Published on 6 Dec 2022 10:12 pm (UK Time)
He’s the captain, a goal away from being the country’s all-time top scorer, leading the tournament in assists and yet he is the single most abused England player since the start of the 2022 World Cup.
On Sunday, Kane finally got his first goal of the tournament, leading England to an emphatic 3-0 win over Senegal and booking a slot in the pending quarter-final tie against France. Kane also received the man of the match award after the game, accruing a SofaScore rating of 7.7, only bettered by Manchester City star Phil Foden who received a score of 8.1.
Kane was magnificent on the night and proved why he is undroppable within this England side. He took his goal brilliantly and was a much more active threat in front of goal, amassing three shots on target, the most of any England player on the night.
Furthermore, Kane caused chaos when he dropped into deeper positions, playing a pivotal role in the build-up for Henderson’s opener. As he often does in the Tottenham setup, when Kane drops deeper he opens up so much space behind the opposition for willing runners and more often than not, he can find them when the ball is at his feet. So whilst the picture of the also wonderful Jude Bellingham and Jordan Henderson will take the headlines, it was the captain’s movement and passing that allowed for that move to occur.
Amidst his three-game goal drought, there were many calls from fans to drop Kane to the bench in favour of Newcastle talisman Callum Wilson, who has been in fine form for the Magpies this season with six goals in the top flight. Wilson is more of a ‘traditional’ number 9, who thrives in the penalty area and the odd run in behind the opposition back line; however, with Kane, England has so much more than that. Kane was once a traditional number 9, whose game completely revolved around goals and little else in terms of link-up play and tactual nouse. His 16/17 and 17/18 seasons were his most successful for goals scored, with Kane scoring 59 goals in 67 games over those two seasons, but in my opinion, the Kane of today is a far bigger threat.
The modern Harry Kane can only be described as a hybrid between a number 9 and 10, and he mastered this role in the 20/21 season under the tutelage of José Mourinho. Kane scored 23 and assisted 14 during that season, making it the most goal contributions in a single season from Kane and his most deadly despite it not being even close to his most goals scored.
The majority of those goals and assists were in combination with Spurs and South Korean star Heung-Min Son, and whilst England doesn’t have a Son for Kane to link up with, Kane demonstrated against Senegal that all he needs is a willing runner to achieve the same product. His England colleagues Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden were also excellent on the night, and their intelligent movement should be more than enough for Kane to work with to cause France problems.
According to a study by the Alan Turing Institute, England players were sent 1,546 abusive tweets during the group stages. Kane was tagged in 426 of them, which means the England captain was the target of 28% of total negative posts during the England group stages. A lot of the criticism in these tweets stated that Kane was dropping far too deep into the midfield, leaving the midfielders and wingers with no focal point to place their efforts into. However, Kane has demonstrated against Iran, Wales and Senegal that if those around him are willing to get in behind when he does drop then he will find you.
In the game against the USMNT, Kane declined to drop into these deeper roles despite his two assists against Iran in the previous fixture, fulfilling the ‘traditional’ number nine role fans demanded from him. It is no coincidence that in that game England looked flat and devoid of creative quality, whilst Kane also received no service throughout the game and was largely absent in influence.
In a similar fashion to Tottenham, when Kane is at his best so is England. When you have arguably the best number 9 and 10 in the world in a single player, you do everything you can as a team to squeeze every last ounce of ability from that player. Kane is on four total goal contributions so far during the tournament, and there are still three potential games to be played. During this same point at Euro 2022, Kane had a single goal and no assists and went on to win the golden boot at the tournament.
The narrative surrounding the captain is quickly changing within the media, but it’s about time England fans see what they have before it’s too late to appreciate it.
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