About Me

Football purist, realist and general sports fanatic. Interested in all aspects of the game, from all corners of the earth.

Monday, 19 January 2015

How old is a Prospect?

The rise of Harry Kane is somewhat inconceivable to modern football fans. Despite people beginning to come to terms with the idea the aging curve for athletes is shifting to the left, his influence on the Tottenham squad this season has been significant for a 21 year-old. That hasn’t stopped people belittling his achievement however; for everyone other than Spurs fans Kane is a ‘flavour of the month’ footballer. The inevitable loss of form will see him out of North London and kick-start a career touring around bottom-half clubs, probably under Harry Redknapp. Twenty-one is too old nowadays.
If a prospect hasn’t been discovered in their teens today there’s a degree of scepticism attached to them. Paul Pogba was 18 when he became known as the boy who’s self-importance dwarfed Alex Ferguson’s at Manchester United. Norway’s Martin Ødegaard made his international debut at 15 last Autumn and is currently touring European powerhouses from Madrid to Melwood; teasing fans desperate for the next big thing to inject stardom into their academy.
Kane has neither the dynamism of Pogba nor the velocity of a player like Raheem Sterling; he doesn’t appear to be a natural footballer. Despite this, and his slack-jawed appearance, he’s proving himself to be an intelligent player; his ability to find space across the pitch is superb for someone with so few minutes under his belt at the top level.
Bayern Munich once had a similar player in their academy. According to a scout for a renowned European club a young Thomas Muller “was uncoordinated, ugly to watch. He’d try to trap the ball and it would bounce three meters away. He was always in a hurry, always scrambling, like a guy who was terrified to make a mistake. In my experience, guys like that don’t have a future in the top flight”. Fortunately for the youngster the Bavarians’ manager Louis van Gaal was in awe of his positional awareness and introduced him to the first team. When other’s questioned his place the cocksure Dutchman insisted “under me, Müller will always play”.
“The idea that I should trust my eyes more than the stats, I don’t buy that because I’ve seen magicians pull rabbits out of hats and I know that the rabbit’s not in there.” – Billy Beane.
Nobody is touting Kane as a future Bayern Munich forward, but there’s plenty evidence even at this early stage to suggest he belongs in the top half of the Premiership. While eight of his goals have come in inferior competitions his tally of fifteen for the season stands out amongst Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor’s contribution this year, particularly when you take into account the fact Kane has both led the line and played behind the striker.
In Premier League games where he’s played for over half an hour he has eight goals (a rate of one every 138 minutes or game and a half), none of which came from the penalty spot. While his shot output in this period is good but nothing special at 3.5 a game he has been extremely efficient. This is a consequence of Kane’s uncanny ability to take shots from ‘the Danger Zone’ (55%, the Premiership average is under 40%), or the centre of the box, as Michael Caley discussed here (hyperlink).
There are deficiencies in Kane’s game. While his link up play is impressive in wide areas he fails to get involved in play in central areas of the opposition’s half (penalty box aside). Even against Chelsea where he bagged a brace he failed to penetrate central areas from twenty to forty yards out.
While some could point to the presence of Nemanja Matic at the heart of Chelsea’s midfield for this it is a pattern that repeats itself across a number of games.
To prove he deserves his place in the starting eleven at a club as ambitious as Spurs Kane will have to strive to improve his link-up play, try to keep the inevitable dry-spell as short as possible and more importantly maintain his current level for the next 18 months. The clamour over an England call-up beckons ahead of their clash with Lithuania in March but Kane should display something he fails to show on the pitch, selfishness, focus on his own game for the next year and serve his time in the Under-21 set up.
For now however the signs are good and in the short term he should be a lock in for you this weekend as he attempts to make it seven goals in seven games as the in-form North London club travel across the Thames to Crystal Palace.

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