It appears that Harry Kane’s hamstring injury is going to keep him off the pitch for a while. We don’t have an exact timetable just yet, but Jose Mourinho announced that the issue is serious this weekend.
Since light hamstring injuries usually take up to 3-4 weeks before the players return, we could assume this one should take at least several more. That puts the Special One and his team in a tough position in a season that’s already damaged.
Every club would suffer without its skipper and a player of Kane’s caliber. And yet, Tottenham was in a similar position last season. The captain was injured for a sustained period of time but the Spurs managed to adjust and the results were solid.
This year will likely be different and the draw against Middlesbrough showed how big Kane’s absence is. Mourinho sent a strong side on the pitch and Tottenham barely earned a replay against a side that sits in the bottom half of the Championship.
We shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from only one game but there are plenty of reasons to believe Kane’s absence will be felt this time around.
Lack of a Direct Replacement
For a start, Fernando Llorente is not around anymore. The Spaniard had mixed performances with the Spurs but he was the only player that could serve as a direct replacement to Kane last season. Both strikers are tall and strong, can link well with the rest of the team, and provide an aerial threat.
While Kane was obviously the superior player, the presence of Llorente allowed Mauricio Pochettino to keep playing a similar system. His tactics didn’t suffer too much and the Spanish striker’s contribution was solid.
He scored some goals and managed to open space for the other Spurs forwards that thrived with him on the pitch.
Jose Mourinho doesn’t have a player that’s like Harry Kane or Llorente. He could use the likes of Son and Moura but both have a completely different skillset and strengths. That leads us to the second problem.
The Change of Style under Mourinho
Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham was notorious for its high pressing style and mixed passing. The Spurs would put a lot of pressure on the opposition early and hit hard. If it didn’t happen, the team would regroup and try to get the ball in its own half.
When there were no conditions for a fast counter, Tottenham would patiently keep the ball with short passes.
Ever since Jose Mourinho arrived, there were several changes. First of all, the Spurs are not pressing that deep with the same frequency. The team is defending in numbers and behind the center of the pitch more often than before.
You would expect a less direct attacking approach under such circumstances because often there is not enough space for a counter. And yet, the Spurs are using more long balls under Mourinho.
The defenders often send the ball to Kane and Jan Vertonghen even said that happens too often after the loss against Southampton. His words sparked a reaction from the fans but the Belgian might have a case.
The Spurs would benefit from more control over the tempo, especially defensively. And now when Kane is gone, the long balls will be even less efficient.
What Are the Possible Solutions?
There are several ways in which Mourinho and the Spurs could handle the issue. The first one would be to buy a player that fits the role of a target man well. A short-term solution that could serve as a starter in Kane’s absence and then go to the bench without complaining.
This sounds good in theory but there aren’t many players like that on the market. Mario Mandzukic moved to Qatar and Olivier Giroud most likely won’t join the Spurs under any circumstances.
Daniel Levy won’t be interested in rushing the situation and buying someone for the sake of it, so this option seems unlikely.
The other one would be for Jose Mourinho to change the style of the team and adjust to Kane’s absence. This is the more logical approach as the Spurs could benefit from a more flexible system in the long run as well.
The problem with that is Tottenham is in a tough position already. The team is six points behind the top 4 and faces the dangerous RB Leipzig in the UEFA Champions League knockouts.
If Jose starts experimenting right now, the season could go down the drain in a matter of weeks.
Harry Kane’s injury puts the Spurs in an extremely tough position. The striker doesn’t have a direct replacement in the squad and Mourinho was using him as a pivot for Tottenham’s attack.
Since there is no obvious solution to the situation, Jose will have to hope that Kane gets back soon or the Spurs will suffer even more damage this season.