Football

Harry Kane is making history with Tottenham; but is it just luck?

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Despite the pictures peddled about by Arsenal fans on social media, the Tottenham faithful will tell them until they're blue in the face that Harry Kane is one of their own.

The 21-year-striker further ensconced his place in north London folklore on Saturday, bagging himself both goals in Spurs' 2-1 win over Arsenal at White Hart Lane to help his side move one point above their rivals in the Premier League table. The crucial goal, an 86th minute hanging header, was his 22nd of the season in all competitions.

Goals, Goals, Goals

"Harry Kane was fantastic today,” Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino said after the win. “He was brilliant, scored two goals and when he scores the player is happy and the team is happy.

“But I told you he needs to improve, he has massive potential and we need to improve him.”

An improving Harry Kane is a frightening prospect, at least for his rivals. The 21-year-old has 12 Premier League goals this season which puts him 5th in top scorer race - however his goals have come at an average of 2.9 shots-per-game. Leading scorer Diego Costa averages 3.2 shots-per-game, while second-placed Sergio Aguero has been taking 4.4-per-game. 

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He's also played in fewer games than the four ahead of him in the list - Costa, Aguero, Charlie Austin and Alexis Sanchez - making 14 league starts compared to Costa's 19 and Austin's 22. He's averaging a goal every 111 minutes on the pitch, and only Costa and Aguero boast a better conversion rate.

Deadly

In simpler terms, he's scoring more goals with fewer shots than anyone in the Premier League, and is doing it at a similar rate to the cream of the crop in English football's top flight. He's averaging more goals-per-90 minutes than Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale this season. Not bad then, for a player who managed just two goals in the Championship for Leicester just two seasons ago.

Kane's rise to prominence is remarkable as it is startling. Even in the context of this season his efforts are incredible. He didn't score in the Premier League until November 2, when he came off the bench to bag a late winner against Aston Villa. Indeed, although Pochettino has been quick to hail Kane's goalscoring form, he didn't play a full 90 minutes until the following week against Stoke. 

Before Kane's incredible explosion to prominence he hadn't shown any real glimpses of what he is now showing himself to be capable of. In four loan spells with Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester he played 57 games and scored a grand total of 14 goals. Before this term he'd managed less than 500 minutes on the pitch for Tottenham in the Premier League.

So where did this explosion, this all-time purple of purple patches come from? Well, it's hard to tell but there could be a couple of factors. Perhaps the most prominent one is the presence of Pochettino.

Reputation

The Argentine has a well-established reputation for developing young players. In his first season in charge at Espanyol he fielded 20 youth players in the first team, and that's certainly an ethos that has stuck in his time in England.

Jay Rodriguez managed six goals in his maiden Premier League campaign with Southampton, three of which he scored under Pochettino when he took over from Nigel Adkins. He managed 15 strikes in the former Espanyol manager's first, and only, full campaign at St.Mary's. That's the same as his best-ever Championship tally, which is particularly telling.

Fitness is likely to be a factor too. "As the season has gone on we've got fitter and fitter," said Kane after Saturday's win. "I feel the fittest I've ever felt and the best shape I've ever been in. The gaffer did a lot of work on getting us fit and it's really starting to work. I think it's both fitness and confidence."

Anyone who watched the north London derby - Spurs' 40th game of the season compared to Arsenal's 36th - will attest to that too; the energy displayed by the Lillywhites, led by Kane, was astonishing and perhaps the biggest factor in deciding the outcome of the game.

Game plan

Kane's puppy-dog enthusiasm has been key to Tottenham's success this season - his other standout performance was in the 5-3 thriller against Chelsea - but there is still the lingering suspicion that all is not as it seems. 

After all, he has very little pedigree and wasn't known outside of north London last season - but as it stands he's in with a shout of making history. Robbie Fowler set the record for most goals by a 21-year-old in a season by bagging 25 in 1995/96. Kane, at his current rate will end up with 23 - however it's worth noting that Fowler played 38 times that season while Kane has come to life in one half of a campaign. 

Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney are the two most notable England forwards to have burst on the scene over the past two decades. Owen managed 73 goals in 134 games before he turned 22 while Rooney hit 59 in 172 games. The duo scored their goals at a rate of 1.8-per-game and 3.3-per-game respectively. As it stands Kane is scoring his goals this season at 1.67. That's a better rate than even the precocious Fowler managed.

Of course Kane's sample size is too small to really compare to those players. He's played just 60 games for Tottenham all in and before this season hadn't done anything of note - which makes his explosion all the more confusing.

A trawl back through the Premier League history books doesn't offer up many examples of players exploding out of nowhere; those who do well at a young age are either bought in at great expense or, like Owen and Rooney, are singled out as special from an early age and have serious pedigree. Kane is something of an anomaly; he even has a better goals-per-game ratio than Ronaldo did at his age.

Outlier

Michael Ricketts hit the ground running with Bolton in 2001/02 and scored 12 in his first 18 games, earning a call-up for England in the process. He'd previously been with Walsall. From there he managed three goals in his next 25 games for the Trotters and retired with Tranmere in 2010. 

Is that the fate that awaits Kane? Frankly it's too early to tell. According to one Arsenal blog at least Tottenham "have pedigree for producing fraud players, and this guy has the potential to be their best one yet".

His rise to the top has been so sharp, so unexpected that it is difficult to figure out whether he's just in form, or genuinely has always had the talent to be one of the best strikers in the Premier League. Those in the know like Les Ferdinand, who coached him at youth level, says that he was always destined for great things, but he's always likely to say that, especially  with the benefit of hindsight.

It seems to be the case that the stars have aligned for him in terms of his manager and the paucity of competition up front at Spurs, but his performances at Chelsea and Arsenal have forced a few to reconsider their view. 

There's certainly the underlying feeling that he is just burning bright before fading away, but that's because there's little in the way of context to explain what he is doing. As it stands he's proving pretty much everyone wrong.

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur

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