Last Sunday morning, Tottenham Hotspur had just completed a clinical 4-0 spanking of 10th place Stoke City at White Hart Lane. Their striker Harry Kane had netted three goals in the first half (and assisted on another) and walked off the field to a resounding chorus from the Hotspurs faithful:
“He’s one of our own! He’s one of our OWWWNNN! Harry Kane – He’s one of our own!”
The hat trick was his second in as many domestic competitions and vaulted him into a three-way tie for top scorer in the league. Oh, and the first goal of the day was Kane’s hundredth in a Spurs shirt. Spurs manager, Mauricio Pochettino praised Kane’s recent run of form saying, “Maybe he’s starting to be a legend with the goals he’s scoring.”
A legend you say? Interesting word choice, Poch. I see your bet and raise you one. Not only does Harry Kane have a chance to be a legendary footballer, he is currently the best striker in the Premier League. Let me repeat that. Harry Kane, 23 years old, born in Walthamstow, a stone’s throw from White Hart Lane, who has played at all levels of Tottenham’s youth and senior squads for close to 15 years and has become the best striker in the English Premier League in the past two and half seasons. But it was not always this way.
Kane entered the English football scene in earnest during the 2014-15 season after several years of disappointing loan stints with Norwich City, Millwall and Leicester City. With new manager Mauricio Pochettino at the helm, Kane was not supposed to get off the bench behind Spanish forward Roberto Soldado, but Bob was oft injured and only managed 1 goal on the season. Kane made good on his opportunity. By year’s end, Kane had netted 31 goals across all competitions and 21 in the league (most since Gareth Bale in 2013).
In the offseason, many pundits predicted HK’s performance to be a flash in the pan, a one-hit wonder, the Chumbawumba of English football. As the 2015-16 season got under way, those critics were seemingly proven right as Kane failed to score in each of the first six matches of the season. The white dwarf had burned bright and hot for a season, but now, almost a sixth of the way into his second full campaign, White Hart Lane’s golden (haired) boy had shown his true colors. A fraud without a true nose for goal.
But not so fast.
In an early season-defining clash with Manchester City, Kane found the net in the 61st minute of a contentious 2-1 game. That goal sealed a victory for Spurs and ignited a run of 8 more scores in his next 6 matches, muting all doubters from the summer prior. Kane finished with 25 league goals, 38 across all competitions (!!!) and a fancy yellow trophy shaped like a shoe.
That brings us to this season in which once again Kane failed to score in the first three games and grumblings started anew, but markedly quieter this time around. Sure enough, just after Labor Day (Kane has never scored in August in his career), he tallied his first goal of the season against – guess who? Stoke City. And the score? 4-0. Perfect right? The universe is cyclical. Time is a flat circle. I promise I didn’t even plan that it just happens that way sometimes.
Kane scored again in the next game versus Sunderland before badly rolling his ankle forcing him to miss 5 games – roughly a month and half of playing time. Despite that setback, Kane returned in early November and immediately start scoring again like nothing had happened. Now, here he sits with 19 goals in 22 appearances. Another brace added to his tally today versus Everton (5 goals in 2 games for those keeping track at home).
Now if you already know all that about Harry Kane, your response is probably along the lines of: “That’s quite the hot take, Brooks. Let me introduce you to Diego Costa, Sergio Aguero, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Romelu Lukaku.” And if you said that and read off those names I would take pause, because you’re partially right. Those players are all prolific strikers and adept goal-getters in their own right. But none of them are the best strikers in the Premier League. Harry Kane is.
Here is some groundwork in defense of this claim. First, we’ll broadly compare Kane to the EPL since 1992. If his current scoring run continues through the end of the season, Kane could potentially claim his second straight Golden Boot (the Premier League’s award for top scorer). He would be the fourth player to do so behind Alan Shearer, who three-peated, Thierry Henry, also a three-peater and four times in five years (God, that dude was good), and Robin van Persie. Not bad company.
At current, Kane is a goal ahead of Everton’s Romelu Lukaku and two above Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal with 11 games to play. Clearly he’ll have his hands full, but a second gilded soccer cleat is very much within reach and would further silence the myriad detractors that Kane has inexplicably collected in the last couple years.
Now, narrowing our focus: Kane versus other Spurs players. Kane sits at 68 career goals at Tottenham in 105 appearances (.63 goals per game); He’s scored 104 goals across all competitions and only needs 18 more to break into the Spurs top 10. If he continues at this pace for another 7ish seasons, he will end up second all-time in Spurs history. I can easily see that happening.
Here are a few projected records Kane could break in the final games of this season. One more goal would give Kane three straight seasons of 20+ league goals – a mark unmatched by a Spurs player since the 1970s. Two more goals for Kane would match the best three season goal total since Gary Lineker in 1989-91. If he manages another 6 goals in the final 11 games of the league season, he would have 25 goals in two consecutive season, which a Spurs player hasn’t achieved since the legend Jimmy Greaves in 1965. Oh, and he missed 5 games to injury.
Now, let’s look at his contemporaries, not only for the Golden Boot but for the title of the best striker in the Premier League. His peers are as follows: Diego Costa, Alexis Sanchez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Romelu Lukaku, and Sergio Aguero.
Ah, Diego.His Yellowstone Caldera-level temper is almost more infamous than his scoring ability. Screaming matches with referees and childishly goading opposing players have always been his go-to when he’s not saving Chelsea from an embarrassing loss to Swansea City or missing 2 months with shoddy hamstrings. Despite those less than ideal histrionics, Costa has mostly kept his nose clean this season and is Kane’s best competition for top Prem striker. Yet his age, injury history, and temper disqualify him.
Alexis is faster than Kane. Alexis is probably faster than every other player in the Prem, too. His ability to blow past every defender in the league makes him a constant threat. He is a supremely hard worker, but his speed covers up a lot of his technical deficiencies. Sanchez has never scored 20 goals in a season (even at the peak of his powers at Barcelona). He also suffers from bouts of injuries and has never played a full season in his career. I think as he continues to age, he will slow down and his scoring will diminish even further. Point to Kane.
We at the Bakery have made no effort to hide our love for Zlatan. He is easily one of the most interesting personalities in the entire world of football. And don’t forget he’s scored 418 goals over a nearly 20-year career. Is that good? The dude is an absolute freak at the age of 36. His 15 goals for Manchester United have saved them from several incredibly embarrassing defeats. But at times this season, Ibra has disappeared for long stretches, often being held scoreless by aggressive defenses who don’t allow him to get off one of his patented wind ups. He has aged like fine wine, and while the goal total is still there, he has not consistently provided an adequate scoring threat in big games. Kane by a hair.
Lukaku presents the best foil to HK in terms of age and potential. He’s two months older, had a similarly rocky start to his career, but has found stability at Everton. He truly broke out last season with 18 league goals and has almost already matched that in 12 fewer games this season. Lukaku’s Achilles heel has always been consistency, however. A look at this year’s numbers would show that if you remove a 4 goal blitz versus lowly Bournemouth at the beginning of February, Lukaku had only netted 2 goal in his last 6 games. He’s had similar stretches this season where his production plummets to near zero and Everton suffers for it. Koeman has started to bring the best out of the young Belgian, but there is still work to be done. Kane edges him.
Aguero is a former golden boot winner (2014-15) and was runner-up to Harry Kane in 2015-2016. He has the unparalleled agility and clinical finishing with 113 goals at City since joining in 2011. Yet, this year he has taken a step back through a combination of injuries, suspensions and the sudden emergence of Gabriel Jesus at the Etihad. Admittedly, while healthy, Kun Aguero is arguably the best in the league, but he has been surpassed this season.
With 11 games to go in the season, there is a lot of football left to play. Anything could happen in a long season. Any one of those players mentioned above could surpass Kane in goal totals by year’s end. Injuries and poor overall team play could derail Kane’s pursuit of another golden boot. Yet, something tells me we are currently witnessing the making a true world beater. There are many, many excellent goal scorers in this league, but you might be able to tell who I’d prefer to have on my team when it’s game time.