Unless you’re a diehard Arsenal fan, you’ve got to feel for Tottenham striker Harry Kane.
After a fantastic season at White Hart Lane in which his side came ever so close to winning the Premier League, and he cemented his status as one of the best strikers in the Premier League with the Golden Boot award, Kane headed into the Euros with the country’s hopes resting on him.
This was the player who’d scored 25 Premier League goals last season, against some of the best defenders in the league – he was going to lead the line for England as they chased Euro glory.
Except it didn’t really happen.
After a game and a half of sterile nothingness, Kane was substituted in England’s game with Wales, and watched on as the two strikers who came on both scored to cap a historic victory for England.
All of a sudden, he’s odds on to be on the bench next game. That’s how much difference 135 minutes can make to a player’s career.
In that time, he’s played himself out of the side, the media are starting to turn on him, and it seems highly unlikely that he’ll be a major starter for the rest of the tournament.
So what’s happened?
Well, two things really.
One, he looks really, really knackered. The guy played every league game for Spurs last season, with precious little respite, and he’s tired. The Tottenham game-plan requires the one striker up front to press hard, which means that he’s basically spent the whole of the last 10 months sprinting around the pitch when his team doesn’t have the ball, and sprinting around the pitch when they do, too.
Spurs’ reliance on Kane has meant that he simply couldn’t be given a break, and this is no doubt something that Mauricio Pochettino will be looking to rectify in this summer’s transfer window. Unfortunately, however well he does at rectifying it, it’s a bit late for Kane’s Euros campaign now.
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) June 19, 2016
Secondly, the system that England have been playing simply doesn’t seem to suit Kane, which is odd, because it’s relatively similar to the way he plays at Tottenham. However, the subtle difference could be the difference that’s making all the difference.
At Spurs, Pochettino plays a 4-2-3-1, with Eric Dier in the holding role, Moussa Dembele as the box to box midfielder, and Erik Lamela, Dele Alli and Christian Eriken occupying the three slots behind Kane.
For England, Hodgson has been playing a 4-3-3 with Dier holding, Rooney as a box to box midfielder and Dele Alli as an advanced playmaker, while Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling play the wide forward roles.
On the face of it, it doesn’t seem that different, but for me the key is in the positioning of Dele Alli. For Spurs, Alli’s job is to feed Kane. Indeed, Eriksen and Lamela are deployed with similar tasks. Because of the two midfielders playing further back, Alli is able to concentrate on creating chances for his striker and not worry at all about defence.
For England, Alli plays in a midfield three, and he is expected to play as a midfielder, which is not his best position. At number ten, Alli is devastating. In midfield, he’s still bright, he’s still sharp…but he’s not quite at the same level.
Which means a few things, but the most pertinent for now is that it hampers not just Alli’s performance, but Kane’s too.
Rather than staying in the positions where he’s most likely to be a threat, Kane is forced to try and create his own chances for England – something he’s less good at.
— Hotspur Lane (@HotspurLane) June 19, 2016
Unfortunately for the Tottenham striker, it really does appear as if he’s lost his chance. With Vardy and Sturridge both scoring critical goals in the Wales game, Kane is now the odd one out, with no goals to his name, and it seems highly unlikely that he’ll be reinstated anytime soon.