Harry Kane scored six goals at the 2018 World Cup but his below-par displays in England’s last three matches in Russia left many people questioning whether he was fully fit.
The 25-year-old, who missed three weeks towards the end of the 2017-18 season with an ankle injury, showed no signs of tiredness during Tottenham’s first three games of 2018-19, scoring against Fulham and Manchester United to break his August goalscoring hoodoo, but he has come in for scrutiny again following his recent performances against Watford and Spain.
Several Spurs players were off form in the 2-1 defeat against Watford before the international break, yet it was Kane’s display – and his deep position – that dominated much of the post-match discussion.
The World Cup Golden Boot winner has been the focal point of Mauricio Pochettino’s side over the last four years, playing as a lone striker with runners in behind him, but he has been more like a No.10 at times during matches this season, with Lucas Moura often playing further forward than him on the right side of attack.
So, is this a conscious change of tactic from Pochettino and Spurs to get the best out of the rest of the team, particularly the in-form Lucas, or has Kane adjusted his style of play to compensate for a lack of fitness caused by the World Cup?
Former England international Gary Neville thinks the Three Lions’ star man, who has played 90 minutes against Spain and 29 minutes against Switzerland in the last week, should have been given a rest by Gareth Southgate.
“I’m concerned about Harry Kane,” the Sky Sports pundit said after England’s 1-0 victory over Switzerland.
“Since 2015, Kane has played 175 matches. Forget the physical side, he needs a mental break as well because he’s struggling. I don’t think he should have been here for the two weeks.”
Kane’s exploits at the World Cup ended after England’s third place play-off against Belgium on July 14. However, he opted not to take an extended break after the tournament, continuing to train by himself before returning to pre-season training with Tottenham on August 6.
Since then, he has played 358 of Spurs’ 360 minutes in the Premier League, while he looks set to feature heavily in upcoming league fixtures against Liverpool (H), Brighton (A), Huddersfield (A) and Cardiff (H), as well as in Champions League games against Inter (A) and Barcelona (H), before the next international break.
It would be a bold move by Pochettino to give Kane a rest in any of those games, especially with Fernando Llorente as his only like-for-like replacement, but it might be the best thing to do if Tottenham’s main man is to avoid burnout too early in the season.
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