Harry Kane has finally scored in August!
His second half finish against Fulham was his first August goal in 14 Premier League attempts and banishes the mini media furore that rages in the eighth month every year.
Having failed to net in the opening day victory over Newcastle, and following a further 12 appearances since the start of 2014/15, Harry Kane was having something of an August nightmare.
It was talked about for some years now, often used as the crux of an argument each season that he is a One/Two/Three etc. season wonder. Now a four season wonder AND World Cup Golden Boot winner, before the 3-1 victory over Fulham not even one of Harry Kane’s 175 goals in competitive senior football was scored in the month of August.
For some extra context, over the previous four seasons with Tottenham Hotspur, Kane played 139 Premier League matches, with 12 of those in August. In that time, he racked up 105 of his 108 top-flight goals.
Many strikers go through bare patches, Shane Long went 23 league games without a goal in 2016, while the 27th August will mark two-and-a-half years since Saido Berahino most recently found the net (Berahino was recently given clearance to play international football for Burundi, perhaps he could end his dry spell with them).
Kane is indisputably a class above them (despite Berahino beating him to the England Under-21s Player of the Year title in 2014), and has had no trouble finding the net for club and country in all other months of the year.
So why did August present such a different obstacle? Journalists and pundits have previously suggested burnout, lack-of-quality and simply superstition. Was Harry Kane cursed?
Perhaps such a curse was affecting Tottenham’s whole team. Before Fulham, in the 14 August games the club played since the beginning of 2014/15, they won five, drew six and lost three. If we translate that to points, that’s an average of 1.5 points per game.
If that form extended to a whole season, Spurs would finish on 57 points. In the last four seasons, Tottenham have finished on 64, 70, 86 and 77 points in order with 77 points being last season’s total.
That corresponds to an average points tally of 74.25, considerably higher than the 57 that would be achieved through the consistent replication of August results.
Could this be it? It wasn’t Harry Kane, Spurs were generally worse in August? Let’s look a little closer.
Taking each season individually, we can look at how each August compared to its respective season total.
Let’s start with last season. A win, a draw and a loss left Spurs on four points from three games at the beginning of September. Four points from three games (1.3 Points p/G) is considerably worse than the season average of (77/38 =) 2 Points p/G.
In 2016/17, Tottenham’s best Premier League finish left them on 86 points (2.3 Points p/G). August however brought five points from three games (1.7 Points p/G). Worse again.
2015/16, when Spurs infamously “finished third in a two-horse race”. 70 points (1.8 Points p/G) is still better than the three points they gained from their four games in August (0.75 Points p/G).
2014/15, tells a different story. The season average of 1.7 Points p/G is lower than the 2 Points p/G they gained from two wins and a loss at the start of the campaign four years ago.
But there’s more. Harry Kane as we know played in 12 of the 13 August matches in those four seasons, but that doesn’t tell the full story.
He started 10 of those, with all three of the games he missed or came off the bench in the same season. No prizes for guessing which one.
Unbelievably, the only August in the last four years in which Tottenham performed better than their season average was 2014/15, when Harry Kane played just 33 minutes. So rather than Tottenham playing badly in August, was Harry Kane making them play badly?
Of course not. It’s ludicrous to suggest that Harry Kane made the team worse in the month of August based on those numbers alone. Football is not a game of numbers or statistics, as this summer’s World Cup exemplified.
That first season was Spurs’ first under Mauricio Pochettino. The club took time to adapt to his managerial style, and the Argentine himself took time to notice that Harry Kane was a better attacking option than the flops of Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado.
2014/15 also marked the last time Spurs finished outside the top four. This fact, and Harry Kane’s establishment in the side from midway through the season until now demonstrates that Spurs have gone up a level since then.
But 13 goalless appearances is noteworthy (noteworthy enough for me to write this article, although I wrote it hoping he wouldn’t have scored against Fulham!). Could it be the other reasons cited in the media? Burnout? Lack of quality?
Harry Kane finished 10th in the Ballon D’or Voting in 2017. Harry Kane is a World Cup Golden Boot Winner. Harry Kane has the quality.
Burnout represents a more difficult idea to dissect. Ignoring 2014/15 based on the minimal game time he had in Tottenham’s three August games, we can again look at this conundrum a season at a time.
It is arguable that Kane was burnt out after 2014/15. Having established himself as first choice striker at Spurs, his career sky-rocketed. Just 22 at the time, it is perfectly feasible that he was mentally and possibly even physically burnt-out after his first full Premier League season, and this may well have affected his form at the start of 2015/16. He also played every minute of England under-21s disastrous group stage exit at the European Championship.
For August 2016, the potential burnout is even easier to justify. After a long and ultimately (as always) trophyless season with Spurs, Harry Kane travelled to Euro 2016 as England’s undisputed number nine. He, and the rest of the boys, failed miserably. Losing to Iceland could very believably have caused some mental damage.
August 2017. No tournament in the summer, an excellent season with Spurs. What could have burnt him out last year? He had his first child in January 2017, maybe that was it. At this point, I’m scraping the barrel for excuses here, burnout was not the answer.
So, what was it? Some more calculations lead to what I believe is the closest thing to an answer.
In total, Harry Kane has played 154 Premier League games, returning 109 goals. But how many games did those goals come in?
The answer is 71. With his knack of scoring more than once when he does score; with 21 braces, seven hat-tricks and one four goal return, Harry Kane has scored in less than half of his Premier League appearances.
Despite hitting 29 and 30 goals in the last two seasons, he has also never scored in more than 19 (or half of the) League games in a season.
Taking these numbers even further, if we randomly selected a Premier League appearance before the Fulham game, 70/153 < 0.5 (0.4575163…) gives us the probability that Harry Kane scored in it.
Let’s go even further. The probability that Kane didn’t score in a randomly selected game is 1 – 70/153 = 83/153 > 0.5.
What does this mean for August? Well, if we consider the teams Harry Kane faced in August to be an even spread of quality in the Premier League (Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Newcastle x2, Everton x2, QPR, Burnley, West Ham, Stoke, Leicester and Crystal Palace looks like a relatively even spread), then we can use these numbers.
The probability of randomly selecting 13 games in which Harry Kane didn’t score is equal to (83/153)^13 = 0.0004. That is very small, which means that it is incredibly unlikely. Incredibly unlikely that there was a trend linking 13 games in which he failed to score.
Yet in the 13 games Harry played in August before this weekend, he fired a blank. So, what does this mean?
Bad luck. Simply, Harry Kane was ridiculously unlucky not to have found the net in August until now. Last August in the 2-1 loss to Chelsea, he fired off eight shots without scoring, his highest tally in a League game when he has failed to net.
Harry Kane was always going to score in August, numbers said so.