Opinion: One-season wonder to club legend; Harry Kane’s evolution at Tottenham

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Harry Kane
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Once upon a time, rather naively by rival fans, Harry Kane was dubbed a one-season wonder. However, some seven years and roughly 160 additional Premier League goals later (PL.com), that could hardly be further from the truth.

Since becoming a starter for Tottenham back in 2014/15, Kane has been the epitome of consistency, reaching 20+ goals in five of his eight seasons and never ending a campaign with fewer than 15 goals (TransferMarkt).

Remarkably, whilst maintaining this impressive output, his game has unquestionably evolved, as a now 28-year-old Kane is unrecognisable to the young starlet who first graced White Hart Lane.

Starting as a pure out-and-out striker, Kane has arguably become the most complete forward in the Premier League, if not world football, boasting a repertoire of skills coveted by any player.

But how has he reached this point?

In his first three full Premier League seasons, the Englishman bagged 21, 25, and 29 goals; two of his three best goal-scoring years (TransferMarkt).

30 league goals in 2017/18 saw Kane finish with his best tally to date, perhaps reaching the peak of his pure forward iteration (TransferMarkt).

Kane’s 5.21 and 2.11 shots and shots on target per 90 saw him rank in the top one and three per cent of forwards in Europe’s top five leagues for these respective metrics (FB Ref), marking his highest shot volume across any of the last five seasons and perfectly defining his role in the side.

Simply put, Kane was there to take shots and score goals, and he did so expertly.

Operating predominantly in front of Son, Eriksen, and Alli, Kane also received his highest number of progressive passes across the last five seasons – 9.28 per 90, however interestingly recorded just 0.29 goal-creating actions per 90.

Whilst comparatively low against other seasons, this figure is telling in reinforcing Kane’s role in the side and serves as a notable benchmark when reflecting on his transition.

That season, the vast majority of Kane’s goal-creating came via shots, and moreover converting chances, differing immensely to now where he plays a more active and complete role.

By his own standards, 2018/19 and 2019/20 may be looked back on as somewhat underwhelming seasons for the Englishman, however in 2020/21, he returned as a different beast.

Under Jose Mourinho, not necessarily by choice, Kane was forced to collect the ball from deeper positions which whilst sometimes frustrating, has certainly helped facilitate his development as a playmaking forward.

His overall involvement in games was heightened, and as a bi-product, had more touches, and both attempted and completed passes across the last two seasons than in the prior three.

Moreover, Kane’s touches in the middle third of the pitch were significantly raised, while his 4.38 progressive carries per 90 in 2019/20 marked an all-time, and further reinforced his increased involvement (FBRef).

In 2019/20, Kane also profiled in the top 1% of forwards in Europe’s top five leagues for goal-creating actions with 0.73 per 90, finishing as the Premier League’s top goal scorer and assister with tallies of 23 and 14 respectively (PL.com)

Arguably for the first time, rather than solely a pure finisher, Kane acted as a creator, played a new look role, and transcended into the complete forward he is recognised as today.

This transformation continued into last season, and although he made a slow start, ended the campaign with 17 goals and nine assists capping off a terrific back end of 2021/22 (TransferMarkt).

Over the last two seasons, he has enjoyed a seemingly telepathic connection with Son which has proved fruitful for Spurs, as the duo now holds the record for Premier League goal combinations (Premier League) sharing an almost even split of goals and assists.

Son’s tireless work ethic and clever, burst-action runs enable Kane to drop deep, turn, and release his teammate with quarter-back-like passes, or create space for the Englishman to release an onrushing fullback.

There are few players, let alone forwards, who possess Kane’s range of passing, as he has become a fulcrum from the front for Antonio Conte’s side owing to his shift from penalty-box striker to frontline playmaker.

Kane exudes the perfect balance of creativity and cut-throat finishing, expertly typified in his man-of-the-match performance in our 3-2 win at the Etihad last season (Sky Sports).

Registering two goals and an assist, he was instrumental in securing a massive three points for Conte and Spurs, seemingly dictating the game from striker and reminding us all how paramount he is to our successes.

Compared to his other, earlier standout performances for Spurs, his role that day was equally important yet distinctly different, truly cementing his position as one of football’s most complete forwards.

Although this development is largely his own, Kane’s transition may have partially have facilitated the change of personnel around him.

First playing in a Tottenham side with Chadli, Eriksen, and Lamela or Townsend, in hindsight, Kane was the only real source of consistent goals, making it no surprise this was high sole responsibility.

Now, lining up alongside Son, last season’s Golden Boot winner, and Kulusevski, who looks promising going forward, the burden on Kane as the lone goal scorer has been lifted, thus allowing him to contribute in other ways.

Furthermore, Richarlison’s arrival at the club hopefully represents yet another consistent source of goals, and well Kane will remain Conte’s choice up front, the Brazilian’s presence removes the need for Kane to play every possible minute.

Fans will be eager for the forward to return to the field in 2022/23, and after a nearly full summer of rest and a pre-season under Conte, hopefully, the Italian can continue to get the best out of this new-age all-action Harry Kane.

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