Last season, Tottenham Hotspur had pretty much the best injury luck they could have hoped for. They lost very few players for extended periods with injury, the most long-term being Jan Vertonghen’s absence in early 2016 and he was replaced by an incredibly able Kevin Wimmer. Most of the concern for Spurs swirled around what would happen if Harry Kane was injured and missed some extended time, but thankfully for Mauricio Pochettino and company, they never had to find out. Now though, they’re going to.
Kane is expected to miss the next 6-8 weeks of action, and could be ready to return in time for the North London derby. Kane hasn’t exactly set the world on fire to start the new season, but he has scored goals in consecutive Premier League games and showed signs that the Harry Kane from seasons past was coming back. Then, after making what seemed to be a rash challenge late in the game against Sunderland, his immediate future is in serious doubt, and so too Tottenham’s great start to the Premier League season. They are one of three unbeaten teams in the league, and have given up only one goal from open play (and that one goal was from a free kick). Kane grows into the season with passing games, and an in-form Kane plus the other attacking options Spurs have is a terrifying thought for their opponents. With him on the shelf, what can Mauricio Pochettino do now?
This is precisely why Spurs shelled out so much money on Vincent Janssen despite his early season struggles; the club needed someone to spell and complement Kane up front, and Janssen is the one Pochettino and Paul Mitchell chose. Goal scoring exploits in Dutch football can often be misleading when translated to England, and those troubles are easily seen when one views Janssen’s early season struggles and the chances he’s missed already. But now, he will be the focal point for Tottenham up front in Kane’s absence, and he’ll get every opportunity to prove his worth. It certainly helps that he can be eased into goal scoring form against Gillingham in the League Cup and Middlesbrough in the Premier League before the two bigger fixtures the following week, but he has to prove himself in ways he hasn’t yet in his Tottenham career.
Thankfully Janssen has help from the likes of Heung-Min Son, who is in the best vein of form in his Spurs career, Mousa Dembele’s return as well as Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela and Dele Alli, all of whom haven’t quite hit their stride yet this season. Despite all of those struggles, and Kane’s injury, Spurs have only had one major dip this season and that was in the Champions League. And even despite Mauricio Pochettino’s anger at the performance, Spurs weren’t all that poor against Monaco at Wembley. What should also help Spurs assuage some of their mounting fears is a return for Danny Rose from an injury he suffered on England duty, which will give the side more balance out wide and better delivery from crosses. But the biggest spotlight falls on Spurs’ Dutch striker, who now has the world at his boots but the expectations of the world on his shoulders.
Tottenham under Pochettino have shown remarkable resilience in difficult circumstances before, but the loss of their talismanic striker and club icon is quite possibly the biggest test they’ve faced yet under Pochettino. They’ve lost key players to suspensions and injuries before, but maybe aside from Moussa Dembele, the player the club could least afford to lose would be Harry Kane. They have a replacement they think can be the answer to a question nobody wanted to see even asked, but now they must quickly find out the answer.
If Vincent Janssen can be the striker Spurs and many others think he can become, then losing Harry Kane might not be as bad as feared. If not, then a season that had so much promise could start wobbling uncontrollably with little hope for stabilization until Kane returns.
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