The England striker finally netted his first goal of the season in Spurs' 4-1 win, but Michael Cox says his game has always been about more than just finding the net...
One of the main stories from an action-packed Saturday of Premier League football was three major forwards finally breaking their goalscoring ducks.
Wayne Rooney got off the mark for Manchester United against Sunderland, Alexis Sanchez hit a hat-trick for Arsenal at Leicester, while Harry Kane converted a rebound in Tottenham’s 4-1 win over Manchester City.
Few were worried about Sanchez – he’d attempted the most shots in the Premier League and had continually hit the woodwork, which suggested a goal wasn’t far away. Rooney and Kane were receiving plenty of unwanted media attention, however, but there was a crucial difference between the two. Rooney wasn’t scoring, and wasn’t contributing much else to his side either. But Kane, even when failing to find the target, was always looking very lively.
Guile over goals
Kane was frequently depicted as a rather basic goal poacher last season, which was a little harsh. When coming up through the ranks at Spurs he’d often played as a second striker, and it feels right that he’s taken the No.10 shirt, rather than the No.9. Comparisons to Teddy Sheringham are more apt than comparisons to Alan Shearer, because Kane likes moving into deep positions and encouraging midfield runners beyond him.
That’s working particularly well now that Tottenham have in-form midfield runners who offer a goal threat. Nacer Chadli always understood Mauricio Pochettino’s system well and has a habit of popping up in good goalscoring positions, but Spurs really needed a player like Son Heung-min, more of a direct attacker who can bring the ball forward and charge into goalscoring positions with the ball rather than leaving the creativity to others.
With the Korean offering a goal threat from a deeper position, Kane’s goalless run wasn’t as much of a problem as it might have been, and his work in deeper positions was impressive. Already this season, the Tottenham forward is showing more of an all-round game than last year, and his good link play was also obvious against Manchester City.
It’s interesting to see the positions Kane received the ball in against City – they're far from the pattern you’d expect for a poacher.
Instead, he was always running the channels and collecting the ball on the outside of Martin Demichelis and Nicolas Otamendi, bringing the centre-backs out of position because of their determination to man-mark tightly. Only twice was he provided with the ball inside the box, and even then it was always in wide positions close to the flanks. His passing was good, too – 76% is a handy completion rate for a centre-forward, especially in a game where he was always under pressure.
He also showed an ability to beat opponents in wider positions, showing a turn of speed which hasn’t been appreciated enough, and he’ll be pleased that he had four opportunities to score.
Off the mark
The goal eventually came with an instinctive strike, a Christian Eriksen free-kick bouncing back off the woodwork, with Kane sticking out his foot and instinctively prodding the ball back past Willy Caballero. It was the perfect chance when you’re lacking a bit of confidence in front of goal – no time to get nervous, no need to make a decision.
“It was a harder chance than it looked,” said Kane. “It came quick towards me and it seemed to be slow motion. I was delighted. Sometimes you need a bit of luck. I probably haven't had that this season.
“It's only been seven games, but a few people were already saying 'He's a one-season wonder'. It's frustrating more than anything. It got my juices flowing to try to prove people wrong. I've had to prove people wrong throughout my career to get where I have, because it wasn't easy coming through as a youngster. So the more people say it, the more I want to prove them wrong.”
Kane’s performance, though, shouldn’t be judged simply by goalscoring. He’s a more complete forward than that – and other aspects of his game might only be appreciated now he’s in goalscoring form again.