Harry Kane cut a frustrated figure as his Tottenham team slumped to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea on Sunday. He received very little service and generally struggled to make an impact against Thomas Tuchel’s well-drilled defence. Kane has now failed to find the back of the net in his first four Premier League games of the season. Can he turn his form around?
Dreaming of the Etihad
Kane was desperate to engineer a move to Man City this summer. He is now 28 years of age, but he has not won a single trophy during his illustrious career, so he is keen to move to a club that matches his ambitions. Man City fit the bill. They have won the Premier League title for three of the past four seasons, and they are perennial Champions League contenders under Pep Guardiola. They also need a striker after allowing Sergio Aguero to leave on a free transfer in the summer.
It seemed like a match made in heaven, but Kane’s proposed move to the Etihad collapsed after Spurs chairman Daniel Levy refused to play ball. He rejected an opening bid of £100 million, and then turned down an improved £125 million bid later in August. Kane’s contract runs until 2024, so Levy was under no pressure to do business, and he decided to dig his heels in and keep his prize asset in north London.
Kane failed to show up for pre-season tests in a bid to force Levy’s hand, but the Spurs chairman continued to play hardball. Man City eventually abandoned their pursuit of the England captain, leaving him to face up to another season with Tottenham. It was a bold decision from Levy. Spurs are in a precarious financial position after spending £1 billion on a shiny new stadium that sat empty for a year during the pandemic, and selling Kane could have alleviated those budgetary concerns. Yet Levy seemingly wanted to avoid a fan backlash, so Kane was forced to grudgingly turn up for training and prepare for the campaign.
A Slow Starter
It was worth noting that Kane often makes a slow start to the campaign. He famously went five seasons without scoring a goal in August at the start of his Tottenham career, before finally ending the drought in 2018. Kane often grows into the season, but his current form may set alarm bells ringing in the Tottenham boardroom.
After all, he scored three goals in three games for England during the recent international break, but he has not replicated that level of productivity for his club. He did score a couple of goals against Pacos Ferreira in the much-maligned Europa Conference League, but he has been found wanting thus far in the Premier League.
Last season, Kane won his third Premier League Golden Boot after firing in 23 goals in 35 games. He added 14 assists, making him the most productive forward in the division by a comfortable margin. Kane tends to terrorise domestic opponents, but he has looked off the pace in the opening weeks of the new campaign.
There are some mitigating circumstances. Kane only came on as a substitute against Wolves, when Spurs were fiercely defending a 1-0 lead. He was quiet in the 1-0 win against Watford, but it was a pretty drab clash without many chances for either team. Kane was starved of service again in the 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace, a game in which Tottenham capitulated after Japhet Tanganga was sent off on 57 minutes, and he barely had a sniff of action against European champions Chelsea last time out. It is still early days, even if the Crystal Palace game was the first match in which he did not have a touch in the opposition penalty box or a shot on goal.
Yet Kane’s body language could provide Levy with cause for concern. He was widely praised for his firm stance during the summer transfer window, but he has been left with a disgruntled star that wants to be playing elsewhere. Rather than playing under Guardiola, with the likes of Jack Grealish, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva feeding him chances, Kane is stuck in a Spurs team managed by a conservative coach in Nuno Espirito Santo, alongside the likes of Oliver Skipp and Harry Winks. He looks pretty miserable.
Pundit Gary Neville felt Kane looked “despondent” after the Chelsea game. Spurs were totally overwhelmed, highlighting the huge gulf in quality between them and the Blues. Spurs are now 200/1 outsiders in the Premier League betting. “He’ll be thinking, ‘I’m here again’,” said Neville. “He’ll be thinking, ‘I’m not going to challenge for the title again at Tottenham and I’m not even going to get into the top four’. He wanted more.”
Lighting Up the Shop Window
However, Kane needs to drag himself out of the doldrums quickly. He is not the sort of player to go on strike in a bid to force a move – he insists he did not refuse to train in the summer, and that he never would – so he needs to buckle down and regain peak form. If he hopes to secure a move next summer, or perhaps even during the January transfer window, he needs to show prospective employers that he remains the Premier League’s deadliest marksman.
Kane must also thrive on a consistent basis in order to hold onto his place in the England team. It appears very safe, as he captains the Three Lions and serves as their talisman, but he does have competition. The likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ollie Watkins, Patrick Bamford and Danny Ings may struggle to dislodge Kane, but Mason Greenwood is a phenomenal talent and he continues to improve, so Kane cannot afford to grow complacent if he plans to lead the line for the Three Lions in Qatar next year.
Do Not Write Kane Off
There is absolutely no reason why he cannot recapture his best form for Spurs in the weeks and months ahead. Kane is the most consistently brilliant striker the Premier League has seen since Alan Shearer retired. At 28, he is now in his prime. He has 223 goals in 342 Premier League games, leaving him just 37 shy of Shearer’s Premier League record, so his current barren spell can be seen as a mere blip.
The main difference now is that Kane has gone public with his desire to leave, and he clearly feels resent towards Levy for backing out of a so-called “gentleman’s agreement” to allow him to move to greener pastures. Yet Kane still has a lot of love for the wider club. He will not want to cause a further rupture in his relationship with the fans, and he will not want to let his teammates down. He has adapted to life under lots of different managers during his time at Tottenham, and he can still flourish in Santo’s conservative system
Next up, Tottenham face Arsenal in the North London Derby. Kane has banged in 11 goals in 13 games against the Gunners, much to the delight of Spurs fans. He would endear himself to the supporters once again by if he were to put Arsenal to the sword at the weekend. Kane has been written off before, but Kane has always silenced his critics. If he gets into the right frame of mind, he will surely do so again.