“The Harry Kane team,” was how Pep Guardiola described them. You imagine he immediately regretted doing so as it created a back and forth between himself and Mauricio Pochettino, played out via the media, and prompted a whole host of reactions analysing Guardiola’s previous sides.
“I know Pep very well and when he is excited after an amazing victory against Chelsea sometimes he struggles to keep his position and be a gentleman,” retorted the Spurs manager on being informed of the comment.
“That comment does not affect me but in reality, it was very disrespectful for many people. I think that many people took those words as very disrespectful for the club and many players that are here at the club.”
Guardiola’s next move was to play down his comment, and remind people that he’s previously praised the North London club for the way they go about their business, and the way they play their football.
“When I talked about Harry Kane’s team, it was because Harry Kane was scoring a lot of goals, and I know perfectly that Tottenham are not Harry Kane alone,” said the Manchester City manager in the most recent of these exchanges.
“I think last season, the person who spoke most about appreciating the way Tottenham play was me. As I said, Tottenham are one of the best teams playing.”
But is there any truth to Guardiola’s initial comment? There’s no doubt that Kane is a leading figure in their – goal-scorers naturally are – but they still need other players to do the work around them, building a platform and stopping goals going in at the other end.
Pochettino’s side regularly have one of the best defences in the league, and so far this season they have the third best, conceding just five goals in eight games.
It is true that their record in games where Kane scores is good. They’ve won every match in which the England man found the back of the net, and in games where he hasn’t they’ve won two, drawn two, and lost one. They also won a League Cup game against Barnsley, courtesy of a Dele Alli goal, where Kane sat on the bench for the duration.
These games which Kane doesn’t score can also be down to his own missed chances. August saw a win, a draw, and a defeat; and the striker’s struggles in this month are well documented. In the opening game of the season goals from Ben Davies and Christian Eriksen game Spurs a 2-0 win against Newcastle, with Alli scoring in the draw at home to Burnley.
Kane has six goals in the Premier League so far this season, but Eriksen has also contributed to six goals with three strikes of his own plus three assists. Left-back Davies is also chipping in with attacking displays and has two goals and two assists so far this term. The Welshman’s four goal contributions, plus his all-round creative work down his flank, make him the best left-back in the league so far this season.
On the other side, Kieran Tripper has assisted three of Kane’s goals this campaign with his crosses from the right full back position, and the duo are only just behind the César Azpilicueta to Álvaro Morata combination when it comes to the most common assist to goalscorer pairing.
Raw defensive stats such as tackling and aerial duels are difficult to come by for a team who defend as a unit as Spurs do. But new signing Davinson Sánchez is the second best defender in terms of playing out from the back, with a pass accuracy of 94 per cent, behind City’s John Stones who completes 97 per cent of his passes.
Eriksen and Davies are both in the top ten in the Premier League for key passes per game, and the Dane is also in the top ten for through balls per game.
After the recent win at home to Bournemouth, in which Eriksen was the stand-out player and grabbed the game’s only goal with a perfectly placed left-footed finish, the Dane said: “We’re a team, of course. When Harry doesn’t score we have a strong enough team to score.
“If it’s me, Dele, Sonny [Son Heung-Min], Tripps [Trippier] or [Moussa] Sissoko. It could be anyone, whoever gets the chance and is good enough to finish. Today the ball fell for me but of course it’s a team performance. I think it was a very tough but a good game.
“Of course Harry, with all the chances he gets, he has the biggest chance of scoring and, with how good he is, he will score goals, but we all have to score goals.”
Eriksen’s comment about “all the chances” indicates that he knows how good the rest of the team are at creating opportunities for their No 10, and that he also feels they deserve a bit of credit.
While his striker has been one of the best players in Europe this season, as reinforced by his excellent displays in the Champions League where he has five goals and an assist in two games, he scores a lot less if he doesn’t get the service from the likes of the ever-impressive Eriksen.
If his centre forward continues scoring at this rate, then it might be possible that the creative midfielder is finally recognised as one of the best in the league too, alongside the likes of David Silva, Barcelona transfer target Philippe Coutinho, and Kevin De Bruyne.
Kane has gone from being dubbed a one season wonder, to now being labelled Tottenham Hotspur’s one man in a one man team. The first suggestion turned out to be false, and the second one is too.