LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 18: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur is put onto a stretcher after coming off injured during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland at White Hart Lane on September 18, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
If we’re really honest with ourselves, it’s not as if Tottenham have been playing with the “real Harry Kane” so far this season. He’s looked very fatigued after a busy 12 months of football, and many believed he was already in desperate need of a long rest.
Suffering an ankle injury certainly isn’t how anyone wanted that rest to occur, but it’s the reality the Premier League giants face at the moment. The side will have to soldier forward without last year’s Golden Boot winner.
While I don’t think it’s going to be easy, I do think it’s possible for Tottenham to keep their ambitions afloat without Kane in the lineup. Read on to discover the top five ways Spurs can cope without the English striker in their lineup.
LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 14: Toby Alderweireld of Tottenham Hotspur scores his sides first goal during the UEFA Champions League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and AS Monaco FC at Wembley Stadium on September 14, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
5. Rely on the defense
Much attention has been paid to Harry Kane’s meteoric rise under Mauricio Pochettino, but the club’s defense has also blossomed under the Argentine boss. It’s quite possible that in Kane’s absence, the defense can pick up the slack for the club.
While Kane’s loss is huge, it’s actually Toby Alderweireld whose injury could most damage Spurs aspirations this season. The Belgian defender had quietly become one of the best centre backs in the world under Pochettino’s watchful eye. Losing him would be an absolute disaster for the club.
Tottenham are also blessed with one of the world’s top goal keepers in the form of French captain Hugo Lloris. He is certainly capable of keeping the club in matches with his excellent shot-stopping ability. The matches without Kane might require Lloris to make some top-shelf saves to keep Tottenham where they want to be.
Spurs aren’t going to park the bus without Kane leading the line, but they might pay a little more attention to the defensive end of the pitch. Tightening things up there may be the club’s most direct path towards dealing with Kane’s absence.
LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 18: Moussa Sissoko of Tottenham Hotspur reacts to missing a chance during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland at White Hart Lane on September 18, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
4. Change formation
Another way Tottenham might deal with life without Kane, would be to tinker a bit with their formation. For example, Pochettino could shift his tactics towards a 4-1-4-1 formation to provide a little more support to the striker.
Playing alone as the central defensive midfielder might also unlock the full potential in both Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama. Each player somewhat duplicates what the other does on the pitch making them an awkward pairing.
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Fortunately, each man can cover quite a bit of ground. That could make them ideally suited to play as a single man charged to shield the Tottenham back four. It might leave the club a little exposed in defense upon occasion, but it would give Spurs more attacking options in the midfield.
In essence, you’d swap a defensive midfielder for another attacking midfielder each week. The arrival of Moussa Sissoko at the club gives Spurs another player who can play centrally in a box-to-box role. That could make a formational switch a real possibility in Kane’s absence.
LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 18: Heung-Min Son of Tottenham Hotspur reacts after the game during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland at White Hart Lane on September 18, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
3. Move Son back to striker
Son Heung-Min has started the last two matches for Spurs in attacking midfield and seems to be in line for a spot in the club’s starting XI. Kane’s injury could open the door for him to play again as Pochettino’s number nine.
As you’ll recall, when Son came to White Hart Lane from Bayer Leverkusen, he was billed as cover for Kane. That hasn’t worked out for the club thus far, but the Korean might get blessed with a second chance.
The real challenge with playing Son alone up top, is his lack of physical strength. Against some Premier League defenders, he simply doesn’t have the muscle mass to play through the middle. He tends to have much more success cutting in from a wide position.
The hope would be that Son’s comfort with life in England, and increased knowledge of its defenders, would allow him to make the move back to striker. It’s possible that he could use his movement and smart finishing ability to make up for his lack of bulk. It’s nothing something I’d bet on to happen consistently, but it might work here and there.
LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 18: Erik Lamela of Tottenham Hotspu reacts to missing a chance during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland at White Hart Lane on September 18, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
2. The attacking midfield can pick up the slack
It’s not as if the only Tottenham players that can score goals play the striker position. Mauricio Pochettino’s squad has quite a bit of quality in the attacking midfield as well. Some of those stars will need to step up in Kane’s absence.
In particular, the duo of Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen would need to pick up their levels of consistency. Each man is capable of scoring goals in bunches, but hasn’t played their best football this season. Without Kane in the lineup, that would need to change.
Lamela, in particular, might find more space in front of goal without Kane in the lineup. He’s already shown some terrific chemistry with Vincent Janssen, and is excellent at making runs off of hold up play. In many ways, his game is better suited to play with the Dutchman than the English talisman.
Eriksen, on the other hand, would need to pick up the intensity in his game. When he’s flying around the pitch, he can really dictate a match. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen enough of that from the stylish Danish attacker this season.
In Kane’s absence, Tottenham are going to need goals from a lot of other stars. The attacking midfield will be counted on heavily in that regard.
LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 14: Vincent Janssen of Tottenham Hotspur battles for the ball with Andrea Raggi of AS Monaco during the UEFA Champions League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and AS Monaco FC at Wembley Stadium on September 14, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
1. Vincent Janssen must take over
As we all know, the simplest answer is often the best answer. In the case of Harry Kane’s absence, the simplest way for Spurs to cope with the issue is for backup striker Vincent Janssen to make the role his own.
Admittedly, we haven’t seen enough out of Janssen in a Spurs kit to date to have much confidence he’s capable of filling in. He hasn’t found the back of the net this season, and he’s had some really poor misses.
On the plus side, Janssen is better at playing with his back to goal than Kane. Tottenham could use his hold up play to unlock piercing runs from their attacking midfield. It’s a dimension of the game that really isn’t present with Kane in the lineup.
What Tottenham really need is for Vincent Janssen to focus on what he does best, and not what Harry Kane provides the squad. The two are very different players, with very different strengths. If Janssen can focus on what he brings to the table, he might find a comfortable spot in the Spurs starting XI while Kane is on the mend.