Two young strikers took Europe by storm last season, Alexandre Lacazette and Harry Kane. Both burst onto the scene – though both showed signs of quality the previous season – and both, coincidentally, scored 31 goals last season in all competitions.
And both have had trouble living up to last season’s promise in the first weeks of the new season. Kane has yet to score for his club this season, and Lacazette has scored only once – a penalty this weekend .
A penalty seems like the perfect opportunity for a struggling striker to find the net and kickstart his season. After the thrill of seeing the ball bulge the net, Lacazette, like all great strikers, would acquire once again the taste for blood and rampage through the league over the next few weeks.
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But against Gent in midweek, it wasn’t like that. He was given the honour of taking the penalty right in the last few minutes against the 9-man Belgian minnows, with the game still tied at 1-1. Lacazette missed. In fact, it was a great save from the goalkeeper, but it was enough to send the media wild with stories about his decline. Just like Kane.
The truth is, Lacazette isn’t playing terribly. He’s still a threat, he looks dangerous even if he can’t find the net and he worries defenders – he’s a handful. Alexandre Lacazette is still part of Lyon’s attacking play and good moves come through him, just as they always did.
Kane is also in a similar place. Against Sunderland last week he failed to score, despite a fresh-air shot from all of four yards. And again against Crystal Palace, it was new teammate Heung-Min Son who found the net in a 1-0 win.
But it’s not like Kane has been anonymous. He has been involved in build-up play and he has been in position to score a few goals. Over the last few months the internet has been awash with stories about how Tottenham need a new striker to play alongside Kane and compliment his abilities, or else take some of the goalscoring load off his young shoulders and allow him to play his own game.
So just because Spurs have found a new goalscorer doesn’t mean that Kane is flopping this season: it just means Spurs have somebody who fulfills a need we all thought they had.
Just minutes after Alexandre Lacazette had scored his penalty, he was clean through on goal and with only the keeper to beat he did everything right: he lifted it over the onrushing keeper, without blasting it or doing anything silly. But the ball flew back off the post. And that’s been the story of his season so far.
That’s been the story of Kane’s season, too. Strikers need confidence, and so the first goal is always important. The confidence you glean from scoring is huge, but the confidence you get from scoring a penalty might be less than what you get from open play. You’re expected to score a penalty, it’s an ‘easy chance’.
But for the moment, we shouldn’t be too worried if Kane himself misses chances. If he gets a penalty he might score it and go on a run of scoring. If he gets a six-yard tap-in it might have the same result. Or he might hit the post instead.
Whatever happens, we should be more worried about whether he gets into goalscoring positions than whether he actually takes the chances. It’s a lot easier to rely on a spike in confidence and the ability to place the ball beyond a goalkeeper – an ability we know he has – than it is to rely on teaching him how to get into the positions in the first place.