There’s something not quite right with Harry Kane at the moment.
It doesn’t take a discerning eye to glean that the World Cup Golden Boot winner appears sluggish through the first four matches of the Premier League campaign, though it’s entirely to be expected.
A hectic summer that offered little refuge for the Tottenham goal machine saw Kane return to first-team duties fatigued. A quick break could provide a reasonable solution, but talk of a deep-rooted issue with the 25-year-old is completely baseless.
No rest for the weary
Kane could really benefit from some respite. With just 28 days between a 90-minute outing against Belgium in the third-place match in Russia and a run-out of the same duration versus Newcastle United to kick off the domestic campaign, the England star looks drained. Toss in the birth of his second daughter days before the trip to Tyneside, and it’s clear that Mauricio Pochettino would have been wise to rest the player at the start of the season.
Other players who featured into the second week of July while away on international duty – Ivan Perisic and Kylian Mbappe to name but a couple – were handed extended summer breaks despite playing in leagues that started after the Premier League. Spurs could have afforded to rest Kane for matches against inferior opponents at Newcastle and at home to Fulham. With Tottenham set to host Liverpool on Saturday, the north London lot can’t risk gifting Kane a reprieve now.
Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate could have helped Tottenham’s cause during the international break, and while his start against Spain in the Nations League was merited, his 30-minute bow in the friendly victory over Switzerland was gratuitous.
Consistent to a fault
Even when Kane is missing his mark, he’s consistent in doing so. The former Arsenal academy outcast’s opener against the Cottagers nixed an August hoodoo. It took his 15th league match for Spurs to notch his first goal in the month, opening his 2018-19 account before doubling that early-season total with the match-winner at Manchester United.
Two goals in four is hardly a scant return for Kane, though the concerns tethered to his recent form are less relative to the sum than it is the appearance of physical tiredness. That said, if there’s a player in the division who can guarantee 20-plus goals this season, it’s Kane.
Winner of two Premier League Golden Boots before narrowly losing out to Mohamed Salah last year, Kane’s 30 league goals last season was a career best. He preceded that with 29, 25, and 21 league tallies in his first three full first-team seasons, signaling marginally improved totals in each of his four top-flight campaigns.
Compared with fellow traditional No. 9 and model of consistency Sergio Aguero, the most glaring contrast between the two may be attempts. Through four matches, the Argentine’s 20 efforts are twice that of Kane, as are the six shots on target to Kane’s three. A slight positional variance may explain why this is.
Changing role and Moura’s move forward
Since 2014-15, Kane’s 574 shots are second only to Cristiano Ronaldo’s 590. This season, the Englishman’s voracious appetite for attempts have diminished, and Lucas Moura’s reformulated role as a second striker is a major reason why. After the failed Vincent Janssen and Fernando Llorente endeavors, Moura’s shift from winger to forward has been a welcome relief.
A goal-poacher who continues to augment a refined skill set with additional elements, Kane was proficient with dropping deep last year. Four matches into the 2018-19 campaign, and it’s clear that Moura’s new role in Heung-min Son’s absence has seen Kane play in a withdrawn role that values holdup play and linking the midfield and attack. Kane’s 38.5 touches per match this season are nearly five more than he averaged last year, and his one assist through four is half of what he managed in 37 outings during the 2018-19 term.
(Image courtesy: BBC Sport)
Against Newcastle, Kane’s 52 touches were his highest output this season. Fifteen of those involvements took place in Tottenham’s half, with one a headed clearance from a set piece. Of the remaining 14, two were tackles, and the other dozen were passes from a deep post. Add eight touches five yards inside of the center circle, and it’s clear that Kane is comfortable playing further away from the penalty area as Moura benefits from surging runs.
A drop from 55.88 percent shooting accuracy last season to 37.50 percent this year hints at tired legs more than anything, though the decline in the number of efforts suggests a player slowly adjusting his role, not one who is past his best.
Could Harry Kane profit from some downtime? Of course. Does his early season form signal a long-term worry? Nay.