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Harry Kane had a difficult start to last summer’s European Championship which led to immediate questions about how he fundamentally plays the game.
Kane, the England captain, had scored 34 international goals back when the tournament started so maybe we should have trusted him more. But many who should have known better did not.
Kane was coming too deep to get the ball. He should have been playing on the shoulder of the last defender. He wasn’t spending enough time in the penalty area. This is what we were told by former players on the television and in the written press.
Kane improved throughout Euro 2020 and eventually scored four goals in the knockout stages. So when England needed him, he came through.
But that is not the evidence we should look at when we talk about exactly how the Tottenham forward plays his football. It was not, in truth, his best tournament. Above all else, Kane looked shattered at the end of a long season.
No, the evidence — the vindication of Kane’s methods — is here to be seen right now in the middle of this Premier League season.
Harry Kane (right) is playing the best football of his life under Antonio Conte (left) at Spurs
Kane is playing some of the best football of his career under Antonio Conte at the moment and the majority of it is taking place outside of the penalty area.
Last weekend at home against Newcastle, Kane was magnificent as Spurs won 5-1. He did not score but he was the best player on the field by a distance. His instinctive ability to drop into space — often as deep as the halfway line — to receive the ball and link play was superb.
His use of the ball, often over mid to long-range, was just about perfect. There are two kinds of effective passers in football. Those who hit their team-mates regularly, accurately and reliably and those whose deliveries are slightly braver and as a result carry more risk.
Their passes inject speed and purpose into a team’s play, they switch direction and find new angles. Kane, quite unusually for a centre forward, fits into the latter category.
Strange as it sounds, Kane is one of the best passers in the Premier League and this was evident once again as Tottenham scored four against Aston Villa on Saturday.
England captain and Tottenham’s star striker Kane was superb in a 4-0 win against Aston Villa
Routinely, Kane’s main beneficiary is the lovely South Korean footballer Son Heung-min. It stands to reason that, as Kane’s nominal strike partner, it is Son who drops into the advanced spaces that Kane’s thirst for the ball leaves behind. Of Kane’s 42 Premier League assists over the years, Son has scored from exactly half of them.
Kane is a confident player right now and that makes a difference. A player with his blood up will happily deliver a 30-yard pass off the outside of his foot while someone in poor form will maybe look for a five-yard lay-off. That’s human nature.
Equally, Kane’s ongoing development as a footballer teaches us that there comes a time when we just have to trust our best players to know what they are doing and let them get on with it.
In a World Cup year, we will look to Kane again but it should not only be for goals — even though he remains Gareth Southgate’s best player and England’s most expert finisher.
If we reach Qatar with the likes of Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden not able to flourish off the back of service provided by the 28-year-old then I would suggest the problem will lie not with him, but perhaps with them.
All players have to play within a system. There always has to be a method. Equally, there are some footballers who should be left to stretch the margins and boundaries of that tactical structure by following their own instincts.
Harry Kane very much belongs in that category now.
Will big clubs rest players on pre-season tours amid talk about player welfare and five subs?
Let’s see if clubs rest players on pre-season tours
For England’s best players the season will end with Nations League fixtures for their country on June 14. The next one begins, less than two months later, with the Premier League kick-off on August 6. In November there is a World Cup.
So July will be an important month. Players will need rest but how much they will be allowed to get will be interesting.
Our big clubs are already planning pre-season tours to Thailand, Australia and the USA and we should keep a close eye on all that.
For we should not ask too much of our players. That’s what our elite managers tell us. Player welfare is paramount, they say.
That, after all, is why we need five substitutions per Premier League game next season. Isn’t it?
Potential new Man United boss Erik ten Hag (above) should be worried by the lack of forwards
Is Erik worried by the striking lack of forwards?
Ralf Rangnick’s Manchester United win percentage is now 40.9 per cent which is lower than that of predecessor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season.
This tells us that it’s not necessarily the manager who is the problem at Old Trafford but the players.
Which brings us to next season and the expected arrival of Dutch coach Erik ten Hag.
The Ajax manager is currently considering whether he really wants the United job and one issue may sit on his mind more heavily than others.
Namely that, with Edinson Cavani due to leave this summer, Marcus Rashford on a downward path, Mason Greenwood absent, Anthony Martial failing on loan at Sevilla and Cristiano Ronaldo now 37 years old, United are a club without a single reliable centre forward.
No wonder ten Hag wants Robin van Persie on his staff.
Source: DailyMail Sports