It’s not often a striker is accused of lacking form after netting six goals in his first 12 Premier League fixtures of the season, and it’s not often a team are lamented for playing poorly when they’ve won nine of a dozen games to place themselves just five points away from the division’s summit.
But that only emphasises the impeccable standards Harry Kane and Tottenham have set themselves respectively under the management of Mauricio Pochettino, and the bizarre combination of efficiency while performing unconvincingly that had littered Spurs and their star striker’s 2018/19 until meeting Chelsea on Saturday – interlinked, reflective and symptomatic of each other.
The repercussions of an international break sending players to all four corners of the globe is often feared, but if anything it appeared to revitalise Tottenham ahead of a crunch clash with their London rivals that could well dictate which of the Big Six makes it into the top four at the end of the campaign. In a 3-1 victory during which Spurs’ relentlessness only ceased in the final few minutes to allow Olivier Giroud a consolation goal, this was Tottenham’s best performance of this season by a mile.
And within the collective uplift in quality that heavily revolved around Tottenham’s ability to win the ball back in dangerous areas to provide the platform for devastating counters, Kane’s individual performance went up a notch too. Not quite the hat-trick grabbing levels of New Year’s Day 2015, but certainly a few levels above what we’ve seen from the England skipper so far this term.
Kane’s long-range strike owed much to David Luiz blindsiding his own goalkeeper while moving out of the way of the ball, but it was also reminiscent of the Tottenham front-man at his best, when he’s audaciously shooting from every angle and putting his actions in motion before anybody – including the flatfooted glovesman – has time to react.
But the 25-year-old’s overall performance contained the kind of centre-forward play which, combined with Kane’s goals, have made him arguably the best in the business under Pochettino. As well as testing Kepa twice more from five efforts in total, Kane won the most fouls (eight), completed the joint-most dribbles (four) and won the joint-most aerial duels (four) of any player on the pitch.
In tandem with how Tottenham continually pressed Chelsea into mistakes in possession, Kane provided his side with a vital foothold in the final third, one that only created more space and more opportunities for Dele Alli and Heung-min Son, the two accompanying forwards constantly buzzing around him.
And this performance has come at the perfect time for Tottenham; not only the start of a difficult week that will go on to shape much of their season, continuing with clashes against Inter Milan and Arsenal, but also a period of the campaign which won’t be disrupted by international breaks, that has seen some key players in Alli and Christian Eriksen return to the fold and should soon see more in Jan Vertonghen, Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose.
Tottenham and Kane have come back to the Premier League in top gear – now it’s just a matter of keeping up that pace.
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