Year in year out as of late, Tottenham Hotspur have been able to bank on their star striker Harry Kane bagging plenty of goals throughout the season, even when injuries cut it short, to guide them to a Champions League spot in the Premier League. The result of this is that Kane has been heralded as one of the best strikers in the world.
The Englishman is already off the mark this season after grabbing two late goals against Aston Villa on Saturday – they were very characteristic finishes too. Although quiet for much of the first two thirds of the match, Kane was very much instrumental in fashioning the win for Spurs and showed composure when the chances came his way.
Kane perhaps had an “off-season” last year by his standards, tallying 17 goals in the league, mostly due to lengthy injuries in the latter stages of the campaign. Will this year be different and will Kane again strive to reach the 30 goal mark?
A reassuring performance against Villa
Kane’s two goals against Aston Villa would’ve been a huge relief for Spurs fans, not only because it secured the win, but also because it meant that Kane has started the campaign how he means to finish. A lack of goals for the Englishman throughout the final stages of last season may have knocked his confidence somewhat but scoring two on the opening days will have brought a lot of that confidence back.
In fact, a couple of goals during pre-season may have had the same effect on the forward, the most notable one being from the halfway line in the dying minutes against Juventus.
But during at least the first half of Saturday’s match against Villa, Kane looked pretty absent, aside from a couple of fleeting chances to put the ball in the net. The front three of Kane, Lucas and Lamela looked far too compact and Kane was unable to play any creative balls forward after winning the ball in the opposition half. Lucas and Lamela couldn’t get the ball to the number 10 when he was in a goalscoring position either which didn’t help Tottenham’s cause.
Pochettino must have made some significant tactical changes at half time, as Kane finally started to come alive and became a major threat to Villa’s backline. Not counting blocked attempts, Kane had two out of five shots on target – the two that were on target ended in the back of the net. Both goals were clinical finishes but the second one especially so.
The Englishman spent much of the match in Aston Villa’s penalty area and almost the entire match in their half, looking to win contests in the attacking third and set Spurs on the attack like he has done so well throughout his career. However, there were times when this approach didn’t look to be hugely effective; perhaps the absence of Alli and Son (and Eriksen for the majority of the match) had an effect on this. Are Spurs’ tactics changing and does Kane need to adapt to suit a new style of football? Only time will tell.
What role must Kane play for Tottenham this season?
The pinpoint precision into the bottom corner was such a distinguishing feature of Kane’s attacking play in the season before last, and he demonstrated this once again versus the Villans on Saturday. Being such a clinical finisher is what allowed him to rise to the top level from 2014 onwards and Spurs will want to keep supplying Kane with goalscoring opportunities regardless of whoever plays around him.
The 26-year-old usually sets high personal standards and will certainly be aiming to crack 30 goals this season and win the Golden Boot. Doing so would be a huge boost for his team as a large goal haul for Kane usually correlates to a high points tally for Tottenham.
Being a false number nine means that scoring goals is not the only role Tottenham’s striker has in the team. Over the years, people have noticed that Kane is an excellent passer of the pall as well as a clinical finisher. It seems that Pochettino is using this as the basis of his attacking lineup. With Lucas playing upfront with Kane, it allows the Englishman to drop deep and look for the runs of his attacking colleague. A similar system can be adopted with Son when his suspension is over – with the pace and dribbling ability of the South Korean and Lucas significantly better than Kane’s, it makes sense to deploy this tactic throughout the 90 minutes.
After releasing a pass, Kane will strive to get himself into the box and follow up with a deadly finish. This is now a very familiar system for Spurs and with Lo Celso also joining the fray, Pochettino now has plenty of ways to facilitate these vital link-ups.
Of course, if Kane picks up a significant injury then there is a chance that all of this may go out the window. Fernando Llorente, who played an important role for Tottenham last year, could be resigned for Spurs if not signed by another team in the near future. If not, 17-year-old Troy Parrott is the only other out-and-out striker at Tottenham and the manager will likely use Lucas or Son as a striker in this case, employing a different attacking system.
Would Dybala have been a step up?
Spurs came close to securing a deal for Juventus forward Paulo Dybala on deadline day, a well-acclaimed striker who has had trouble getting into the first team since Cristiano Ronaldo joined the Italian outfit. Bringing such a renowned footballer to Tottenham is unheard of, yet the Dybala deal was reported to be close to completion on deadline day.
So would the signing of Dybala really have taken Spurs much closer to challenging for the Premier League title, even with Harry Kane already at the club? Pochettino would surely have to play Kane and Dybala regularly to keep both parties happy.
To do this without drastically changing the formation would mean omitting at least one of Alli, Eriksen, Son or Lucas from the starting XI. Yes, you would have two lethal strikers to scare the opposition with, but would there be a detrimental effect from missing some of the creative spark in midfield?
Nevertheless, the deal didn’t go through and Kane will be sticking to his familiar role at the club. If the Englishman aims for 30 goals this season, it could be pivotal to helping Spurs challenge the title again.