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25 Apr 2018

Tottenham: Is it time to be concerned about Harry Kane?

Tottenham: Is it time to be concerned about Harry
Kane?

The striker's poor display in the FA Cup semi-final point to a player who's not at his best

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 Spurs showed they can cope without him

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Kane's lack of sharpness

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Not again?

(Photo credit: enviro warrior)

Harry Kane is not looking himself. 

When he went off injured against Bournemouth in mid-March, Spurs and England fans held their breath. At first glance, the ankle injury looked to put the remainder of his season in jeopardy.

In the end, after pushing himself he returned quickly, only missing one full game for the North London team. 

Whilst he has scored two goals in four games, he hasn't looked the same player. It begs the question: did he come back too soon?

Spurs showed they can cope without him

One minute after Kane hobbled off the pitch against Bournemouth, Dele Alli opened the scoring against Bournemouth in a match that turned into a comfortable 4-1 victory. 

There was an interplay between Alli, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min that looked a formidable test for any defence. 

This was reproduced against Swansea with Eriksen scoring twice and Erik Lamela providing the other. Mauricio Pochettino decided not to opt for a like-for-like replacement in Fernando Llorente. 

Seven goals against lower to mid-table opposition might not have provided the most emphatic statement Spurs could cope without him. 

However, a second half blitz against Chelsea with goals Eriksen and Alli taking them to a 3-1 win provided a strong argument that Kane need not be rushed back. This was Spurs most important remaining league game and they put in a brilliant performance that consolidated their position in the top four in the absence of their striker.

He returned in the closing stages of the match against Chelsea, but only with the score already settled as the game drifted towards the final whistle. His teammates had done the job without him.

Could they not have been trusted a little longer? Could a little more patience benefitted both the team and player?

Kane's lack of sharpness

Tottenham scored ten goals in three games won without Kane on the pitch. Since his return, they have scored five goals in four games, losing the FA Cup semi-final and dropping five points in the league to allow Chelsea back in contention of catching them. 

The Premier League top scorer of the past two seasons, and with 26 goals already this season, there is no doubt that Kane is an outstanding striker who is vital to Tottenham's success. But he does not currently look the same player. 

Admittedly, he has scored two goals since his return. Officially, anyway. But this masks his lack of sharpness. The tired banter about the goal his controversial claimed goal to one side, whether he touched the ball or not against Stoke, the brush of his shoulder did not change the flight of Eriksen's cross. The ball was sailing in without him.

His other goal against Brighton was an emphatic finish, but it was a result of the dogged harrying of Son-Heung-min. His finishing ability is not in question, but he is rarely offering the same movement to get into goal-scoring positions. 

Since his return from injury, he is averaging less than half of the shots than before he was injured.

With Kane fully fit, Spurs are an imperious side with the league's most reliable centre-forward tying everything together as a focal point. Without him, they've shown an impressive fluency with Son Heung-min in his place. With him in his current state, they're an awkward amalgam of the two and not nearly as strong as either. 

This was most evident in Tottenham's disappointing defeat to Manchester United. 

Not again?

Most of the post-mortem after the FA Cup was on the theme of history repeating. Spurs fans had seen this before, this being their eighth FA Cup semi-final loss in a row. But this would have been familiar for a wider fanbase, too. 

There are parallels with England. The hype. The anticipation of the biggest stage. The feeling that finally, this time, the players are good enough. The abject disappointment and the sense that they could - should - have done better. 

Against Manchester United, Kane was ineffective. There was early promise but he was anonymous after the first 15 minutes and failed to impose himself on the game. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have been blundering at times this season but dealt with him with ease.

This was Wayne Rooney against Algeria in Cape Town. Frank Lampard against Portugal in Gelsenkirchen. Kane himself has experienced this, against Iceland in Nice. Players who are absolutely good enough, not showing it when their team desperately demanded it. 

Tottenham have four more league fixtures. There are still over seven weeks until England play their first World Cup game against Tunisia. There is plenty of time and it should be enough for Kane to regain his sharpness. England need him to. 

What do you think? Should Spurs fans start to get worried about Harry Kane? Let us know by commenting below.