Some Tottenham Hotspur fans are worried.
Harry Kane did not look the same after suffering an ankle injury last season. And although he kept on scoring, his stats dropped hugely, suggesting all was not well with the HurriKane. His numbers have yet to return to their 2017/18 heights since then.
From August to March last season, Kane was getting chances worth 0.84 expected goals per 90 minutes; afterwards he dropped to 0.34.
So far this season, they have only gone up a little to 0.46 xG per 90, by Football Whispers numbers. He’s shooting almost half as much as last season too.
But this isn’t the be-all and end-all for a striker. Although he’s shooting less (far less), his shots are generally better chances, and he’s also contributing a little more when it comes to setting up others.
Taking all of this together, it looks like Kane might be playing a different role to the one he was last season. After all, the shot monster that he was at the start of 2017/18 was unusual – through the first two months of the season he was taking a huge 6.57 shots per 90.
Kane changed once to shoulder more of the attacking burden, he can change again to take on less of it.
The Fulham problem
However, this being an astoundingly early part of the season, barely out of nappies, statistical averages are far more easily skewed by big outliers.
Tottenham’s match against Fulham was worth nearly 1.4 of Kane’s 1.85 expected goals this season, by Football Whispers’ numbers, and 3.98 of Spurs’ total 7.63 expected goals.
Kane, like all strikers, performs in fits and bursts to an extent – last season he had eight matches where his chances were worth more than a whole expected goal, and seven where they were worth less than 0.33 xG.
However, last season he only had four matches where his shots were worth fewer than 0.25 expected goals, according to Football Whispers’ numbers – he’s already done that three times in 2018/19.
So what does this mean?
If you’re working from a starting point that Kane hasn’t yet had time to properly recover from his ankle injury, then all of this will probably lead you to say that he’s still not back to full fitness.
It could well be that he’s playing a different role – his expected goals assisted numbers are far more consistent across his four matches so far than the expected goals from his own shots.
However, the places where he’s passing the ball from are in pretty similar areas as last season. The below contour maps draw rings around the places his passes originate (rings within rings mean a higher concentration are there, a bit like a heatmap).
Kane’s passes in both seasons are concentrated in the left channel, around 30 yards from goal.
Perhaps this season’s are slightly more concentrated towards the left sideline, with a relatively larger amount deeper down the field as well (although this latter circle may disappear as the season goes on and he makes more passes).
Is this something that Spurs fans should be worried about? Maybe, but it depends why Kane’s shot and expected goal numbers have fallen.
If it’s something to do with his role in the team set-up, then the team performance is the only thing Spurs fans need to worry about. There is some evidence his role might have altered a little, but not drastically.
However, the ankle he injured in March was the same one he damaged in March of 2017 (eerily close to an exact year apart). He recovered from that injury fine, but getting the same ligament damage twice could cause more problems than having done it just the once.
Perhaps he’s less able to push off of it and get himself a yard of space with which to shoot or receive a pass; perhaps it’s fatigue after his World Cup exertions; perhaps it’s just a run of cold form that he’ll rebound from.
At the moment, it’s hard to tell which it is, but there’s definitely something not quite right with Tottenham and England’s talismanic striker.