All the utterly tedious criticism of the foreign dominance in the Premier League was quietened last season. The heroes of the two title-challenging teams were distinctly British, all the way down to their cliché-ridden post-match interviews and tales of ‘lads’ holidays. Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy were the poster boys of the ‘title race’.
Vardy’s inevitable regression back to the mean has arrived. His form in the latter part of last season and the early part of this has seen his importance at Leicester diminish. He is no longer a guaranteed starter, let alone a key player. Kane would be the main man at Spurs, but injury has seen Mauricio Pochettino shift his pack to cope with the loss of their key forward. With the workload Kane has been burdened with since his breakthrough into the Spurs team, an injury at some point was a guarantee, but that will be little consolation for Kane or Pochettino.
Even without Kane, Tottenham will be immensely optimistic ahead of the arrival of Leicester on Saturday. Having fallen from relevance into the abyss of Saturday 3pm kick-offs, this game is nothing more than any other Premier League fixture this season. We will see two teams grappling with their squads to compensate for the vanishing acts of Kane and Vardy. Vincent Janssen and Islam Slimani were both signed to ease the respective burdens, although Slimani has had a markedly more successful start to his Premier League career than Janssen – who has not scored a league goal to date.
Goal scoring has been a problem for Spurs. Their unbeaten start to the campaign has been down to defensive solidity rather than an abundance of goals. Leicester’s woes in the league can be pinned against their defensive collapse – particularly from set pieces – meaning this game is a welcome opportunity for Tottenham to find some goal scoring form. Slimani and Janssen are both likely to start come Saturday afternoon, as the apparent reliance on Kane and Vardy continues to be disproven.
Tottenham and Leicester have markedly different expectations from this season. The freak that was Leicester’s 2015/16 season is now a distant memory, with mid-table a comfortable home for the Foxes from now on. Tottenham saw last season as the key foundations for Pochettino to build a Lilywhite mansion. A match that would have been a close affair last season sees Tottenham as strong favourites, with anything other than a Spurs victory suggesting something untoward has happened.
Despite Tottenham’s misfiring replacement, Kane’s disappearance is less harmful than Vardy’s. Leicester have more fundamental problems than Vardy’s drop in form, but he was such an integral part of their game plan last season they have been left trying to rebalance their forward line. Ahmed Musa could yet be the answer, or a different approach may see Shinji Okazaki partner Islam Slimani as he did for Jamie Vardy.