How Spurs Will Survive With ‘Just’ Harry Kane


It’s the scenario many Spurs fans feared with the club’s – and Daniel Levy’s – perceived failure to secure a backup to Harry Kane in this summer’s transfer window.

As other options quickly evaporated around him, Mauricio Pochettino was forced to field one recognized striker for much of the season. The club’s attempt to add depth to the position was a bust and no real progress was made in correcting that error, even in the January transfer window.

The player in question started 31 times for the club that term and served as a substitute in six other matches. Though he’d proven himself in the past, such a burden placed upon the player could have been too much. He could have wilted under the pressure and taken his team’s chances down with him.

Instead, he had a hand in 23 goals that season, thirteen of which were goals he himself scored. The club finished the season with their best points total in the Premier League era up to that point. Far from being a crisis, the striker and club improved under what should have been difficult circumstances.

If this sounds like an optimistic prediction for the coming Spurs season, it’s not. The club was Southampton, the season was 2013/14 and the striker was England international Rickie Lambert.

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  • Southampton knew coming into the season that they’d need more striker support to backup Lambert. To that end, the club dropped £15 million on Dani Osvaldo over the summer. They shortly found, however, that their newest player was unreliable at best and a liability at worst. He appeared only 14 times for the club that season, contributing a mere three goals. He has since been offloaded on loan to three different clubs before being sold outright to Porto this summer.

    The Italian international’s failure to integrate into the Southampton squad meant that Lambert was expected to continue to serve as the club’s only experienced striker. That Pochettino managed to survive what should have been a perilous situation is a testament to Lambert’s abilities. How reliable Harry Kane might be is still evidently very much in question.

    There are certainly worse scenarios than having to rely on a striker who managed to score 31 goals in all competitions last season. Spurs fans’ concerns are more rooted in the possibility that Kane could either succumb to injury or loss of form, thereby denying the club its primary goal outlet and leaving few options to make up for it.

    Pochettino’s makeshift solution at Southampton for a nearly identical situation was simple: source goals from elsewhere on the pitch. Jay Rodriguez featured mostly on the left side of attacking midfield all season and managed to score 15 goals on his own, making him the club’s top scorer that term. It’s easy to see why Spurs were interested in signing Rodriguez when Pochettino first took over. His positioning is a bit misleading; he’s more striker than winger.

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    Spurs’ recruitment of a player like Heung-Min Son, then, might be an attempt to mimic Rodriguez’ play and production. The Korean international also frequently features on the left but consistently plays a direct game, scoring far more goals than he sets up. That he can also serve as a proper center forward if Spurs are in a pinch only increases his value.

    All of which suggests that the club’s now-infamous failure to secure Saido Berahino from West Brom is not the disaster that it at first appears. No, Harry Kane will have neither competition nor proper backup for his stop at the tip of Tottenham’s attack. What he will have is more players around him who can contribute goals, especially Son. Even if Kane cannot entirely duplicate his success last season, in diffusing the team’s goal production, Spurs might end up with more goals overall by next May.

    Next: Spurs' Yedlin Can Follow in Rose's Footsteps