Very few would doubt the notion that Harry Kane is Tottenhan’s most important player. That’s not to say Mauricio Pochettino is presiding over a one-man team but instead acknowledging the undeniable excellence of their chief marksman.
Kane, who is about to return from a serious ankle injury, is among the world’s best No.9s. You can make a case that he’s first among equals, but that’s a story for another day. Right now his imminent return couldn’t have been timed any better.
Spurs were dumped out of two domestic competitions – at the hands of London rivals Chelsea and Crystal Palace in the League Cup and FA Cup respectively – in Kane’s absence, but they have taken a big leap forward in the Champions League and also find themselves back in the Premier League title race.
The Lilywhites will take a commanding 3-0 lead to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last 16, whilst they presently sit five points behind Manchester City in England’s top division. Despite the aforementioned setbacks, they’ve done fine without their leading man.
South Korean forward Heung-Min Son has gladly taken on the goalscoring burden, having bagged four goals across four matches in all competitions, but that may well change with Kane back in the saddle. As well as Fernando Llorente has done, his role hasn’t changed.
With every game now taking on greater importance – Chelsea (A), Arsenal (H) and Borussia Dortmund (A) all coming back-to-back – Spurs more than ever will look to their ‘number 10’ for inspiration.
Since becoming an integral part of the club, following some notable loan spells, Kane has suffered four major injuries that have seen him sidelined for 20 or more days at a time – including this most recent spell.
During his breakthrough campaign (2013/14) under André Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood, he missed 11 games through a back injury, while a trio of ankle injuries mean he has missed chunks of the next three successive seasons.
So, with the ‘HurriKane’ about to be unleashed it’s worth asking if we can learn anything from those previous three returns. Can Spurs expect Kane to hit the ground running? Or does history suggest he will need a bit of time to get back up to speed?
2016/17 – Ankle injury (missed 49 days and 11 matches)
Kane’s latest ankle injury is the fourth he’s picked up since Autumn 2016. The first one forced him to miss no fewer than 11 matches spanning 49 days between September 2016 and November 2016.
During his time out Spurs would feature across three competitions – League Cup, Premier League and Champions League – and would suffer two defeats whilst picking up four wins. His absence saw Pochettino’s side register 13 goals with five of those coming in a League Cup win at home to Gillingham.
— Harry Kane (@HKane) February 20, 2019
So, you could understand the fans’ eagerness for him to be available once more, and to say he made up for lost time was an understatement. Kane’s opening five games back, totalling 430 minutes of playing time, included him registering six goals: 1 v Arsenal (A), 2 v West Ham (H), 1 v AS Monaco (A) and 2 v Swansea City (H). His only blank came in a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea.
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2016/17 – Ankle injury (missed 24 days and 3 matches)
Later that season Kane would suffer another knock but it only cost him three fixtures between March 2017 to April 2017. Spurs won each of them coming in the Premier League: 2-1 v Southampton (H), 2-0 v Burnley (A) and 3-1 v Swansea City (A). Dele Alli and Son Heung-min both stepped up in that period with important goals.
Still, you’d rather have Kane than not, but this comeback was missing the fireworks of the last. He didn’t exactly forget his scoring boots, but there was an element of slowly getting back into shape, across his opening five games back, totalling 378 minutes, he bagged three goals against Bournemouth (H) and Arsenal (H) in the Premier League as well as in their FA Cup semi-final defeat at the hands of Chelsea.
Our last visit to Turf Moor…
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) February 21, 2019
His only blanks came in a 29-minute cameo at home to Watford and on the road at Crystal Palace – both Premier League fixtures. Kane, nevertheless, ended the 2016/17 campaign with a second golden boot, scoring seven goals in the final two games of the season; four at Leicester City and three at Hull City.
2017/18 – Ankle injury (missed 20 days and 2 matches)
Kane’s most recent setback before this season had a speck of déjà vu. Firstly it came at the backend of a long season, between March 2018 and April 2018, with the injury once again concerning his ankle. However, this time, Kane only missed two games.
Again, they coped in his absence, but what about the return? Well, following this current theme, Kane would score three goals across his first five games back (which tallied up to 445 minutes).
Stoke City (A), Brighton & Hove Albion (A) and Watford (H) felt his wrath in the Premier League whilst both Manchester City (H) and Manchester United (N – FA Cup) nullified him.
However, it’s worth adding context to the nature of those goals. The first was the controversial flick he claimed against Stoke – to this day it’s unclear whether Kane was telling the truth about Christian Eriksen’s cross brushing his shoulder on the way in.
His strikes against Brighton and Watford both came in sub-par performances, which led to some onlookers questioning his overall fitness. One of Kane’s most impressive traits is his ability to score goals even when he isn’t 100% in terms of condition, as he proved yet again by winning the Golden Boot at the World Cup.
So, what does this all tell us? Kane – if you haven’t figured it out by now – lives for goals. No matter how long he’s been out, you don’t lose that hunger.
Pochettino, speaking ahead of a busy period for Spurs, summed it up best when describing his talisman as ‘an animal’.
“I don’t care if he wants to play or not,” he said. “If you ask him 10 days ago he was ready to play.”
That is music to Spurs fans’ ears, as well as a warning for those hoping to contain him in the coming weeks.