The Kane Conundrum

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Did Mauricio Pochettino, wittingly or not, happen on the formation that may unlock the dynamism lurking within Spurs’ squad? Whether it was a 4-1-3-2 or a 4-2-2-2, clearly last night’s lineup featured two strike partners in Adebayor and Kane. And what resulted was a) a consistently strong work rate from the former and b) three goals (plus a howler bonus) from the latter. One wonders if rather than be forced to choose between the two of them (since Roberto Soldado seems to have dug his final hole on the Lilywhite bench) Poch ought to, for at least some games, consider playing them both.

Consider this. Spurs will not face such a weak defensive side as they did last night in Asteras within the Premiership, except perhaps when they journey to Loftus Road.  Against tougher Premiership sides, I am not certain that Harry Kane has either the speed or agility to unlock his big right leg. Even tonight his first touches were poor and he could not outrun the Greek opposition. Quite simply, he needs space to flourish. Space which Emmanuel Adebayor, more than any other Spurs player, helped create last night. Now if Kane plays alone up front, are Chadli-Eriksen-Lamela talented and fast enough to stretch the defense and create that space? Or does he need someone else holding up defenders, laying the ball off, attracting multiple opposition players—someone like Adebayor—at his best, working his Togoese arse off?  As he did tonight.

The obvious problem of course is at the opposite end—if Spurs commit to two strikers than the must either drop a holding midfielder or one of the attack force out of the starting XI. One could just play Capoue deep—and then if and when Spurs take a lead in the second half, sub out one of the strikers for Mason/Bentaleb. Or one could do what Pochettino seemed to be toying with tonight—play  both Capoue and Dembele—who still has offensive capability (welcome back, Moussa. We missed you) along with Eriksen and Lamela in more of a 4-2-2-2. Injuries and continued European/Cup midweek fixtures may help solve the problem as availability will change, but I wonder if tonight wasn’t a preview of something much brighter than Spurs rather tepid offensive beginning has offered thus far.

Now if Poch decides he needs the two holding midfielders—particularly against more offensive-minded sides such as Man United, Chelsea or Liverpool—then the choice comes down to one of Chadli, Adebayor or Kane sitting. For now, I’d still sit the “Third Keeper”. We’ve all been through the ringer with Ade over the past three years, but I believe he’s been more active and productive this season than many of his critics are willing to acknowledge. He helped set up both the Chadli goal vs Arsenal and the near-miss later in the half. He was working hard tonight. If he lays the ball off to, say, Lamela or Eriksen, we have a better chance of scoring than a random 25 yard strike if and when Kane gets free. And within the dynamic of any given game, Poch can bring Kane on, either to replace Adebayor or supplement him, and force the defence to react.

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Paul is a respected U.S. political pollster (Democrat) based in Madison, Wisconsin and Los Angeles. His love for Spurs began when the Premier League games started appearing regularly in the U.S. and an American lover of football had to choose a side. Bale, Rushdie, Adele, Shakespeare, the Spurs faithful, The Lane, etc. were all irresistible attractions and have made Maslin a Spur for life.

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