As the crowd thinned, quite contrary to the heat, which had begun to intensify and accentuate , Tottenham seemed overawed by the occasion and surprised by the impending loss. It looked as if the Tottenham we are accustomed to seeing since last season has assumed the form of being the one of the season before that- frail and weaker than expected. And Monaco had showed Mauricio Pochettino’s side the mirror and the reflection from it brought the truth into focus- Spurs need to improve, if they want to finish inside the top four in the Premier League.
And Pochettino’s go-to man Harry Kane, has witnessed a start to the season, which has defined Spurs’ stuttering one in itself. The Englishman’s tally of 25 goals last season, which helped him to the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts went onto prove that he isn’t the so-called ‘one-season wonder’ that critics were supposing him to be. His heroics helped Tottenham to a third-placed finish, during a season when they came close to winning the title before slipped up away to the relegated Newcastle United, allowing arch rivals Arsenal to finish above them once again.
Alongside the likes of Christian Eriksen, young Dele Alli, Moussa Dembele, the reinvigorated Erik Lamela, Eric Dier and energetic full-backs in Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, Kane formed a side that Pochettino was working towards building ever since he took over the reins at White Hart Lane. It was a side that former Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores described as ‘animals’ after Spurs had dominated the Hornets during their 1-0 win at the Lane. And Sanchez Flores’ reference rooted from Spurs’ physical dominance on the pitch, that Pochettino had inculcated into the players by adhering to a much-feared high-pressing style. The pressing disallowed the opposition from finding any time and space on the ball, such that Spurs could win the ball in areas close to the goal. The physical robustness of Tottenham players was something that suited this lung-bursting style of play to such an extent that a side with the average of 24.9 succeeded in subjugating even the best of the Premier League outfits. But as the season drew to a close, experience of playing in high-pressure situations higher up the table was found wanting as Tottenham tumbled after enjoying an impressive season.
And Kane, who has scored just once in once in five appearances, is yet to get going. Although, the England International’s start to the previous season wasn’t a flambouyant one, but during the barren phase early on, Kane was contributing in other sectors of the game. But those contributions have been rather invisible this time around, with Kane looking like a mere shadow of his real self.
The goal against Stoke during the 4-0 sauntering of Mark Hughes’ men was an example of being in the right place at the right time. But Kane didn’t enjoy an especially impressive outing, with Stoke falling apart almost on their own after putting in a solid shift in the opening 15 minutes. And its quite clear that Kane’s generally play hasn’t been sound enough, or say as sound as it was during the goalless spell early on last season. As the season had drawn towards the fag end, right after the draw against West Brom, it seemed as if a huge amount of energy had been sapped from the bodies of Spurs player. And in hindsight, this was how it was meant to be.
Kane featured in as many 50 games last season, racking up as many as 28 goals and assisting twice. An early FA Cup and League Cup exit, which Pochettino felt would have helped them concentrate on winning the Premier League, made sure that the amount of games that Tottenham played was less than they would want. And the fielding of a second fiddle side away to Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League, again proved that Spurs were intent on lifting the Premier League title more than anything else. The 5-1 aggregate defeat wasn’t a true reflection of which team was the superior one.
And a majority of Spurs players, the English ones specifically, took part in the Euros, along with the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Moussa Dembele. And even in France, Spurs players lacked the amount of intensity that they showed throughout the league season as the likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Dembele failed to live upto their expectation, cutting rather dibilitated figures following it. While Alli, Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Dembele did put in some decent performances, but it was Kane’s showings that disappointed the most.
And it was coming, really. A normal human being can’t play every single week of a year and then live upto the expectations of performing in every single game he plays during that period. But Kane’s being expected to pull this miracle off. And his current poor form was imminent, considering the amount of rest he could get throughout the past year and this season. What was more imminent is the injury and the exclusion he will now face after being stretchered off against Sunderland after handing Spurs a lead an hour into the game. The physical nature of the game has now taken its toll.
Last season, the acquisition of Son Heung Min was expected to share some burden off Kane’s shoulders, but the South Korean’s inability to perform as a striker after arriving from Bayer Leverkusen meant that a majority of the goalscoring bonus fell Kane himself. And the lack of a proper second choice, who could help the 23-year-old share some workload is coming back to haunt Pochettino. And Tottenham’s inability snap up a striker, particularly Saido Berahino, who could’ve acted as a second-fiddle to Kane, is costing them.
Vincent Janssen, who arrived from AZ this past summer after emerging as Eredivisie’s highest goalscorer, hasn’t found the net till now but his presence itself has helped Kane in having what he needed a while back. And this season, Pochettino has attempted to fiddle around with the formation too, leading to Kane often dropping behind Janssen. And this hasn’t helped Kane in any way, when it comes to adapting back to his role up front.
Kane has looked tired, exhausted and that’s one of the reasons why Tottenham’s pressing has looked rather weak, so far. And it all was a given, considering his heavy usage last season. But with Janssen now beginning to do his bit, its only a matter of time before Kane comes into his own again after returning from the spell on the sidelines.