Premier League hits and misses: Will Harry Kane's Tottenham loyalty be tested in the summer?

Kane out of touch – will his loyalty be tested?

It is games like Tottenham’s 3-0 defeat at Manchester City where you would love to read Harry Kane’s mind. What must England’s best striker be thinking after a 90 minutes where he failed to register a single touch in the opposition’s penalty area?

It is not the first time. Kane also failed to register a touch in the box against Manchester United in June 2020 – that is twice in 15 months under Jose Mourinho, in Premier League games he has started. It happened just twice in his previous six years of Premier League football at Spurs. Heung-Min Son had just one touch in the box on Saturday.

Harry Kane – Zero touches in opp box (PL starts)

Kane actually put in a decent performance – as a defender. He made a joint-high number of clearances (four, along with Ben Davies) in the Spurs side, and was their main man at defensive set-pieces.

But is this what Kane wants?


“That is not what players of the class of Harry Kane and Son want to be associated with,” said Jamie Redknapp after the game. “Harry Kane must be thinking: ‘If I played in that City side, how many goals would I get? How many chances? How many touches in the box?’.

“Harry Kane must look at that and think: ‘I want touches, I want to be the main man, not just taking free-kicks!’. He won’t be happy doing that.”

  • City-Spurs ratings: Gundogan stars, Lloris struggles

There is a caveat. Mourinho has undoubtedly added layers to Kane’s game. He has the footballing intelligence to drop deep, use his body and help the team, and the manager has brought that out of him in abundance this season, along with plenty of goals.

Mourinho is a serial winner and should bring trophies to Spurs. A Carabao Cup or Europa League would be nice, and would end a 13-year wait. But then what? Kane, who is 28 in June, should be aiming for the trophies that made Mourinho a household name.

Kane is unquestionably a team player, and unquestionably Spurs through and through. But some very big sides, both in England and Europe, need a centre forward this summer. Will his loyalty be tested?
Gerard Brand

Gundogan pushing for POTY prizes

Manchester City extended their winning run to 16 games in all competitions with their 3-0 victory over Tottenham and Ilkay Gundogan was once again at the heart of it. The 30-year-old won the penalty for the first goal and scored the other two himself.

He has now hit 11 Premier League goals this season, all of them coming in the space of 12 games since the middle of December. He, more than any other player, has been the driving force behind the outstanding run of results which has taken City seven points clear at the top of the Premier League.

“It looks like he’s going to be the man who takes Manchester City to the title,” said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher on co-commentary at the Etihad Stadium. On the day Jurgen Klopp ceded the crown, there surely were not too many arguing with that.

  • Man City 3-0 Spurs – Match report and ratings

It has been an extraordinary transformation. A player who previously operated as a deep-lying midfielder – one who had never previously reached double figures for goals in a single season – is now thriving in a more advanced role, with licence to charge into the opposition box from midfield and even run in behind the opposition’s defence.

Pep Guardiola has taken Gundogan’s game to new levels while simultaneously solving the issue of not having an out-and-out goalscorer at his disposal, and supporters will have been relieved to hear him say his early withdrawal at the Etihad Stadium was only precautionary.

City, 23 games unbeaten, look increasingly like Premier League title winners. And Gundogan, with 11 goals in 12 games, looks increasingly like the leading contender for the season’s big individual prizes.
Nick Wright

Alisson’s unusual errors sum up Liverpool’s lapse

According to Opta, Alisson only made one error that led to a goal last season. It came three games from the end of the campaign, when Liverpool were already home and hosed as champions.

He doubled that tally with his two terrible passes to Man City attackers last Sunday and, while his rush of blood to the head against Leicester does not meet the criteria, there is no doubt it was him at fault for the Foxes’ second.

He may have had the odd shaky moment with the ball at his feet when he first arrived but the Brazilian has largely been rock solid for Liverpool since replacing Loris Karius. Alarm bells are ringing now.

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After Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat at the King Power Stadium, boss Jurgen Klopp loaded importance on Leicester’s first goal, contesting its validity and criticising his team’s reaction to it. But Alisson encapsulated the chaos and panic which followed, with his charge out of his area and into his centre-back Ozan Kabak allowing Jamie Vardy to run in Leicester’s second.

While Klopp pointed to a lack of familiarity between the pair, 20-year-old debutant Kabak could hardly be blamed. He was running back to his own goal and had his eyes fixed on a ball which was falling into his path. There was no shout from Alisson, according to Klopp, as the ‘keeper – perhaps with his mind clouded by his game-changing errors last weekend – took out his own man and helped to tee up Vardy.

There was a superb double save soon after. Like Roberto Firmino’s fantastic flick for Mohamed Salah’s opener, it was a reminder of the quality which runs through this Liverpool team. But the usual reliability has not been there this season. Bad decisions, bad executions, bad mistakes have suddenly emerged to undermine their game.
Peter Smith

Leicester in the driving seat again

Leicester will hope Saturday’s victory over Liverpool proves a seminal moment. For so long, the Foxes looked destined for a Champions League place last season, and while Europe now beckons for both these sides in midweek, they could be heading for different competitions next term.

  • Leicester 3-1 Liverpool – Match report & highlights
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats

What had undermined Leicester’s hopes this campaign had been their home form. They had collected just 16 points at home compared to 27 on the road before the meeting with Jurgen Klopp’s men, but Brendan Rodgers will hope his players turn the King Power Stadium into a fortress in their remaining seven home league fixtures.

The Leicester boss said: “I felt this would be a good measure of the development of the team. I thought our reaction throughout the game was very good and we should really have been in front in the first half. I’m so happy with how we coped in the second half. We got the goals and defended really well.”

A lot was made about Liverpool’s lengthy injury list – with James Milner’s withdrawal in the opening period making it 10 first-team players currently out – but Leicester have had to patch up their team almost as much. Here, they were without Wesley Fofana, Timothy Castagne, Dennis Praet, Wes Morgan and James Justin.

But Rodgers’ tactical acumen came to the fore once more. He placed Ricardo Pereira on Mohamed Salah from the start, and it was willingness to adapt to a diamond formation in the final 20 minutes which turned the contest in his team’s favour.

Harvey Barnes was put alongside Jamie Vardy not long after Salah’s opener and it had a devastating impact as the pair took full advantage of their opponent’s makeshift defence. It will delight Rodgers that both they and James Maddison were all on the scoresheet.

With Liverpool’s confidence shot to pieces, it is Leicester who find themselves in the ascendancy once again in the race for the top four. Six points clear of the wilting champions, Rodgers will hope last season’s experience in going so close acts as a benefit – not a hindrance.
Ben Grounds

The Zaha question still lingers

Crystal Palace had a huge question to answer on Saturday – could they finally win without the injured Wilfried Zaha?

The answer, unfortunately, was a resounding no.

Crystal Palace have now lost 18 of their last 20 Premier League games in which Zaha has not played, with the Eagles failing to score in 16 of those 18 defeats, including in the 3-0 defeat to Burnley.

  • Crystal Palace 0-3 Burnley – Report and highlights

Admittedly, it was some lax defending and a lack of concentration at the start of both halves that was ultimately their downfall. But when you find yourself 2-0 down inside 10 minutes, you need goals and creativity to get back into it, especially against the defensive prowess of Burnley.

Roy Hodgson had named three strikers in his starting XI – Christian Benteke, Michy Batshuayi as the two up front and Jordan Ayew on the wing. Benteke had two weak efforts saved easily by Nick Pope and while Ayew played a neat pass here and there, Batshuayi was ineffective. He only had 27 touches and made 14 passes. Only 11 of those were successful.

Eberechi Eze never really found his rhythm either and Crystal Palace’s two best attacking players were substitutes Andros Townsend and Jean-Philippe Mateta. Credit must also go to Nathaniel Clyne for some lovely crosses into the box, but Palace’s strikeforce were caught on their heels too many times.

Hodgson, who notched up 350 Premier League games as a manager on Saturday, told Sky Sports: “I was once again hoping we would see one or two outstanding individual performances, which we’ve seen so often from Wilf Zaha over the last few years, but that obviously wasn’t the case.

“As a manager, when you’re changing the team and new players are coming in who’ve not had so much of a chance, you always make the point of ‘here’s your chance to lay that criticism to bed that you need Wilf Zaha in your attack to win games’ and once again, we’ve failed.”
Charlotte Marsh

Goalscorer can take Brighton to next level

Brighton were a fine watch against Aston Villa as they went a sixth straight Premier League game unbeaten in their 0-0 draw on on Saturday night.

Emiliano Martinez was the hero for Villa, but over the course of their own run, it is the Seagulls’ defence which deserves the credit.

They have done their bit by conceding only one goal in that stretch. The sort of run we are expecting from Manchester City right now. Unlike Pep Guardiola’s side, though, they have scored four goals in that time. Only Fulham have a worse attacking record over the same period.

  • How the teams lined up | Match stats

It is not for the want of trying. Going by their expected goals tally in that time, they should have scored at least nine, a familiar tale in front of goal where they have had cold feet for some time.

Think what a difference a goalscorer, like an Ollie Watkins-type who Aston Villa have had to call upon this season, could make.

The Seagulls should have scored more than Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton going by the stats. “We did everything but score,” said Graham Potter. He could be going blue in the face the amount of times he could have said that since he joined the club in 2018.

The difference between keeping their heads above water and pushing on will, everything suggests, depend in large part on whether they can find – or afford – someone to put the ball in the back of the net.
Ron Walker

Burnley buoyant on their travels

Away games have not always been Burnley’s forte this season. Before their trip to Palace, they only had two Premier League wins on the road this season.

But they almost doubled their tally for away league goals this term in one afternoon, going from five to eight in less than 50 minutes of play. Their 3-0 victory was their joint-biggest victory away from home and they scored for the first time in the opening 45 minutes in 2021.

  • Match stats | How the teams lined up

They were some wonderfully well-taken goals too, none more so than from Matt Lowton. He set the move off himself with a superb, driving run that easily beat the tackle of Patrick van Aanholt, before smashing home on the half volley from Jay Rodriguez’s chip over the top.

Sean Dyche had faced a bit of criticism in midweek for multiple changes against Bournemouth in their FA Cup defeat, but he told Sky Sports: “I got questioned in the week for changing the team, but you could see the energy of the side today. The tempo we played at, the physical energy was there and the performance followed with a very good win as well.”

Burnley are now a healthy 11 points clear of the relegation places and are looking like a team full to the brim with confidence. The worries of facing the drop will be melting away with every game.
Charlotte Marsh

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