Chelsea have Diego Costa, Arsenal have Alexis Sanchez, Man United have Zlatan, Man City have Sergio Agüero, Liverpool have their collective goal scoring juggernaut and Tottenham Hotspur have Harry Kane. Presented with a list of all these strikers, the one chosen in a line-up of ‘one doesn’t belong’ would most likely be Kane. It’s also likely that in a team line-up, Spurs would be the odd one out.
The Premier League has been separated into a race of six and another for the others. Only these six have a material chance for Champions League football next season. Ask most though and the least likely would be the team that Kane spearheads. How can Tottenham and Mauricio Pochettino upset the books of perception?
Kane is a notoriously slow starter who makes up for his lethargic opening 10 or so games with remarkable inevitability. This would be less noticeable in stronger squads, but in one without the collective of Liverpool or the spread of talent such as that of Man City or Man United, the situation is more precarious. Thankfully, Tottenham acquitted themselves well without the English striker on the backs of four goals conceded in 10 games. This masked the reality that during that time they only managed 14 goals. Kane missed half of those to a malleolar (ankle) injury and coincidentally returned in the month of November where he has scored nine goals in the past three seasons (12 if we generously add his hat-trick on October 25th 2015).
Enter Harry Edward Kane
Since then he has scored eight in nine appearances, with an assist. Whilst his now expected resurgence has led to 19 points in nine games as opposed to 20 in 10 without him, a marginal improvement, it is pertinent to note that without his goals, his team’s plight would not be as rosy as it looks now. Since his return to league football on November 6th, his goals and assists have directly contributed to six additional points, bringing his direct point contribution in 14 games to 12. Without those, Tottenham would be on 27 points. Sure, another striker could probably have scored most of those goals, but they don’t have another striker. They have Harry. He’s not the best by any stretch, but he is their Harry.
Bamidele answers the call
There is absolutely no way that Tottenham can rely solely on Kane if they are to breach the top four promised to be populated with the big boys boasting all the league titles and past European successes. The title is a long shot for anyone not named Chelsea and possibly Liverpool, but Champions League football remains a very real aspiration for what is the thinnest squad of the top six.
Every leader needs a supporting cast and if Kane is leading the charge then Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli are the ones who must answer the call. As the defense has encountered stiffer challenges of Arsenal, Chelsea, and Man United since November (and lost crucial points), so has the goal production increased. The half-Nigerian Alli has hit form of late, bulging the back of the net five times in just three matches. This marks a welcome addition to the Tottenham charge as the 20-year-old from Milton Keynes looks to match or exceed his 19 goal contributions of last season. His present tally of nine and recent form would suggest he can.
The Premier League presents a challenge not often seen in recent years in terms of depth. Even in a managerial sense, it appears a who’s who of managers have made a pact to congregate and duke it out in the most famous part of the United Kingdom. It will take more than it has to crack the top four and more than two men.
Christian Eriksen, widely acknowledged as a very talented footballer, has somewhat stalled in his progression in recent years. His inconsistency and tendency to produce in bursts has limited his influence. His recent run of form will need to go against type and be more sustained if Tottenham are to stave off a surging Man United and keep pace with Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal.
Their vulnerability lies in the lack of suitable replacements for these three main men. If one or more of them were to fall to injury, could the top four challenge be sustained? In the eight games in which Kane has registered a goal or assist (only assisted without scoring once), Spurs’ record is seven wins and one draw. If anyone would like to downplay the importance of the man to Spurs many said was a one-season wonder because he doesn’t look like Luis Suárez while dribbling or that he’s just another overrated English striker, think again. His goals record after 100 Premier league appearances – at the age of 23 – is identical to the great Thierry Henry and if he had more consistent support the 100 chances he has created could at least double the paltry seven to date.
The movie classic – Citizen Kane – is about a man who, originally having good intentions, gets corrupted in his pursuit of power and goes crazy. Kane is not after absolute power, but he is after the symbol of English football supremacy. It’s an unlikely task this season at least, but if Spurs have any aspirations of redeeming their poor Champions League showing in next year’s iteration, they need their Harry.