Tottenham no longer feeble in attack without Kane

For years, Tottenham struggled to find an adequate striker to play up top before discovering their diamond in the rough, Harry Kane. Since Kane has vaulted onto the scene, he’s been a stalwart in the Tottenham attack, winning The Golden Boot in the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons. However, since discovering Kane, Tottenham have struggled to find an adequate backup for him in the off-chance of injury.

The search for Kane’s backup

Tottenham no longer feeble in attack without Kane

Janssen struggled to find his form with Spurs (Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Tottenham brought in Vincent Janssen in 2016 from Dutch side, AZ, for £17 million. However, Jansen was a colossal flop. By the middle of February of 2017, Janssen had still failed to score from open play. Following Janssen’s first season, Tottenham quickly loaned him out to Fenerbahçe.

Then, in 2017, Tottenham bought veteran striker Fernando Llorente from Swansea City to fill the role of Kane’s backup. Llorente, although showing moments of quality, has been similar to Janssen in the fact that he has been wildly inconsistent. He’ll have moments of brilliance such as his hat-trick in the FA Cup against Rochdale. And then he’ll follow up that performance by missing sitters in his next match. For a team like Tottenham that is looking to compete on all fronts, that is simply not good enough. They need a way to consistently generate goals while Harry Kane is hurt.

Kane, with 31 goals and four assists in all competitions, is nearly impossible to replace with one man. Thus, when Kane has gotten hurt and Mauricio Pochettino has tried to replace him with one man, Tottenham’s form has dipped.

Pochettino’s Solution

Recently it seems like Pochettino has found the solution to this problem. Instead of finding a typical striker to replace Kane man-for-man, he has been playing a front four that lacks a typical number nine. With the addition of Lucas Moura in the January transfer window, Pochettino now has five players who can fit into his attack. Erik Lamela, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-Min all join Moura as capable attacking players.

Tottenham no longer feeble in attack without Kane

Son Heung-Min will be a key with Kane out (Photo: Getty)

After Kane left the game injured against Bournemouth, Son played up top. The Tottenham attack looked incredibly dynamic with Son up top as he gave the Bournemouth defense a new dimension to deal with. His pace did not seem like something that Bournemouth was completely prepared for. Fortunately for Tottenham’s sake, Kane’s injury coincides with Son being in the best form of his life. Son, who seems to be enjoying football as much as anyone else in the world at the moment, has seven goals in his past five matches. When Kane missed time last season with an ankle injury, Son scored five goals in the four games Kane missed.

However, just as important as Son, are the three players behind him. Alli, Eriksen and Lamela all have a huge role to play in Kane’s absence. These three players all play with great freedom in the attack and drift into pockets of space all over the field. This movement is incredibly difficult for the opposition to deal with as the three are constantly switching with each other. Eriksen can drift out wide as Lamela moves in centrally. Or Alli can drift up top as Son moves out wide forcing Eriksen to drift in centrally again. This sort of fluidity in attack can be an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses.

Although he is not yet fully integrated into the squad, Lucas Moura’s purchase in January should also bolster the attack without Kane. Lucas provides Pochettino with a reliable player off the bench to bring in late in games when chasing a goal. He also provides a stellar option for when Pochettino wants to rotate and rest one of the other three attackers. With the addition of Lucas, Tottenham won’t be forced to play Moussa Sissoko in an attacking role as often.

What makes this season different

When Kane has gotten injured in the past, Pochettino did not have the same resources to call upon that he has today. During Kane’s injury last season, Janssen was incredibly inconsistent and ended up getting benched for Son. Lamela was dealing with an injury of his own and also could not be counted upon. In addition, Moura had not yet joined the squad. So, Pochettino was relying on Eriksen, Alli, and Son to fill in for Kane. They did decently together but were lacking the final bit of flair that Lamela and Lucas provide.

Tottenham no longer feeble in attack without Kane

Christian Eriksen scored twice against Swansea in Kane’s absence (Photo: AP)

In the two games without Kane against Bournemouth and Swansea, Tottenham’s attack hasn’t missed a beat. They scored four against Swansea and three against Bournemouth, looking incredibly potent going forward in both games. In these two games, the goals have come from all over. Eriksen and Son both have two goals while Alli and Lamela each have one. But this is the key to the Tottenham attack without Kane. The goals can come from anywhere. With Kane in the line-up, teams focused on him and developed their game plan around shutting him down. However, without Kane, there is no distinct focal point of the Tottenham attack. This makes it incredibly difficult for the opposition to prepare for.

None of this should take away from the incredible player that Kane today. As arguably the best striker in the world, Tottenham are clearly a better team with Kane in the line-up. However, Tottenham are well-equiped to deal with Kane’s most recent injury. They have both the depth and quality of players to adequately account for the lack of Kane in the team sheet and should be able to avoid a dip in form without Kane.

Featured image by Getty Images

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One Signing Each Premier League Contender Should Make in January

 

We are just past the halfway point in this Premier League season. As it stands, six teams are within ten points of the top. January is the final chance for these sides to polish their team as the final dash for the title is in sight.

Chelsea: Tiemoue Bakayoko, Monaco

Monaco’s Tiemoue Bakayoko could help stabilize Chelsea’s midfield.

The Blues have been tearing through the league this season. New manager Antonio Conte has instilled his 3-4-3 formation into the side and Chelsea has rocketed to the top of the league. The brilliant play of summer signing N’Golo Kante has been a large reason behind Chelsea’s turnaround season. The ability to win the ball in the midfield has allowed the Blues to feed their very talented attacking players. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa have each enjoyed bounce-back seasons.

If a side is going to run the 3-4-3 effectively, they need excellent defensive midfield play to make up for the one less defender at the back. While Kante and Nemanja Matic have done well thus far, Chelsea is still thin at the position. Bakayoko is just 22 years old and is enjoying a breakout season for Monaco. His dribbling ability through the middle would allow Hazard and Willian to play more wide. From there they can whip in crosses to Costa, one of the best in the air in all of England. Bakayoko’s youth is enticing as Matic is 28 and has been inconsistent at times this season. Although his playing time could be limited initially, Bakayoko will undoubtedly be a big part of the future at Stamford Bridge if Conte is able to acquire his services.

Liverpool: Quincy Promes, Spartak Moscow

Liverpool target Quincy Promes has helped Spartak Moscow to the top of the Russian Premier League

In Jurgen Klopp’s second season at Anfield, Liverpool have arisen as serious title contenders at this point in the season. Their plethora of attacking players, including Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho, and Roberto Firmino have been very efficient in the attacking third.

However, Klopp will be without Mane for a large part of the next month. The Senegal international will be participating in the Africa Cup of Nations. The tournament comes at a critical time in Liverpool’s season with matches against Manchester United and Chelsea on there horizon. Promes has had a great season at Spartak. He has netted six goals and also has six assists in the Russian Premier League as Spartak have surprised by leading at this point in the season. It may be tough to coax Promes from Spartak, but Klopp should try. Promes will give Liverpool some width while Mane is away. He can play opposite Mane, which will benefit the Reds when Mane returns from international duty.

Tottenham: Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace

Wilfried Zaha would bring creativity on the wing to White Hart Lane

Once again, Mauricio Pochettino has put Spurs squarely in the title conversation. Tottenham sit third in the table at the turn of the calendar year. Young players have stepped up this season, including 20-year-old midfielder Dele Alli. Spurs are fighting off Real Madrid for his services.

However, Spurs could use an outside threat to compliment their plethora of middle attacking players. Alli, Harry Kane, and Christian Eriksen have combined to score 25 goals in the league this season. All of those players are under the age of 25. 24-year-old Zaha could add to this “young core” that Pochettino has built at White Hart Lane. Zaha, who plays on the left wing at Crystal Palace, would compliment Kane, Eriksen, and Alli in the middle. Zaha is extremely skilled with the ball at his feet and has a tremendous ability to get crosses in from tough angles. Erik Lamela has been underwhelming again this season and Zaha could fill the void for Spurs.

Manchester City: Holger Badstuber, Bayern Munich

Holger Badstuber’s experience at the back could prove invaluable for Guardiola’s Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola’s highly anticipated first year at the Etihad has been up and down. A victory against Barcelona in the Champions League showed City’s potential under Pep. However, they have been very inconsistent at times domestically. Their inconsistency, especially at the back, is the primary reason why they find themselves seven points adrift at this juncture.

Man City payed quite a bit to sign promising young English center back John Stones from Everton over the summer. Stones, while very talented and promising, is still raw. There has been more than one occasion where he has looked lost this season. Captain Vincent Kompany’s injury woes have continued and it is difficult to rely on him for an extended period of time. Eliaquim Mangala consistently underperforms when given a chance in the starting XI. Badstuber is very experienced at just 27 years of age. He has 119 caps for Bayern and 31 for the German National Team. While a permanent deal is unlikely, Pep could explore a six-month loan deal for Badstuber. This would give City added security and depth at the center back for the remainder of the season while Stones continues to develop.

 

 

 

Arsenal: Ricardo Pereira, Porto (on loan at Nice)

Ricardo Pereira is a perfect solution to Arsenal’s right-back injury crisis.

Arsene Wenger is notorious for not making moves in the January transfer window, even when his team could really use them. Fifth place Arsenal have been by no means bad this season, but there is always room for improvement at the Emirates.

Promising young right back Hector Bellerin will be out for an extended period of time with an injury and his predecessor Mathieu Debuchy is rumored to be at odds with Wenger and on his way out of North London. This leaves the underwhelming Carl Jenkinson as the only right back on the Gunners’ roster. Ricardo, who is on loan at Ligue 1 leaders Nice from Porto has exploded this season. His 7.6 match rating on WhoScored.com has him placed in their Ligue XI team of the season. He provides sound defending and security at the back. Pereira is also a threat going forward, with a goal and three assists this season. He could be a perfect solution in the interim while Bellerin is injured. And his ability going forward could see him utilized as a wing-back or midfielder when the Spaniard returns.

Manchester United: Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid

Antoine Griezmann would be an expensive, but worthwhile signing for Manchester United.

After a disastrous start to the season, Jose Mourinho has begun to right the ship at Old Trafford. Despite being ten points back of Chelsea, things are looking up at Old Trafford. Manchester United have played well throughout the season, but have failed to convert the many chances they create. 31 goals in the League is significantly less than the other five “contenders”.

Griezmann is widely considered one of the best players in the world and would not come cheap. However is precision in the final third is exactly what United need. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a pure striker who doesn’t create, and while Paul Pogba is one of the most creative midfielders in the world, he is limited going forward to do the teams reliance on him from a defensive standpoint. Griezmann would fit right into Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1 as an attacking midfielder. He played this role brilliantly for France in this summer’s European Championships where he scored a tournament-high six goals. It also doesn’t hurt that Griezmann is close friends with fellow Frenchman Pogba. The two could do lots of damage if they play together under Mourinho.

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