With refined accuracy, Tottenham's Kane emerges as EPL breakout star
The emergence of Harry Kane as the latest Great English Hope at striker has been the fascinating lead story in the latest season in which Tottenham desperately and haltingly tries to break into the Premier League's top four. You don't often see a $45 million striker like Roberto Soldado take a backseat to a 21-year-old local kid, but that's what's happening as Kane has now bagged eight goals in 17 league appearances (11 starts) and 18 in all competitions this season.
An international call-up seems all but inevitable as England manager Roy Hodgson was present this past weekend when Spurs so Spursily wasted a 1-0 lead and lost 2-1 at Crystal Palace, but whether Kane makes an immediate splash for the Three Lions is immaterial to the denizens at White Hart Lane.
Kane, who grew up a few miles from the stadium and is a product of Spurs' youth development system, is the latest to be anointed as Spurs' savior-in-waiting, and they're enjoying every bit of his production this season.
Regardless of whether the opportunity to start regularly was expected coming into the campaign, there were signs last year that Kane was capable of a significant output. Anecdotally, he scored a few eye-catching goals down the stretch of the 2013-14 season, but his stats radar, even in fairly limited minutes, provided a very notable hint.
Yes, in his modest Premier League action last season -- about five and a half full matches in total -- Kane managed to take 28 shots, or 4.5 per 90 minutes. That's a huge rate for any striker, let alone a 20-year-old just breaking into one of the world's toughest leagues, even over a small sample size.
Now look at his radar (compiled by Ted Knutson for StatsBomb) for this season, as of the matches through New Year's Day (when Kane had an impressive brace vs. Chelsea):
There are two key differences in this season's chart. Most notably for Tottenham, while Kane's shots per 90 minutes have regressed back to more human levels, his goal-scoring rate has almost doubled. Kane's cashing in around 18 percent of his shots attempted this season. Not shots on goal. Shots attempted.
Here's to guessing that is due, in significant part, to the development on the left side of that radar. Whereas last season, Kane didn't even average one successful dribble per 90 minutes, this season has him at almost at two and a half per full match.
In addition to just being more comfortable with his role and the pace of the league, Kane has – in the words of England great Les Ferdinand – really operated as a 9.5 this season, a sort of hybrid between an outright striker and a more withdrawn string-puller. Kane's shown the ability to find creative pockets of space in addition to his finishing, and now is taking on players once he receives the ball.
The result is stuff like this, where he combines smart use of space, subtle control and lethal accuracy to score a superb second against Chelsea:
He's capable as a link-up man between the midfield and a true striker, is effective pressing and winning an occasional tackle and also possesses a very powerful shot to go along with solid predatory instinct closer to goal. ESPN had a good tactical breakdown of Kane's ability to move among all these roles to form a complete player.
Is he ready to do what others have not, and lead Tottenham back to the Champions League in a year where two spots look wide open for the taking?
Spurs' season stats are not very imposing, but the team has improved significantly since Kane started getting regular runouts, and they have taken 20 points from the last 30 (6-2-2 in their last 10 games).
They've wasted a number of home matches against mid-table teams already, but still get arch rival Arsenal at home in three weeks in what could end up being a very crucial match for both clubs.
If Kane is for real – and it certainly looks like he is – his current rates suggest another nine or 10 league goals are on the way. For a team that can be leaky in the back, every one of them might be needed. Spurs fans don't need any help embracing "one of their own" after the adjustment problems some of their recent international imports have had, but should Kane spearhead a top-four finish, their world certainly would – in the clever words of Mr. Knutson and The Scorpions – be rocked like a Harry Kane.