There’s life in Harry Kane yet.
While the criticism of the England captain may have been slightly unfair and perhaps a reaction to some of his conduct over the course of the summer, even the most ardent of supporters would have struggled to genuinely argue the Tottenham Hotspur striker has been at his best thus far.
Indeed, though the standards the 28-year-old set last season (finishing as both the top goalscorer and top assist provider in the Premier League) would have been hard for anybody to match, Kane had not looked so poor at club level for years prior to last Sunday’s win over Newcastle United.
Granted, the level of the opposition might have played a part in his return to form but manager Nuno Espirito Santo appeared to have found a formula that works now that Tanguy Ndombele is available for selection.
Though it would be unfair to suggest Spurs’ attacking line last season was a one-mand band considering the excellence of Heung-min Son, it was down to Harry Kane to take it up another level.
Either finishing chances himself or dropping deep to create them, Kane simply did it all in a way that surely just isn’t sustainable for a player approaching 30 to have suffered a number of ankle injuries.
One of the major criticisms of his performances since the win over Germany at Euro 2020 (quarter-final showing over an awful Ukraine aside) was that Harry Kane had started to look anonymous. Such is his tendency to drop deep, both England and Spurs lacked a penalty-box striker and, when he’s marked out of the game by a central defensive midfielder, they don’t really have a No.10 either.
At his worst, Harry Kane effectively takes up two positions to little effect, meaning the wide forwards have to stray inside with little in the way of service.
So then, to have Ndombele – a player of unique talent – deployed behind him allows Kane to push further forward, balancing the attacking unit out somewhat. The Frenchman might be fairly unpredictable himself but, with Oliver Skipp and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg acting as defensive shields, Spurs look so much more cohesive.
Where Kane once made Tottenham’s attack better, Ndombele (when used like this) can actually improve the England captain. Clearly, the French midfielder has a lot to prove in terms of reliability but it’s hard to think of another Number 10 of his kind of talent within the top six.
That particular position might have been phased out somewhat but, with the profile of Spurs’ squad, it looks the best fit for them. Kane can then stay forward and interchange with both Son and one of Giovani Lo Celso, Dele Alli, Steven Bergwijn or Bryan Gil.
Getting the best out of two big name players doesn’t seem like an overly scientific instruction. Still, Tottenham haven’t found a way to do that and have relied on the individual brilliance of both Kane and Son for too long.
Ndombele might be somewhat of a wildcard but it’s that very maverick quality that has made this new-look structure work. Roaming in behind the star striker, the £53m midfielder adds the kind of invention the likes of Harry Winks, Skipp and Hojbjerg simply cannot offer.
If Tottenham can start to get the best of him (even if it requires the kind of indulgence Nuno isn’t exactly famous for), the club-record outlay they invested in him in the summer of 2019 could look like somewhat of a bargain.
For £53m, they could finally relieve Harry Kane of some of his duties while boasting one of the most eye-catching midfielders in Europe.
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