Kane injury calamity poses problems for Pochettino

Harry Kane Spurs

Tottenham’s game with Man United at Wembley last Sunday was a rip-roaring contest that teetered this way and that with the visitors eventually emerging victorious thanks to Marcus Rashford’s goal just before half time – and a goalkeeping display from David DeGea which rubber stamped his claim to be the best net minder in the world today.

 

Spurs were a joy to watch in the second half, full of endeavour as they hit United with everything but the kitchen sink as they sought an equaliser, but were left to rue missed chances amid DeGea’s goalkeeping clinic as the usually reliable Harry Kane and Dele Alli missed gilt-edged one-on-one opportunities. More worrying for Spurs fans however, was the sight of a prostrate Kane sitting on the Wembley turf. The England captain was left shaking his head after yet another ankle injury, after he formed the meat in a Lindelof/Jones sandwich just before the final whistle.

 

Tottenham fans’ worst fears were confirmed on Tuesday with preliminary scans indicating that the striker will be ruled out till early March at least. The Lilywhites are now left to endure without Kane after his fourth ankle injury in three seasons, with the layoff coming as a huge blow to the club as they seek to remain in the race for Champions League places combined with their interest in the Champions League and domestic cup competitions. All this is compounded by Son Heung Min’s departure to the Asian Cup and increased speculation linking both Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen with moves abroad. So with Kane facing a lengthy time on the sidelines, what options are available to Mauricio Pochettino?

 

The False Number Nine

Although predominantly known for his attacking runs from midfield, Dele Alli is nothing if not versatile and has played up front either as the tip of a midfield diamond behind Kane or as a lone attacker, in the famous “false number nine” position, similar to the job Eden Hazard does with mixed results at Chelsea. This is the position the former MK Dons player took up against Watford in the League Cup earlier in the season and he helped himself to a goal as Spurs went through on penalties. Using Alli in this position means leaving a gap behind him though, Lucas Moura (if fit) and Erik Lamela are options but most would agree their best position is on the wing where they can attack defences by coming inside the full back.

 

The backup striker

Fernando Llorente has had a stop/start career at Spurs to say the least, the former Swansea man seemed an excellent buy for the team when they picked him up on transfer deadline day in August 2017. However, the big Spaniard has not recaptured his best form and failed to grab his chance when the mercurial Kane has missed out through injury or squad rotation. There have been sporadic flashes of his best, a stirring performance as part of a two-pronged attack with Kane in the Berneabeu last season helped earn Tottenham a well deserved draw, he has also helped himself to two hat-tricks in the FA cup, the latest coming in the 7-0 thumping of lowly Tranmere last week.

The biggest stumbling block to integrating Llorente into the side is the constant speculation linking him with a move away this month, most likely to his former club Atletico Bilbao or even, in a surprise twist, to Real Madrid who are seeking cover after an injury-ravaged season for their front men. Mauricio Pochettino will likely block any such move in light of Kane’s injury, although the Argentinean’s confidence in Llorente has often been called into question given the amount of time he has spent on the bench these past two seasons.

 

The forgotten man

Coming with a growing reputation as a no-nonsense centre forward and finishing the preceding season as top goalscorer in the Dutch Eredivisie, Vincent Janssen came to White Hart Lane with excellent credentials but has failed to deliver after showing early promise. A poor return of 10 goals in 35 games tells its own story and the Dutchman was sent on loan to Fenerbache last season, his time in Turkey proved to be an even bigger disaster as he struggled to find form and a foot injury cut his loan short. Although he has recently returned to the U23 side and helped himself to a goal against West Ham at the weekend, it looks like Janssen doesn’t fit Pochettino’s plans and the best he can hope for is a move away from London in a bid to restart his career. Should Kane remain on the sidelines for any length of time and Janssen still fail to force his way into the side, then surely the writing is on the wall for the former PSV hitman.

 

The surprise package

A young Irish striker with a good turn of pace who scores goals for fun with either foot? Where have we heard this one before? Troy Parrot has a terrific season for Tottenham and the Republic of Ireland U18’S, grabbing important goals in both the Champions League and European Qualifiers at underage level. The Dubliner has been so impressive that he has forced himself into the fringes of the first team and travelled with the squad on a few separate occasions. So what’s the problem you ask? Well, Parrot is only 16 and completely unproven at senior level so he would constitute a massive gamble should Pochettino decide to throw him in at the deep end. Although the former Espanyol manager is a huge believer in youth, this would be a huge risk and would go against his thinking of bedding players into the side like he has done previously with the likes of Winks and Skipp. The youngster has a bright future ahead of him but any potential chance with the first team this season has probably come a bit too soon for Parrott.

 

The new signing

We all know the story about Spurs being the only team in Europe not to sign a new player in the last transfer window and how Pochettino would be forced to cut his cloth given the escalating costs of the club moving into their new stadium. Will the injury to their talisman prompt Daniel Levy to cut the purse strings and enable Spurs to recruit a replacement? The issue here might be what options are available in the current market and how much (if anything) is available to spend?

 

Callum Wilson

Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson has long been touted as a “Pochettino type player” and has been drawing admiring glances from clubs such as Chelsea who are also on the lookout for a front man to replace the misfiring Alvaro Morata. Given both club’s desperation for a striker at this time the seasiders will no doubt be using the situation to their advantage and will command a fee somewhere in the region of £50m for Wilson which may just place him out of Spurs’ price range.

 

Timo Werner

Red Bull Leipzig forward Timo Werner is another player who has long been linked to a Premier League move, with several clubs expressing an interest in the German who has scored over 40 goals during his spell with the club.

Red Bull have reportedly offered Werner a new deal worth around of €100,000 a week which would make him one of Tottenham’s top earners should they elect to move for him and match his wage demands.

 

Guiseppe Rossi

Other players being linked to the Lilywhites are former Man United protégé Giuseppe Rossi, Barcelona winger Malcolm and Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi, but none of these potential replacements seem likely owing to a combination of injury concerns and possible wage demands. The most likely option, should Spurs decide to dip their toe in the transfer market, is Jared Bowen at Hull City who has been having an impressive season in the Championship. Pochettino claimed never to have heard of the winger when asked about him a few weeks back but sources claim that Spurs have had scouts at the K.C. Stadium on more than one occasion over the past few weeks.

 

The verdict

Harry Kane’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for Spurs. Although the club have been down this road before with the England player, they have never been involved in so many crucial games around the same time, a League Cup semi-final, Champions League tie with Dortmund coupled with a trip to Crystal Palace in the F.A. Cup and important league fixtures mean there is a lot to lose for the club should they fail to respond to this mini-crisis.

None of the options available to Mauricio Pochettino come without an element of risk but the manager must act swiftly to solve their striker issue and ensure all the team’s good work this season has not been in vain. How the club react could define their season and more importantly determine whether Spurs can finally secure some silverware after over 10 years of waiting. The Tottenham fanbase and the football world in general will watch this space over the coming weeks.

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