The People vs. Harry Kane
Before I start my Harry Kane analysis, I want to clearly state that I have nothing against him. I have never had a particular fondness for him, but I also don't dislike him in any way. In fact, I began this endeavor without any predetermined verdict. I just let the stats tell the story. I'm a perfect impartial jury!
HK is a bit like tofu in how he takes on the flavor of the game. He has the ability to add world-class technical brilliance to a 3-2 cracker, but can also suck the air right out of a game with his propensity to take one two many touches, often in pursuit of the aforementioned moment of brilliance. Don't get me wrong, I believe Harry Kane is one talented guy, I just want to figure out if he is the next Lewandowski (world-class) or the next Costa (never quite the full potential, though VERY different reasons).
So I decided to take a look myself and see if I can deduce why a guy that can do this:
also does this:
First, a very brief Harry Kane history lesson:
So for all intents and purposes, HK started his professional career with Orient in 2011. (He had made a few appearances for Spurs before that, but they were mostly mop up duty and end of season stuff.)
In back to back loan seasons at Orient and Millwall (3rd and 2nd tier respectively) Harry stuck it in 12 times in 40 appearances, not a bad return for a 17 and 18 year old. His stint at Millwall was especially impressive as he scored seven in the last fourteen matches.
Now it was time to see what he could do versus the big boys. In the 12-13 season he joined Norwich but was injured and eventually recalled by an injury depleted Spurs team. Oddly though, they sent him to Leicester shortly thereafter (20 days later) where he almost helped the Foxes reach the Premier League before this happened in the Playoff semifinals:
HOLY SHIT! I lose my mind every time I watch that!!!
Ok, back on topic.
Finally, Spurs decided he was ready to contribute to their upper-middle table existence. His time on loan had shown a young striker who was starting to fill out his frame, and while injuries had prevented any sustained momentum, he certainly hadn't struggled to score goals.
Now let's break down his three season at Spurs:
This is what you might call his 'transition year'. Andres Villas Boas started the year as the Spurs manager, but was replaced by Tim Sherwood as the team struggled.
He ended up playing 19 times for Spurs that year, with 3 League goals and 1 in the cup. He also got a run out in a few Europa League matches, but that's it.
Now, the circumstances were tough. It is never easy for a young guy to break in when a coach is trying to hang on as manager (AVB), or earn the gig full time (Sherwood).but let's take a look at the Spurs forwards (and attacking mids) that season and how they did:
Not exactly a list that takes your breath away. Adebayor actually fulfilled a little bit of his promise before promptly disappearing again, and besides Eriksen and Sigurdsson the rest have generally faded away. (Does everyone remember Soldado? He's the worst).
Even Roberto Firmino picks on him:
So do goalkeepers:
Ok, back to HK.
The point is, is that up until two season ago he had two successful (too much credit?) loan spells to lower divisions then bounced around with Norwich and Leicester in a forgetful season, then was a squad player on a marginal Spurs team trying to integrate the 37 new players they signed with their Bale money.
That's not exactly the resume of a world-class superstar.
It's not that Kane hadn't been OK (he's only 20 at this point Brian geez get over it), but he also had failed to totally capitalize on the opportunities afforded to him (more on that later). If he really is such a special talent, why can't he get on the field over and aging Jermaine Defoe? Or Nacer Chadli for that matter?
Now I know, this all seems quite critical of poor Harry, but the point is that it is not his current state of play that will ultimately determine how he is remembered. He didn't just step onto the field and announce himself (Marcus Rashford), but instead incrementally worked his way to chances on the field that he did ultimately convert.
But four seasons into his professional career he had a whopping 17 goals. Up until this point he was another 'could be' kind of player. Loads of potential but unable to find his best form.
Then this man came along:
When Mauricio Pochettino speak, people tend to listen. I get the feeling that HK is a smart enough guy to realize that he should, and apparently he did.
On opening day Harry came on and assisted an Eric Dier winner, and it was all downhill from there.
Kane went off like fireworks in JPP's hand. He played 34 league matches, and scored plenty of goals. The crazy part???
HE DIDN'T SCORE HIS FIRST GOAL LEAGUE GOAL UNTIL NOVEMBER! It was Matchweek 10 before he bulged the onion bag in the Premier League. So, he actually scored 21 goals in the last 28 weeks of the season. That is a pretty impressive return.
Before he broke his Premier League drought, he had knocked in two FA Cup goals, against B&H and Nottingham Forest. Hmmm.....
Ok Harry, so you decided to score goals. Did it help the team??
Look at game number 10/11 on the chart above. Harry scored and after the following match, as he continued to score, the team continued to rise, and rise, and rise.
Ultimately, that is what I started hoping to find out in the beginning. Is he a game-changer? Well in the 2014/2015 season it certainly appears he was for a Spurs team that gave a hint of what was to come, ultimately finishing just outside of a Champions League spot.
Pretty hard to argue with those stats. I wonder how he did in the Europa League.
He scored 7 goals, seems like he had a big impact there too. Plus, he was scoring against strong unfamiliar teams! What a stud.
Except he wasn't.
Six of his seven tallies came in four matches against AEL Limassol (Cyprus). and Asteras Tripoli (Greece) respectively. Not exactly stellar competition. His other goal came against Besiktas, who is a historically competitive team from Turkey.
But between his other three group matches against Besiktas and Partizan Belgrade, plus two matches against Fiorentina (Italy) in the Round of 32? Nothing.
You know who did score as Tottenham whimpered out of the competition, losing 3-1 on aggregate in the Round of 32?
So what gives Harry? I certainly appreciate your Premier League goal scoring streak, but you have to be able to step up and take advantage of opportunities like the Europa League. That is when you can at least show the continent that you are a force to be reckoned with. Not a player who only shines when he is comfortable in his league/ home country..
On that note, as a team, Tottenham had a +26 goal differential at home and a -6 goal differential on the road in 2014-2015.
But Harry only tallied 9 at White Hart Lane and picked up 12 on the road. What the hell?
So it appears that in 2014-2015 Harry found some scoring boots, which had a huge impact on the team, but in the biggest matches he didn't really step up to the plate and cover himself in glory. It's impossible to call it nothing less than a step in the right direction, but he better hope some of the returns in Europa League (and the slow start) don't become habitual.
Following a 2014/2015 that saw him named to the PL Best XI, a lot was expected of HK. Tottenham looked poised to take the league by storm, Euro 2016 loomed at the end of the season (more on that later), and Harry was poised to answer the call. So what did he do?
He didn't score until Matchweek 8! So much for not becoming habits We know, through history, that he is a streaky scorer, and it was only the following week when he picked up goal number 2..kinda
Just when I think you can't be any more awkward, you go
Two weeks after finishing top shelf on Hugo Lloris (definitely not the last guy to ever say that), he proceeded to score seven goals in his next four matches (for his team).
By the end of his PL campaign he would appear on the PL Best XI and put together this stat line:
Once again, we see a repeat of his strong Premier League performance of the last season, but the Europa League stats seem to regress.
Additionally, when his PL stats are put under a microscope, they don't hold up.
12 of his 25 league goals came against Bournemouth, Villa and Norwich (dis)respectfully. Meaning half of his goals came in those 6 matches alone.
So he scored 13 goals in the other 32 matches. (Note he did play every game). Those are not exactly eye-popping stats. That is a return rate of about a goal every two and a half games.
To be honest, when I started looking at this past season I was certain I was going to be faced with irrefutable facts of his dominance and brilliance. He had made the best XI again, and I just assumed that he was on the fast track to greatness.
But when you look at his PL stats they are as hollow as the head of the girl who swipes right for Chase, and the Europa League just makes it worse.
In SEVEN matches, he picked up a whopping TWO goals. One in a home win against a decent Anderlecht side, and the other in a CRUCIAL 1-0 win over vaunted Quarabag (Azerbaijan).
When Tottenham had a rematch with Fiorentina in the Round of 32, who scored when they avenged their previous defeat and advanced 4-1 on aggregate??
Chadli, Mason, Lamela, and own goal.
The Round of 16 was no better. Spurs left Europa League with their tails between their legs when they ran into a quality Borussia Dortmund side who humbled them 5-1 on aggregate.
So to wrap up the 2015-2016 season. Harry scores 25, get a second Best XI nod, WINS THE GOLDEN BOOT and Tottenham finishes second. But the goals are bunched up against questionable teams, and he doesn't show up for a single cup competition. Quite a mixed bag.
I struggle to move to one side of the fence or the other with Harry, I really do. Thankfully, there is international soccer!
Between qualifying for Euros and the tournament itself we should be able to grab a snap shot of how HK fits in with (mostly) quality players, against both the minnows and sharks of Europe!
EURO 2016 QUALIFYING/ TOURNAMENT.
Harry's first senior team appearance for England was March 30th, 2015 against Lithuania. Coming on as a sub he scored just 80 seconds into his debut. (3:33 of the video below if you are interested,. Although if you have read the first two thousand words you obviously are).
What?! Harry start fast? Maybe England was just the kick in the butt he needed to get over the hump.
In the next 8 matches of 2015, he would pick up only two more goals.
The 5th goal of a 6-0 route of San Marino. (Woo hoo!) and a goal against Switzerland (in London I might add),
2016 would not prove much more fruitful.
A goal in a friendly against Germany in Deutschland in March looks solid, but a little investigating shows the fearsome CB pairing of Tah and Rudinger for Germany when Kane pounced. Not exactly Hummels and Boateng.
Then in the first of three warm up matches for Euros, Harry scored in the third minute, then brought everyone back to Earth by missing a PK in the 72nd.
Finally, Euros themselves. We all watched the matches so I know you know the ending, but needless to say Harry stunk the place up.
England would tie mercifully tie Russia and Slovakia (SLOVAKIA SHUT THEM OUT) , but hey at least they got past Wales 2-1! He started that game. There it is, good performance against the god that is Ashley Williams!
He got subbed out at halftime?
and their two goals after the break?
and one goal was scored by the sub that came on for him?
Finally Iceland put England out of their misery with a humbling 2-1 win that wasn't nearly that competitive, and what were we left with?
Sixteen appearances for England since last March with 5 goals against minnows or in meaningless matches, and a big flop at his first major tournament.
As I stated at the beginning of the article, I really didn't have a thesis, just a frustrating inability to decide how I felt about the guy as a player. It is evident to me now why that was.
Harry Kane upon first glance has had nothing short of a dream start to his professional career. He has scored 64 goals in 127 appearances, has 2 Best XI honors, and a Golden Boot to.....boot.
When I spent the time doing the research for this article it became evident to me that up until this point in his career, Harry has taken everything one step at a time . He has calmly followed the "natural progression" that a player should and finds himself on the precipice of world stardom (maybe he is already there, but that is more about the Premier Leagues visibility then him).
But this is where I think he has hit his ceiling. A player doesn't graduate to super stardom. You burst onto the scene.
Perhaps it is a mix of unselfishness and modesty that betrays him. His selfishness doesn't always show on the field, he knows his job is to shoot, but he has also let other teammates steal the limelight (deservedly so in some cases) and doesn't step up in big games. You can argue that his teammates have let him down, but that doesn't matter to superstars.
You win because of them, because they don't let the team lose. I don't know if Harry has it in him. This year he takes a HUGE step up in mid week competition with Tottenham in the Champions League, and evidence would point to him struggling in that competition. Between Europa League and his international career he has been nothing short of underwhelming.
Throw in the fact that Tottenham splashed big cash on another, very similar center forward who scored over thirty goals for AZ Alkmaar
No, not Jozy Altidore!
So obviously Harry is going to have some serious competition for playing time. Can he hold off the younger guy in town, or will Harry find himself riding more wood than Courtney Love?
Nothing has shown me that Harry Kane is nothing but a really good league scorer who thrives when the team is winning and the competition isn't that good. If he takes another two months to score his first goal this season, the fans and gaffer might not be so forgiving.
The stakes are high and the expectations higher. I just don't think he can meet them.
Maybe he will prove me wrong moving forward, but something tells me that this is the best Harry Kane we will ever see, and he just might not be as good as everyone thinks he is.
2016-2017 Prediction: 17 goals: 13 league, 2 Champions League, 2 FA Cup.