Are Harry Kane's ankle injuries finally starting to catch up with him?

A year ago, Harry Kane was starting what would be his best individual season and was forcing his name into the conversation as one of the best strikers in the world. Right now, he is struggling to create chances for himself. Forget finding the back of the net, it is hard to even watch the man struggle to shoot the football.

Statistically, Harry Kane had inserted himself into the conversation with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The two greatest players of the modern game were the only players to consistently average over shots a game per 90 minutes. Harry Kane was strolling away to over six attempts per 90. He scored his 25th goal of the 2017-18 campaign against Bournemouth as the Spurs were fighting to secure a place in the Top Four. While the world was raving about Mohammed Salah (and rightly so), everyone was neglecting the fact that Harry Kane was having his best season ever. He scored a career-high in the league and for the season in total with 30 and 41 respectively. Harry Kane established himself as the clubs best player during the 2014-15 season. He had a breakout year after being relatively unknown outside the walls of White Hart Lane. In his previous three seasons, he scored 75 goals in the Premier League with 94 when all games are included. He took a leap to the next level last season. He averaged a career high in shots on target (2.22) per 90. Kane scored 24 goals during this first 28 games of the Premier League and this was nearly identical to his expected goals total (at 23.98). This is not a lucky coincidence. The then 24-year-old striker was establishing himself as one of the best players in the world.

His 25th goal was a trademark Harry Kane finish. Known for his crisp runs and ability to shake off defenders who mark him; Kane found himself with ample amounts of space and soon found himself in the box. He is calm under pressure. Kane had turned a half chance into a sure chance of scoring. He beat opposition defenders and found himself at the end of a Christian Eriksen pass on the penalty spot. Kane put the ball at the end of the near post before he was taken out by a surging Asmir Begovic. Except, this was not his 25th goal of the league campaign. He was in an offside position when Eriksen made the looping pass and the goal was disallowed. A minor setback in that moment as Tottenham later cruised to a 4-1 win after conceding an early goal. This was also during the 30th minute of the game and was Kane’s first shot of the match. Everyone watching would have expected Kane to put the disallowed goal behind him and attempt plenty more. However, the England captain was unable to get up. He re-injured lateral ligaments in his right ankle and missed nearly a month of action. Kane has looked a shadow of himself ever since.

He did finish the season with a career-high 30 goals in the Premier League and somehow managed only managed to miss one league game. It really should be 29 because of his shenanigans in the aftermath of his “header” against Stoke City. This will be a summer that will forever live on in the hearts and minds of the Three Lions. England made the semi-finals of a tournament for the first time in nearly decades. The 23 that embarked to Russia was predominantly made up of young talent with Kane at the forefront. He was the tournament’s leading scorer and won the Golden Boot with six goals though there will forever be an asterisk next to his performances. Five of his came against Tunisia and Panama with only half of his goals coming from open play. That being said, he still led England to a game away from a World Cup final and rode that momentum into the club season. He broke his run of being unable to score in August by scoring twice in the opening month of the Premier League. Kane has since dropped off after abysmal performances in three consecutive losses for the Spurs. Kane is yet to score this month though his inability to find the back of the net is not a new problem. This is an issue that has existed since he re-injured his ankle against Bournemouth.

Kane was on the verge of becoming a superstar after trending towards this status for the past three seasons. For the past six months, he has been average at best. Since the game against Bournemouth, he averaged 2.75 shots per 90. This is less than half the shots he attempted before the injury at 6.09. He was leaning towards perennially eclipsing Cristiano Ronaldo in leading Europe with the most shots attempted per 90 minutes. And now, his numbers have fallen off a cliff. Everything from his expected goals to shots on target, to goals scored per 90 is the lowest they have been since the 2013-14 season. He only played 10 league games of the Spurs and was virtually unknown outside of North London.

The cause of all this seems obvious. His ankle is preventing him from being the Harry Kane that scores goals for fun. His shots attempted before the ankle injury are half of the number he attempted in the same number of becomes before the infamous Bournemouth game. Only once in his six games this season has Harry Kane taken more than two shots. Kane has never been the most fundamentally sound player. Nor has he been the most athletic. His stocky build can make him hard to watch as he appears to labor his body at full speed. Nevertheless, the Walthamstow native has managed to rise above the ranks with his intelligence and timing. IQ is not spoken about enough in football. Whenever he is on the pitch, Harry Kane is the smartest man out there. His ability to read opposition games and adjust accordingly is sublime. His timing in the air is second to none. Kane makes some of the sharpest runs in the Premier League. His drop the shoulder and surprisingly fast first step keeps defenders on edge. Before people have the time blink, he sprinted from the middle of the park to the box with a chance to bury the ball in the back of the net. Kane is two-footed with his control of the ball and dribbling being some of the best for a player who is not that nimble. Harry Kane can create shots from nothing.

Let’s compare his last two home performances against Liverpool. They are nearly a year apart from one other and his play is drastically different. In the fixture eleven months ago, Kane scored twice in a 4-1 win and assisted on the other. Last week against the Reds, he could not do either. He took seven shots in their win and in their 2-1 loss, he only took two. In his 88 minutes last year, Kane had 35 touches and had 45 sprints. Last week, he had 22 touches with 7 sprints. Seven sprints in 95 minutes. That is 20% of the sprints he made nearly a year ago. Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham Hotspur have to acknowledge that their talisman is no longer the same player from a physical standpoint.

Poch has vehemently denied that Kane is still lingering with an injury. If that is the case and we are to believe the Spurs manager, then his tactics and managerial positions have to come under scrutiny. In the past, Kane was the focal point of their buildup play with his underrated ability to play with his back to the goal. Since the start of this season, Kane has virtually disappeared from the pitch. He is struggling to create chances for himself and for his Spurs teammates. His body language also looks shocking. Not that he is wincing in pain and limping, but the England captain does not look like the man who is capable of brilliance in the direst of moments.

Tottenham have lost three games for the first time since the Tim Sherwood era. They are not (yet) a team in crisis mode though they team has definitely gone from DEFCON 5 to DEFCON 3. The club is looming towards a situation that is even direr given the complications surrounding the completion of their new stadium. Spurs did not buy a single player though the fact that they were able to keep Rose and Alderweireld from leaving. The likes of Son and Kane signed new contracts with Pochettino signing a long-term deal after speculation that he would move to a bigger club. The Argentine’s message may be falling on deaf ears as the other Spurs players also look like shadows of themselves. That is combined with the fact that Daniel Levy employs some of the strictest wage structures in Europe. Tottenham have one of the most talented sides in club football though sooner or later, some of their players will move to other teams who are willing to give them wages worth their market value. On the bright side, their next four fixtures come against Brighton, Huddersfield, Cardiff, and West Ham. After three losses on the trot, a month of games where the face the four worst teams in the league can best be described as an act of God.

Tottenham have to pick up 12 points out of 12 in their next four league games. Should they drop points, Spurs fans should be worried. If these games are not coupled with dominant performances from Harry Kane, the injury concerns will continue to ramp up. Maybe is hurt and this could be the best time for Poch to rest his best player. Though the fact that the only No. 9 is Llorente (even though Son can also feature upfront) is worrying. This may very well be a blip in the radar when compared to the stellar seasons Kane has had since he broke into the scene four years ago. Kane will get back to form. But with each game where he continues to be a nonfactor, it will seem as though he is no longer the player that he once was.

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