Kane v Rooney: How the England strikers compare
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Question marks have been raised all season about the form of Harry Kane even though he has scored 13 times already for club and country. But finally analysis of his frustrating hit-and-miss campaign reveals there is one way virtually to guarantee the striker finds the back of the net. Make him a man possessed.
Kane has scored in every game bar one this season when his team has controlled more than 62 per cent of possession.
It is only when his team-mates cannot keep hold of the ball that he tends to drift wider and deeper in search of action – a tendency which has been blamed for his failure to make much of an impact in too many games for Tottenham in particular.
By contrast, in the 13 matches Kane has played in which his team has had less than 63 per cent possession, the only goal he managed was against a second-string Wolves side in the EFL Cup.
Other than that, his only goals for Spurs have come in the Europa Conference League against Pacos Ferreira and Mura, when Spurs had 71 per cent and 67 per cent of possession respectively, and Newcastle in the Premier League when Spurs enjoyed 65 per cent of possession.
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Since Antonio Conte came in, Spurs managed just 53 per cent of possession against Vitesse Arnhem in the Europa Conference League and 55 per cent against Everton when, for the second Premier League game in a row, Tottenham failed to manage even a single shot of target throughout the team.
Traditionally, Conte is a manager who likes to play without the ball, relying on a swift counter. It is a very similar philosophy to Jose Mourinho in that regard.
Even when winning the Scudetto with Inter Milan last season, Conte’s team averaged only 52 per cent possession – with the away side actually seeing more of the ball than Inter during games at the San Siro.
Possession stats at Chelsea were only marginally higher during Conte’s two seasons there, with the blues averaging 55 per cent possession in Premier League matches.
It is a worrying sign that, having fought so hard to keep Kane over the summer, Conte appears to be entirely the wrong manager to come in and bring the best out of him.
By way of illustration, possession statistics which rose as high as 62 per cent at Tottenham in Mauricio Pochettino’s final full season in charge had dropped to 52 per cent the following year with Mourinho taking over.
Intriguingly, there is just one manager in the Premier League who has consistently managed to keep his side’s possession statistics in Kane’s 63-and-over red zone… Pep Guardiola.
The Manchester City manager was expected to sign Kane over the summer and is rumoured to be considering a more concerted effort in January and the evidence so far is that Guardiola could get the very best of Kane.
Even Gareth Southgate, who has been the beneficiary of Kane’s more consistent good form as England manager, has struggled to get the best of him from time-to-time when the Three Lions have struggled to get a toe-hold in games against stronger opposition.
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Initially under Mourinho, Heung-Min Son was able to take up the goalscoring mantle as Kane turned assist-maker in what proved to be a prolific combination.
The England captain’s determination to help out his team-mates is reflected in his importance defensively at set-pieces, but it means when he is not banging in the goals he tends to go looking for the ball, dropping deeper and deeper.
While some strikers such as Jamie Vardy thrive in situations where possession is at a premium, Kane gets dragged into the pressing game designed to win the ball high up the field but that means he is often out of position when turnover is achieved.
It leaves Conte with an intriguing decision to make over his most valuable asset by miles.
He either adapts his football philosophy to get his team to play more with the ball in a manner which would see Kane thrive.
Or sell him and invest fully in “Conte-ball” on players more suited to that way of playing. It is a huge call.
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