After hobbling off against Bournemouth on Sunday, Tottenham Hotspur have confirmed star striker Harry Kane will return to first-team training next month once he recovers from an ankle injury, although the north London club have worryingly not given an official return date. Even if Kane does return to training, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be able to start matches straight away – he could well be sidelined for a few weeks more.
And there’s no question how important a figure Kane is for Mauricio Pochettino’s side. While they still managed to net four times without him at the Vitality Stadium, the Premier League’s joint-top scorer has netted 41% of their top flight goals this season – clearly, the Lilywhites gaffer needs to find a way of filling his void in the coming weeks.
But with direct alternatives in short supply, what are the options at Pochettino’s disposal? Football FanCast lay out four suggested solutions to filling Kane’s void and then give Tottenham fans the chance to have their say…
Fernando Llorente has hardly provided fireworks during his first season at Spurs, finding just five goals and one assist across all competitions with three coming in the form of a hat-trick against Rochdale and just one being a top flight strike. But he’s the only other traditional centre-forward at Pochettino’s disposal, and why did Tottenham snap him up from Swansea last summer if it wasn’t for situations like this one?
Furthermore, it’s clear that when Llorente has been on the pitch, Tottenham have rarely played to the 6 foot 4 Spaniard’s strengths – chiefly, quality balls into the box that implore the use of his immense aerial threat. Spurs certainly have the quality to provide those kinds of crosses, through the likes of Ben Davies, Kieran Trippier and Christian Eriksen, so temporarily modifying the game-plan to better suit Llorente could lead to an impressive return of goals.
There are few attacking roles Heung-min Son hasn’t excelled in during his time at Tottenham and after Kane limped off against Bournemouth, it was the South Korean who was pushed further forward to lead the line, repaying his manager’s faith with a match-winning brace that highlighted the different kind of focal point he offers Tottenham – stretching and relentlessly grinding down the defence with his incredible speed, rather than playing with his back to goal and bringing others into the game.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with that if Spurs’ creative players provide the right kind of service, chiefly balls in behind the defence, and Son has his shooting boots on this season with 19 goals across all competitions. But focusing on speed in attack could leave Spurs a little one-dimensional, and especially at Wembley where Son has flourished this season, it will inevitably invite teams to sit deep – cancelling out the pace the versatile forward offers them.
Chelsea have recently adopted the false nine approach with mixed results, Eden Hazard being deployed as an unconventional front-man to feed through the likes of Willian and Pedro, and of course it was made iconic by Lionel Messi at Barcelona.
Tottenham probably don’t have a nomadic attacking midfielder quite of that calibre, especially in terms of jinking past the opposition with the ball at feet, but they certainly do have the players to burst forward and move off a deeper-lying forward in Son, Dele Alli and Lucas Moura.
It would be a big risk on Pochettino’s part, having never utilised a false nine before – perhaps the best candidate for that role being Christian Eriksen due to his ability to make play – but it could catch Premier League defences off-guard and create a new kind of problem for them to deal with for the final run-in. Sometimes, the element of surprise is more important than how truly effective a system actually is.
The last time Tottenham found themselves seriously short of dependable fire, Pochettino took a punt on a young and promising Kane. Well, with the England man injured, perhaps it’s time to give another one of Tottenham’s young forwards a chance, and in that regard Kazaiah Sterling is probably the standout candidate after being issued his senior debut in the 3-0 win over APOEL earlier this season.
Sterling has impressed at youth level this term, netting ten times in 22 appearances combined in Premier League 2 and the UEFA Youth League, and also got on the scoresheet in the EFL Trophy against decent opposition in the form of AFC Wimbledon, although it was far from their strongest line up.
Sterling’s clearly caught Pochettino’s eye enough to earn a first-team debut, so perhaps it’s time to throw him in at the deep end and see how talented this promising 19-year-old really is.
So, Tottenham fans, how should Pochettino look to fill Kane’s void? Let us know by voting below…