This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
One has to wonder exactly how Tottenham Hotspur conspired to lose 1-0 to Newcastle United on Sunday.
To analyse the game, really, is to be left dumbfounded; Spurs had 79.8% possession, per WhoScored, and also had 17 shots on goal. Newcastle had eight.
Yet they lost 1-0 and there is a feeling that, really, they were playing with ten men.
Harry Kane, of course, is an elite talent and a world-class footballer. He is a brilliant striker who has scored goals at the very highest level and who netted a brace on the first weekend of the season as Spurs beat Aston Villa 3-1.
But on Sunday something was dreadfully amiss.
His WhoScored rating of 5.8 was the worst of any player to step foot on the field at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
He had one shot at goal and it came in injury time. It was off target.
Kane touched the ball a total of 24 times; no starting Spurs player touched the ball less. He had four wayward passes from 14 and completed just one dribble while being dispossessed twice.
Quite simply, he was marked out of the game. It was an all too familiar sight in the early stages of the first half, too, to see Kane dropping deep in desperation, looking for the ball.
Now, if this was a one-off, it could be declared just that; an aberration, a quirk of statistics. But it happened last week too.
Against Manchester City – a much better team than Newcastle, it has to be said, but one that Spurs took a point from in a pulsating 2-2 draw – he was anonymous again.
It was Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura who scored the goals at the Etihad Stadium, with Kane having one shot on goal again. That one wasn’t on target, either.
He had 25 touches of the ball in that game and did not complete a dribble, nor did he win an aerial duel.
If he wasn’t Harry Kane, England captain, questions would be asked of his manager for selecting him.
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But there simply isn’t anyone else. Spurs don’t have a single out-and-out striker on the bench who can step in to replace the 26-year-old.
It is worrying that this is even being considered at this stage and it must be noted that Spurs’ next fixture comes against Arsenal and Kane does thrive against the Gunners; he has nine goals against them in nine Premier League outings.
Perhaps he will come good. Perhaps next week will be the day that we all remember that Kane is a world-class centre-forward.
But he looked a pale imitation of himself on Sunday and that has to be a worry for Mauricio Pochettino. Three games into the new campaign, Kane already looks worn out.
His manager must find a way to remedy the problem or Spurs will be dropping even more points.