No Kane No Gain? How did Tottenham Fare Without Harry Kane?
Tottenham faced Brentford in an entertaining clash at the Gtech Community Stadium, the first since the departure of their all time goal scorer Harry Kane.
A new era has begun in North London. A new captain, a new manager and a breath of fresh air in the way Tottenham are playing has seemed to lifted the downed heads of last season.
Ange Postecoglou handed out three Premier League debuts to Guglielmo Vicario, Micky Van de Ven and Destiny Udogie as the revamp at Spurs continues. Goalkeeper Vicario is looking like a set replacement for Hugo Lloris, who’s future at the club is still unclear. Van de Ven and Udogie both impressed fans and look to be the best in their positions since Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose.
But with all this put to one side, how did Spurs fare without Kane?
Before the game, Tottenham had done something they hadn’t done for a very long time and that was doing the team huddle in front of the away support. A move instigated by new club captain Heung-Min Son. This got the Spurs fans riled up before kick off which led to chants of Postecoglou’s name. Tottenham were finally starting to show signs of togetherness between themselves and the fans, something not seen since the Mauricio Pochettino days.
Tottenham started the game on the front foot, looking increasingly confident, and within 11 minutes opened the scoring with a Cristian Romero bullet header from a James Maddison free kick. Subsequently, the defender had to be immediately subbed off due to an earlier clash of heads with Brentford forward Bryan Mbeumo which Romero still hadn’t recovered from.
After the substitution, The Bees picked up the pace and ended up leading the game just before half time. Son gave away a soft penalty after fouling Mathias Jensen which led to Mbeumo sending Vicario the wrong way. Brentford then got their noses in front after a Yoane Wissa deflected shot rolled into the net, leaving the Italian shot stopper no chance.
Spurs weren’t done yet: Maddison’s persistence paid off as he poked the ball over to Emerson Royal who thumped home a low volley, leaving Mark Flekken with no chance.
The game finished in a action packed two-all draw, with plenty of positives for both sides to take away.
What’s new under Postecoglou?
Serious changes have already been made since the Australian took over. First of all, Tottenham now have a manager who is clear, honest and doesn’t beat around the bush. Again, something they haven’t been used to since Pochettino. Postecoglou has been praised very highly in the way he dealt with the media during the Kane saga. A quality which is a rare find amongst modern managers.
Secondly, the way the team is set up. Antonio Conte implemented an incredibly defensive system where Spurs would often defend with everyone behind the ball. Postecoglou is the polar opposite. The diagram below shows the average positions of the players under Conte during last season compared to the average positions of the players against Brentford. Due to this, Spurs registered 358 touches in the attacking third, 40 more than any game last season.
Thirdly, attack attack attack! Multiple times throughout the game Spurs had all 10 outfield players in the opposition half. When going forward, Tottenham would often have the full backs making overlapping narrow runs, which would create a heavy overload in Brentford’s final third. The only real issue with this was the susceptibility to being hit on a counter attack, something The Bees tried to exploit a few times.
Next is youth. For the first time in over three years Spurs had a starting team with the average age of under 26. The last Tottenham team to do this was Jose Mourinho’s vs Wolves in March 2020. This could be a vital sign of longevity that The Lilywhites need, no more short term managers. It’s become very evident that the Aussie is building a team that is going to grow together along with a few experienced heads.
Finally, and the only real negative, is the front three. The individual quality of the three isn’t the issue; it’s the lack of chemistry. Having Richarlison as the striker means that Son and Dejan Kulusevski have to adapt to his play style and fast. Whereas Kane would drop deep, spray a pass and play as a complete forward. Brazil’s number nine is more of a direct forward who is more of a traditional striker. Richarlison’s strength isn’t creating chances, it’s putting chances away. The other issue is that Son and Kulusevski are either too narrow or too wide. When Tottenham created an overload, they both needed to be wider in order to create a chance from the flank. Instead, there were a few incidents where the players would bunch up and the chance would fizzle out.
Overall, the reign of Postecoglou has had a great start. The fans are beginning to love him and, more importantly, are starting to fall back in love with the team again. It will take time for him to fully implement his philosophy on to the squad but, at this moment in time, they seem to buy every word he says.
Tottenham could have a bumpy road ahead this season due to the obvious but certainly won’t back down without a fight. The next game against Manchester United could be a tell-tale sign of how the season will play out.