Dundee United
St Mirren
11:45 AM UTC
Leg 1
Game Details

Vincent Janssen struggles show Spurs' problems without Harry Kane

"Clinical" is fast becoming an unwelcome buzzword for Mauricio Pochettino. The Tottenham manager has repeatedly used it in reference to his own side in the last month and on Tuesday he said the difference between the teams in Liverpool's 2-1 win over Spurs in the EFL Cup was Daniel Sturridge, who scored twice.

While Liverpool have Sturridge in reserve, Pochettino is relying on Vincent Janssen and Son Heung-Min to score while Harry Kane is sidelined with an ankle injury. It's not working at the moment.

Spurs have only scored once from open play in their last four games and, minus the 5-0 win over Gillingham in the last round, they've scored seven goals in seven games since Kane was taken off on a stretcher against Sunderland. Five of those came before the international break, which has disrupted Spurs' rhythm as much as the injury to their talisman.

Spurs' have both failed to take chances -- they found goalkeeper Ben Foster in great form in the 1-1 draw at West Brom -- and failed to create enough high-quality openings. They had just five shots on target at Liverpool and four at Bournemouth.

Janssen looked miserable for 90 minutes at Anfield and he couldn't hide his frustration after the game. Asked about his consolation penalty by the club's in-house media team, he said: "For me it doesn't matter. It's just a penalty, you have to score it and I have enough confidence for that. It doesn't matter for me where it is or how long since I last scored, I just saw the penalty, I wanted to score it and that's what I did."

The 22-year-old cost £17 million but Pochettino is eager to class him as another young player, and he again called for him to be given time on Tuesday, describing his performance as "fantastic". He looks short of confidence, though, and his penalty, while a mini-boost, also served to highlight unwelcome comparisons with Roberto Soldado, who also found spot-kicks a rare source of relief in his first months at Tottenham.

The Dutchman is doing some things very well but he doesn't look much like scoring. He tested Simon Mignolet in the first half but his best work again came with his back to goal and he was always looking for a quick lay-off or pass -- the safe option. There was no direct running at goal or deadeye finishes like his stunner against Belarus during the international break.

He has been a little unlucky. He hit the bar and had a goal ruled out in the 0-0 draw at Bayer Leverkusen. For both chances, he was in the box and he needs to take more risks and not be afraid to miss, as Soldado was by the end of his wretched spell at Spurs. A simple goal from open play might change everything for the Netherlands striker, who was a similarly slow starter at Almere City FC and AZ Alkmaar, where he scored 27 goals last season.

Son, meanwhile, is not a striker. In common with his teammates, he was turbocharged against Manchester City -- a result which, in hindsight, masked Spurs' deficiencies without Kane -- and the team looked better when he replaced Janssen up front in the last half an hour in Moscow and Leverkusen. In the 0-0 draw at Bournemouth, however, he struggled to hold the ball up or find any space to run at opponents. His best work comes from the left wing. Unlike his understudies, Kane is capable facing in both directions and Spurs are missing that variation in attack.

There is a wider problem too for Tottenham. Son, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and even Erik Lamela can all score goals but the midfield contribution has dried up. Eriksen scored 10 in the league in 2014-15 but just six last season after being tasked with a deeper and wider role. Alli, who said recently he should be in double figures for the season, has been as guilty as anyone of missing chances despite boasting three league goals already, and Lamela and Son are struggling for consistency.

Draws at West Brom and Bournemouth in the Premier League are credible, it was a good point at Leverkusen and the EFL Cup was the least of Tottenham's priorities. But however you look at it, Spurs are winless in four and facing matches against the champions, Leverkusen and Arsenal before the next international break, after which Kane will be available.

Saturday's visit of Leicester, a grudge match of sorts, has even more significance now and the manager's biggest decision will be who to play up front.

Kane has resumed training outdoors and has an outside chance of returning next week. For Spurs, it can't come soon enough.

Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.


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