amid increased speculation linking Emmanuel Adebayor with a move to Vicarage Road, Quique Sanchez Flores has underlined the value of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo to the side and stressed the defending they do from the front sets the tone for the rest of the team.
Adebayor is in London, according to media reports, after training by himself during an extended break in Africa. The same sports news outlets claim the former Tottenham Hotspur striker is wanted by Chelsea and Watford.
Jose Mourinho is thought to be keen to increase his attacking options in January, especially after playing without a recognise No 9 against Spurs on Sunday and leaving Diego Costa on the bench. Radamel Falcao, meanwhile, has not featured since a 14-minute appearance in the 3-1 home defeat to Liverpool at the end of October. Mourinho signed Adebayor on loan in 2011 when he was in charge at Real Madrid and saw the Togo international score seven goals in 21 appearances.
Quique Sanchez Flores has made no secret of his admiration for the striker or his desire to add an experienced frontman to his ranks. Obbi Oulare has only been named on the bench once this season, suggesting the head coach feels the 19-year-old is not quite ready to challenge Deeney and Ighalo for their spots. Sanchez Flores has spoken often about the physical demands of the Premier League and will want reliable, proven cover to compensate for tiredness, any loss of form or, heaven forbid, any injury to his prized front pairing. Deeney, for example, has played every game this season bar six minutes against Swansea.
“Yes, of course [they are one of the best partnerships in the Premier League],” said Sanchez Flores in a briefing with the Monday papers at Villa Park. “I was never in absolute doubt about this. When I was training these players in pre-season I had no doubts over what these two players can do for the team.”
Deeney and Ighalo have scored 12 goals this season but Sanchez Flores feels their value goes above and beyond their goalscoring ability, talking about “the importance they are giving to the system and how they are working for the system”.
They execute the well-researched game plan with either a high press, which sees them put pressure on the opposition defence when they are in possession, or drop off and challenge the opponents to try and pass through the first line of defence and bypass the congested midfield. Deeney has even been asked to man mark on at least two occasions this season, against Jon-Jo Shelvey at Vicarage Road and against Carlos Sanchez on Saturday.
“Ighalo and Deeney are the first wall that the opponents need to separate,” said Sanchez Flores. “They are the first players that pressurise defenders and for us that is very important. It is like a switch for the system to use the pressure so it is very important the values of these players. I feel for every opponent because [how Deeney and Ighalo play] is completely different and planning for the match [against them] is very difficult because the way we are analysing other teams.”
Sanchez Flores fell out with the biggest personality in the Atletico Madrid dressing room, Diego Forlan, after the Uruguayan betrayed him. He has, however, fostered a relationship with Deeney that is full of mutual respect and the perfect example of how a harmonious union between captain and coach should work.
“I didn’t know much about Deeney before I came here,” said Sanchez Flores. “The first time I notice Deeney was when I started analysing Watford. I thought he is a big part of the soul of the team. It’s the connection with the stands and the spirit I need, the performance and the level of compromise with the players. Deeney is perfect. The Deeney I know is an amazing boy, amazing player and the attitude on the pitch is an example for the other players. He is the captain and he always wants to protect the younger players. I am normally always in contact with Deeney, he wants to know, I want to know so this is a very good captain.”
*Additional reporting by Charlie Doris