As I watched Harry Kane smash his customary brace past everyone’s favorite over-achievers Huddersfield last weekend, I chuckled to myself as I contemplated which excuses would be used to downplay his ability after another match-winning performance. Here are some of my personal favorites:
“Huddersfield aren’t that good of a team”
Fair I guess, but they’re playing quite well so far. You’ve also got to keep in mind that Spurs struggle to beat the likes of Burnley and West Ham every year, so strength of opposition is all relative.
“He’s a tap-in merchant”
Tap-in specialists generally aren’t blasting shots into the far corner from 20-yards with their weak foot. Just because the guy plays intelligently in the penalty area doesn’t mean he can’t absolutely belt one when the situation demands.
I could go on-and-on with these, but I think you get the point. Despite Kane awakening from his annual August slumber and mercilessly feeding on opposing defences in September, everyone with a mic in their face continues to insist he has not yet attained world class status. It’s so ridiculous I often have to wonder if I’m just being messed with, since it’s quite vogue to hate on Spurs nowadays.
How many more goals will it take?
To the doubters, I’ll ask: what more does the lad have to do in order to convince you of his elite quality? He’s almost single-handedly dragging us through Champions League (so far) this season. His brace against Dortmund was typical work-horse Kane, while his hat trick against APOEL was ruthlessly efficient. He got maybe five good looks that whole game and scored three of them. It was the very definition of clinical.
Meanwhile, he’s battering teams in the league as well. Granted, our Premier League schedule thus far hasn’t been the most difficult. Still, you can only perform against what’s put in front of you each week. Kane did so exceptionally in September, notching a brace in 75% of our league matches. He only failed to score in our 0-0 draw with Swansea; a rare moment of humanity seeing him hit the crossbar instead of the net. Lukaku and Aguero are the only strikers keeping pace with his goal tally so far and that’s with Kane not scoring once in August. Could you imagine if he was on his September pace right when the season started? He’d be several goals clear and already into double figures within the first couple months of the season. Madness.
So let’s see here…he’s scoring in the league and he’s scoring in Europe. Oh, and he’s been doing this for years now, having beaten the aforementioned front men to the Golden Boot in both of the last two seasons. His 2017 goal tally of 27 has him a mere 7 goals away from Alan Shearer’s record for goals in a calendar year (35), a figure he will almost certainly surpass in the months remaining. We’re looking at a man who is consistently lethal in front of goal, and has been for a long enough time to rule out that it’s a fluke. What exactly is there still to debate?
The case against Kane
One of the major factors that works against Kane is that he hasn’t yet won a major trophy with Spurs. This criticism definitely has some merit, especially when you consider that his main league rival Aguero has won multiple titles with City in his time there. Aguero’s achievements get a lot more hype because in a few instances they directly led to honours for him and his club. Case in point, his memorable late goal against QPR to secure the 2011-12 Premier League title on the last day.
Kane doesn’t yet have a moment like that to boast of in his own career, partly because Spurs have failed to achieve the highest possible success in their last few seasons. That said, you can’t exactly make the claim that Kane failed to deliver when it mattered. His record in London derbies against teams like Chelsea, Arsenal, and West Ham is absurd at 21 goals in 29 matches. If not for Kane’s ridiculous numbers in the past few seasons, Spurs would never have been in the title conversation at all. It’s harsh to criticise Kane for not winning anything when, for both Spurs and England, he’s playing in a team that isn’t quite at the level to secure silverware.
Indeed, Kane is one of the major factors allowing his club to punch above the weight their collective talent and financial limits would suggest they should be at. It seems strange, I realise, to suggest that Spurs are some sort of underdog in the league when our starting XI includes some of its best players in their respective positions. But overall, as a franchise, Spurs are not yet elite. We don’t have the money that the Manchester clubs or Chelsea do. We don’t have any modern Premier League titles to our name. Outside of our starters, our bench depth is comprised primarily of academy products while teams like Chelsea can loan out full teams of top talent every season and still get by fine. So in a footballing context, despite our great rise to prominence in the last few seasons, we are still very much an inferior side to say, City or United.
National team success needed?
Another factor that unfortunately leads to doubts about Kane’s status amongst world football’s elite is his record with the English national team. Well, not so much his record itself, but the team’s performance overall. In the Hodgson era, Kane wasn’t used properly and as such was a part of some truly embarrassing moments (Iceland, anyone?). This has led to some pundits claiming that until he leads England to a major trophy, Kane can’t be considered a top striker.
This is maybe the weakest argument in an already heavily-contrived arsenal (see what I did there) of Kane criticisms for a few reasons. First off, it shouldn’t be 100% on Kane to bring his team to glory in international play. He can score all the goals he wants and still fail to deliver a title if the defense behind him leaks more goals than he can produce. Second, the international standard is inconsistently applied and not always something that other strikers are held to anyway. Let’s go through some examples. Leonel Messi is considered by many as the best attacker in the world, yet he has never won a major trophy with Argentina’s senior team. Luis Suarez has only a single Copa America to his name with Uruguay. Robert Lewandoski has won absolutely nothing of note with Poland.
Why should Kane have to carry a perennially under-performing England team to glory in order to earn the world class moniker? Most other elite strikers haven’t, and no one seems to care. Is it because he’s English, and the expectations are higher? Is it because there are so few gaps in his record that pundits need anything to latch onto? I’m not sure, really. Regardless, it’s a poor and arbitrary standard to apply to a player who would surely be winning national titles left and right if he was playing for Germany or Spain.
The final verdict
It’s obvious that I’m rather biased when it comes to Kane. He is probably my favourite striker to ever play for Spurs, and that’s with my love for that wily Irish scamp Robbie Keane. But objectively speaking, I just don’t see how he can’t be considered elite given the numbers he’s putting up at his age. He’s proved he’s not a flash in the pan by scoring consistently for three seasons and counting, winning two Golden Boots in the process. He’s performing in Europe’s best competition against top clubs like Dortmund. If he scores against Madrid in our upcoming games, he’ll have produced against arguably the world’s biggest club. Besides lifting the Premier League or Champions League trophy, which is as dependent on his teammates as it is on him, he’ll have nothing left to achieve.
In my eyes, Kane is already world class…and I can’t wait to see how he goes about convincing his critics over the rest of this season.
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