It’s pretty apt that the unanticipated ascension of Tottenham Hotspur has been facilitated by the equally unexpected rise of Harry Kane.
This isn’t Spurs as we’ve known them, after all. The side from north London have long held a reputation for being flimsy, flattering to deceive and ultimately coming up short. But Mauricio Pochettino’s men have thrived this term and with just 12 games to go in the campaign, they are two points back on the division’s surprise leaders Leicester City.
The 2-1 win over Manchester City this weekend, in which Kane netted the opener from the penalty spot, was a significant hurdle conquered for these players. It was a emphatic indication of this side’s champion potential and their ability to perform with the pressure on; Arsenal had moved ahead of them earlier in the day with a stoppage time winner against the Foxes.
After the triumph at the Etihad Stadium, Spurs’ star center-forward led the celebrations in front of a raucous away end, just as he’d led the line with distinction on the field throughout the 90 minutes. You suspect he would have been tempted to jump in and join the supporters who’d made the trip.
Granted, it wasn’t Kane’s best performance of the season, with Spurs put under pressure in spells by a City team capable in possession and dangerous on home soil. But it was a showing indicative of a player who has grown so much over the past 18 months along with this squad and a Londoner desperate to see his club secure their first league title since 1961.
Kane is a fascinating player. Not the strongest, quickest or most skillful, he’s never going to be a footballer with a YouTube reel to rival some of the game’s other top forwards. But despite not being outstanding in any of those aforementioned areas, watching him this season, and particularly the last few weeks, the 22-year-old is looking more and more like the division’s most complete forward every time he dons the white jersey.
He’s always involved in the game. The only men who can rival Kane’s 16 goals scored this season are Jamie Vardy (18) and Romelu Lukaku (16), two players who can be devastating for spells in matches, typically when they have space to surge into. But regardless of the opposition or style he comes up against, the Spurs man always leaves an impression.
Against deep sitting defenses, he triggers the Tottenham press, hassling defenders and providing a fine foil for Spurs’ creative midfield talents. While against teams who open the game up, like City did on Sunday, he can get a grip of the ball when pumped forward, lay it off, or carry it through the phases.
Kane is very good in so many different areas which are vital for centre-forwards. He strikes the ball so sweetly with both feet, can win headers and link up the play outside the box. He’s also willing to try the unorthodox, shooting early and often from improbable angles, keeping opposition defenders on edge.
There’s also a consistent ruthlessness in front of goal. The Tottenham No. 10 has 15 goals in his last 17 games and since bursting onto the scene last season, has shown an appetite for netting in the big occasion, with Arsenal, Chelsea and City unable to contain him. Kane’s perfect record from the penalty spot this campaign is also testament to his ability to cope with pressure situations.
Despite his tender years, he’s quickly becoming the leader of this vibrant side. It’s a role Pochettino clearly feels Kane is capable of filling, having thrown him the armband at times during his tenure. The striker sets this brilliant outfit in motion with his rounded front play and willingness to work hard; he’s essentially the embodiment of his manager’s philosophy out on the field.
They’re qualities that will give Spurs an edge in the title race. Not only will his prolific goalscoring and pragmatic running embolden the rest of the side, but the supporters have a local talisman to gravitate towards.
He is, after all, “one of their own” and it’s clear from his reaction after the win at City that Kane feels Tottenham can win this title. If he starts to have faith, that’ll coarse throughout the whole club, including a fanbase who have become accustomed to expecting the worst.
Not only do title-winning teams typically have a homegrown star at their core, but they have special center-forwards too. Someone who drags the side over the line with critical contributions and will run himself into the ground for the cause. At the moment, Kane is fulfilling both of those roles with distinction, adding a tremendous gloss to the mechanistic set-up supporting him.
With some of the most significant weeks to come in the club’s history, the striker is a player who looks up for the fight, as questions over whether his debut term was a fluke filed away discreetly a long time ago. Indeed, if anything, he’s improved in 2015-16.
Of course, winning the Premier League requires so many different contributors, which Spurs have had in earnest throughout the season. But to win this division, the most competitive in European football, some genuine star quality is a requisite; Kane has it.
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