There aren’t many players that are as valuable to their team as Harry Kane is to Tottenham Hotspur.
Sure, lots of teams in the top six would feel slightly hard-done-by at the loss of one of their stars to an injury but there is no disputing Kane is the focal point at Wembley.
For the past three seasons, the England frontman has been prolific for Spurs. So much so he’s on course to score at least double the number of goals of any of his teammates for the fourth season in a row.
An ankle injury sustained in the weekend win over Bournemouth looks set to sideline Kane until mid-April. So how will the team fare in his absence?
Who to turn to?
No Sergio Aguero? Gabriel Jesus is your man. Any two of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are able to take on the extra workload should one of the trio be missing.
Similarly, in London, an Alvaro Morata-less Chelsea can turn to Olivier Giroud (or vice versa, these days) and Alexandre Lacazette is more than capable of covering an absent Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
At Tottenham though…? Fernando Llorente.
With all due respect to the Spaniard, he’s perhaps not quite the back-up option that will have opposition defences worried.
In fact, looking at the depths of squads in and around Tottenham’s current league position, it wouldn’t be too unfair to suggest that they are one of the thinnest in the centre-forward department.
In Llorente’s defence, there aren’t many who would fancy themselves to displace Kane as Mauricio Pochettino’s first-choice striker these days but he hasn’t exactly set the world alight when given his chance.
Naturally, much of Llorente’s contribution this season has come from the bench. In the league, he’s only made one start in which he scored against former club Swansea City.
Pochettino to change the system?
Such is the importance of Kane to Spurs that their shape and tactical approach is built around him. As a result, there will be question marks as to whether Llorente is capable of filling the role.
Although Kane’s injury will initially only keep him out for a short while, manager Pochettino may well be forced to change his side’s system should he choose not to place the faith in Llorente.
Spurs’ play this season has at times been rigid and laboured, often criticised and negatively compared to the fluid, attacking styles of the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool – thus the increasing reliance on Kane to come up with the goods.
His absence may prove the ideal opportunity for the Argentinian to set his team up differently and experiment somewhat.
January acquisition Lucas Moura has yet to start a game since his move from Paris Saint-Germain and has made only two late appearances from the bench – perhaps the Brazilian’s time has now come.
Too much slack elsewhere
The international break couldn’t have come at a better time for Spurs as the early diagnosis suggests that Kane may only miss two matches (albeit one of those being a trip to Stamford Bridge next weekend).
Pochettino will be slightly concerned though by the unpredictable form of the usually reliable midfield duo of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli.
The latter especially has drawn much criticism for his performances and his distinct lack of impact this season. Alli’s 18 goals last season were a welcome contribution last campaign as Spurs finished as the league’s top scorers with 86 strikes. This season, however, he’s netted only six times.
The England international’s loss of form has kept Eriksen out of the spotlight somewhat, although the Dane is also guilty of not pulling his weight.
While often not tasked with scoring Spurs’ goals, his vision and ability to create chances has been crucial to their improvement in recent seasons. Eriksen provided 20 assists in 2016/17, compared to only nine so far this time around.
Heung-Min Son has been a bright spark in recent matches, scoring four goals in his last two games. Despite his work rate and desire to take his chances, the South Korean can also be guilty of not being consistent enough and going through too many ‘purple patches’.
Are Spurs failing to learn?
It’s a question that is often hypothetically asked: would Spurs be a top-four side without Kane? It may only be a temporary lay-off but the question could be about to be put to the test for real.
Could this have been prevented?
For the past three seasons, Kane has been heavily relied upon to score the goals at White Hart Lane. And it’s often been a case of ‘if he doesn’t score, then who will?’
In fact, Kane has been the only out-and-out forward of recognised quality since the 2013/14 season when both Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado carried the responsibility – incidentally only scoring 18 league goals between them that season.
It can almost be considered a situation of neglect in the boardroom – what if Kane gets a long-term injury?
Perhaps up to now the club have struggled to recruit and reputable forward happy enough to sit on the bench; Kane’s the first name on the team sheet.
It’s not the first time he’s been forced to sit a few weeks out, but perhaps this time around in might prompt the board to find a prevention before they’re forced to scramble for a cure.
The prognosis is a month – if there’s ever a game Pochettino would want his main man back for, it would be April 14th at the Etihad.
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