Fernando Llorente was handed the responsibility of replacing Harry Kane in the Tottenham line-up at Fulham.
The Spaniard came into the side after Kane suffered an ankle injury against Manchester United and Son Heung-min went away on international duty. Spurs got the win, but it was a day for Llorente to forget.
Working off the rust
Llorente, who had been expected to leave the club this month before Kane’s injury, was handed his first Premier League start since 2 January 2018 and just his second overall in a Spurs shirt. His only other starts this season have come in the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup, where he bagged a hat-trick at Tranmere. But he had amassed just 36 minutes of league action before this rare start and it showed.
Finding the net
It did not take long for Llorente to find the back of the net – unfortunately for him it was the wrong one. The former Swansea man got his feet in a muddle from Jean Seri’s corner and the ball ricocheted off his knee and into the bottom corner. For a large part of the game it looked like proving costly.
The 6ft-plus striker had two clear-cut chances to notch at the right end, the first coming not long after his own goal. Llorente was in the right position to get on the end of Jan Vertonghen’s cross, but he headed into his shoulder which allowed the effort to go straight into goalkeeper Sergio Rico’s hands. There was an even better chance that came his way in the final 10 minutes, but he could not get enough contact on Danny Rose’s free-kick and his effort was glanced just wide.
What did he offer?
Llorente, at 33, is never going to be a like-for-like replacement for Kane, his game completely different. He has no real mobility or pace to run the channels like Kane, but he does offer Spurs an aerial threat. No player won more battles in the air than Llorente’s 10, but they rarely led to anything. Usually his hold-up play is reliable, but against Fulham it was not up to scratch, with many moves breaking down because of a poor touch.
If there was any hope for Spurs that Llorente would be able to take the mantle from Kane then it was very quickly extinguished in west London and on this showing it is clear why Mauricio Pochettino has used him so sparingly in the Premier League. He simply does not fit the way Spurs like to play, with fluidity and fast movement. He could be more of an impact player off the bench if Spurs are chasing a game, but Lucas Moura is likely to get a chance to lead the line when he returns from a knee injury.