Vincent Janssen’s struggles at Tottenham — he was left out of the squad for the third league match running for Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Manchester City — has left the club in a familiar position. Spurs are again fighting for the title with one trusted, traditional centre-forward in Harry Kane.
Last season, Kane scored 25 league goals, despite having no serious competition for his place, but Spurs can look back on 13 draws — the joint-second most in the division — and wonder what would have happened with another striker.
This season, Kane is still scoring — he has 13 goals in 17 appearances — but Spurs are getting more goals from the midfield, which could make the difference.
“It is a great boost for confidence in a squad when there is not just one or two players scoring goals but the whole team is contributing,” Kane said last month. “That is what we have at the moment.”
Kane’s point is best illustrated by the three players most frequently behind him. At City, Dele Alli scored his 11th league goal of the season — more than any other midfield player — taking him past his tally of 10 from last season. The 20-year-old has been playing just off Kane since the turn of the year and barring catastrophe, he will keep adding to his 21 Premier League goals in 54 appearances for the remainder of the campaign.
Son Heung-Min scored his seventh goal of the season the Etihad, three more than he managed in the whole of last term, while Spurs’ other forward-thinking midfielder, Christian Eriksen, has scored six times in the league, the same number as last term. In 2014-15, it was notable that three Spurs players — Kane, Eriksen and Nacer Chadli — made it into double figures for league goals but this season it could comfortably be four.
This emerging trend has been particularly important in the “top six mini-league,” which will be crucial to Tottenham’s title or top four ambitions. Last season, Leicester crashed the party and Chelsea were a midtable team but in the 10 matches against Manchester United, City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, Kane scored seven goals. Alli, Eriksen and Son managed just a solitary goal each in the same fixtures, leaving Spurs reliant on their centre-forward for firepower.
This season, Kane has scored 15 goals in 11 appearances against teams outside the top six but Spurs’ closest rivals have understandably found ways to subdue the Golden Boot winner. He grabbed a vital assist for Son at City with a lovely flick, and a crucial penalty in the 1-1 draw at Arsenal, but in six appearances against the other top six, he has so far scored one goal. He’s also had just five shots and only two on target — one of those the Arsenal penalty. In the same fixtures, Spurs’ three attacking midfielders have scored six goals, one each for Eriksen and Son and four for Alli.
Kane’s importance to Tottenham is not in question and goals from elsewhere go hand-in-hand with his presence in the team. In the 17 league games with Kane starting, Spurs have scored 39 goals — or 2.3 goals per game. In the five league games he missed, they managed six goals — 1.2 goals per game.
Spurs have got most of their toughest fixtures out of the way already but they still have to go to Anfield, and they host Arsenal and Manchester United in the final two matches at White Hart Lane. Kane is free-scoring against the rest of the Premier League but if he continues to be double or triple-marked in the biggest games, Spurs can feel more confident that another player, most likely Alli, will step-up.
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