Top strikers act on instinct. Some enhance their cutting edge with a bit of physicality.
Harry Kane would have achieved superstar status on the strength of his instincts alone. But such is his ambition that he has worked hard to improve physically.
The Tottenham Hotspur hitman, who broke into the first team in 2014-15 and won the Golden Boot the following seasons, has benefited from Mauricio Pochettino’s tough training methods.
“Before I arrived, his game was a bit more back to goal, holding it up,” says the Spurs boss in his book, Brave New World.
“Now, he is always on the front foot, trying to press. And if we have the ball, he has the freedom to move around, not just wait for the ball. He has to be alive every minute. I also give him videos, endless clips of moments in games, things to correct, improve and learn from.”
Apart from rectifying errors, Kane has also added to his repertoire the skill to keep the ball in tiny spaces, bringing others into play and drawing defenders away from goal. These attributes have made him the complete striker and caught Real Madrid’s eye.
Kane also revealed that he has worked with a sports scientist on the mechanics of sprinting, specifically the arm movement. “It’s really helped me, especially when I’m chasing a through ball,” he said. “Being able to out-pace your opponents gives you a huge advantage. I did a lot of work in the gym to improve my speed.”
The 24-year-old, who has been prolific this season, too, with 12 goals, is closing in on a notable league landmark; he is four short of surpassing Alan Shearer’s 36 goals in a calendar year.
Kane has three more games to break the record, beginning with the big one against Pep Guardiola, who recently labelled Spurs ‘the Harry Kane team’. This doesn’t seem such an outrageous comment when one looks at the squad’s numbers. There really isn’t anyone at Spurs who can step into Kane’s shoes and do what he does.
It is a pity that Pochettino, a shrewd buyer, couldn’t identify a player to replicate at least some of Kane’s end product. This hit the side hard in the loss to Manchester United. If the situation is similar again against neighbours Manchester City on Saturday, Spurs will seem even more like a Harry Kane team!