Harry Kane's goal glut for England has come at the perfect time for new Tottenham boss Antonio Conte - Opinion
Ahead of a run of fixtures against Leeds, Burnley, Norwich and Brentford, the Spurs hitman could not have picked a better time to rediscover his scoring touch following his seven-goal haul in back-to-back games for England. Ibrahim Mustapha looks at how Antonio Conte will look to get the best out of his new star striker.
Seven goals in two games catapulted Kane up the scoring charts for his country, putting him level on 48 with Gary Lineker, one behind Bobby Charlton and just five behind current record-holder Wayne Rooney on 53.
Barring a truly unfathomable turn of events, Kane will claim this record for himself sooner rather than later, and will almost certainly add far more to his tally making the accolade his own for years to come.
Kane has scored 17 goals for club and country this season, which doesn’t suggest a player struggling to find the back of the net.
However, break down his goals this campaign and a different story emerges.
Kane’s first two goals this season came for Spurs against mid-table Portuguese side Pacos Ferreira in the qualifying round for Europe’s new tertiary competition the Europa Conference League.
The striker later added three more against Slovenian side NS Mura in a 5-1 rout.
For England, Kane scored a single goal in consecutive qualifiers against Hungary, Andorra and Poland respectively before his seven-goal haul last week.
Domestically, his first goal came in a League Cup match against Wolves but in the Premier League, Kane has so far found the target just once, in a 3-2 victory over winless, bottom of the table Newcastle.
For a three-time golden boot winner – including just last season – this is clearly not good enough.
Kane’s struggles have been well documented and have been linked to the player’s own disappointment having failed in his attempts to leave north London in the summer before a move to Manchester City failed to materialise.
His form in the league has almost been intertwined with that of his club as Spurs’ season looked to have fallen flat, even with just a quarter of the campaign played.
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 30: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur reacts after Manchester United score their third goal during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 30, 2021 in London
Image credit: Eurosport
The club were forced to act, sacking manager Nuno Espirito Santo after just four months in charge and replacing him with Antonio Conte.
The Italian comes in knowing he has his work cut out to claw Spurs back up the table and challenging for a top four spot at least, and one of his biggest tasks will be to getting Kane firing once again.
Conte’s first league game was a 0-0 draw with Everton, which hardly set pulses racing as far as either Tottenham or Kane were concerned. However, while many managers bemoan the international break, it may have come at a perfect time for all involved at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
After filling his boots against albeit mediocre opposition, Kane should return to north London having rediscovered his hunger in front of goal.
This bodes well for both himself and his new manager, whose deployment of a central striker is key to much of his success historically.
In his first spell in England managing Chelsea, Conte used Diego Costa to great effect as the Blues stormed to the Premier League title in 2017, with his Spanish hitman scoring 20 times.
More recently, at Inter Milan, he broke former club Juventus’ stranglehold on Serie A last season as the Nerazzurri lifted the title in part thanks to the 24 league goals scored by Romelu Lukaku, adding to the 23 he scored the previous year under Conte.
Antonio Conte, head coach of Tottenham Hotspur observes the squad during a training session at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre on November 02, 2021 in Enfield, England.
Image credit: Getty Images
Under Nuno, Tottenham struggled to create chances, meaning that Kane would often get through games without an opportunity to score.
That his recent England exploits show his finishing is still as potent as ever, Conte need not worry about Kane finding the target if given the opportunities.
In the Italian’s preferred 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 quick counter-attacking formation, Kane will be expected to be a focal point at centre-forward, with those around him carrying the creative load.
Some further criticism of the England striker recently has been his tendency to drop far too deep, taking him away from the penalty area where he is most dangerous. This should not be an issue under Conte who will impress upon the rest of the team to do the pressing in other areas of the pitch, allowing Kane to focus on goalscoring.
Spurs’ upcoming fixtures will see Conte apply his tactical approach and fine-tune his side as they look to climb the table. After a home game against struggling Leeds, Spurs travel to a Burnley side also concerned about the threat of relegation before back-to-back home games against Brentford and Norwich.
While critics will point to Albania and San Marino not providing the toughest of tests and accuse Kane of ‘stat-padding’ against weaker opposition, the player himself will not care and, in fact, he will likely look at Tottenham’s fairly generous run as an opportunity to take full advantage.
The recent goal-glut could not have come at a better time.