United need a centre-forward. How about Kane?

Published: Tuesday, 03 January 2023

Small margins. How often do we hear that short phrase nowadays? Coaches in many sports are always looking to convince us that the ‘small margins‘ make all the difference. And who of those that watch is in a position to argue?

Small margins then. Let’s take that as our start point this week. Antonio Conte got me thinking about this after his latest meltdown following Villa’s win at Tottenham.

Conte was arguing that it was daft for any of us to have considered that Spurs could mount a title challenge this season. Why I don’t know. Arsenal are making a pretty good fist of it - having finished 5th last season and Newcastle’s Likely Lads are giving it a good go - having come from further back the year before. So why were we wrong to speculate that Spurs would be in the race? They should be. They really should be. That they aren’t is Conte’s fault. On the face of it they’ve certainly got the tools.

But let’s stay with his reasoning for the time being. His argument seems to be that a team can only challenge for the the title if it’s adding at least two £70/£80m players every season. He added that it’s pointless thinking signings in the £20/30m bracket will add much. At least that was my understanding of his argument. Really Antonio? How about Martin Odegaard at £35m? Or Bruno Guimaraes at £40m?

Anyway - this isn’t where I really wanted to be this far into the blog. Here’s my point. I checked what Spurs were doing a year ago after 17 games. They were 4th - with 31 points. And now? 5th - with 30 points. So - a ‘small margin’ decline.

How about Manchester United I thought? A year ago they were 5th - with 30 points. They haven’t yet played 17 (I write Tuesday before they’re due to play) but after 16 games they’re 4th with 32 points. That’s a gain. That’s improvement. I think we can presume that they’ll beat Bournemouth so it’s a 5-point gain on last season. Ok - that’s nothing like Newcastle have achieved, but they’re going the right way.

Why does any of this matter? Well - because it had me thinking about what Harry Kane does next. What do Spurs do with Kane - who has won nothing at Tottenham? Nothing. He’s been close - but it’s still nothing.

United haven’t been flushed with success over the last decade either - but right now who do you think looks the more likely of the two? Who’s making progress? Yep. I think so too - it’s United.

At long last - here’s my point. United need a centre-forward. Spurs have one that dominates the club - but that can’t win anything with them. So - surely it’s time for Spurs and Kane to try something different? He’d be a massive addition at Old Trafford. He might just be the missing piece in ten Hag’s jigsaw. He could be new van Persie - who won United a title almost single-handedly.

I watched Kane closely during the Villa match. He looked lethargic. He twice gave the ball away in the build-up to Villa’s 2nd goal. He looked like a player that needs another challenge.

What’s he worth now? I guess £40/50m? Would you get much more for a player of his age whose contract is running down again? Spurs missed the big money when they refused to sell to City - who only wanted to pay £80m. I don’t think they’ll see that figure again - they certainly won’t see £120m - so it might be worth cashing in on Kane now before his value drops still further.

And selling Kane might just have the ‘Ronaldo’ affect. How much happier do United look - as a collective - with their stroppy superstar now out of the door? Rashford looks re-born. He’s the main man again and loving it.

Sell Kane and others would step up to the plate at Spurs. They’d have to. They’d have to find a different way. I know Kane is a goal machine. I know he both rescues and wins games. I know he can be the difference - but what if his presence is suffocating others? What if Spurs were forced to find a different way?

What’s happening at Spurs reminds me so much of the dilemma Newcastle had when Sir Bobby Robson was appointed manager. Sir Bob wanted Shearer out for that very same reason. A deal was struck with Liverpool - Shearer had agreed to rent Michael Owen’s house in Southport so he knew all about it - then chairman and owner Freddie Shepherd put the brakes on the deal after realising the Toon couldn’t sell their hero. It would’ve been SuperMac mark II. Look it up!! 😂.

Gullit wanted Shearer out. The Dutchman felt that everything at Newcastle was set up for Shearer to score goals but he wanted to play a different way. After a long running feud things came to a head that night against Sunderland - who won the derby whilst Shearer looked on from the bench. Gullit knew he’d gambled and lost so he walked away. There was no way anyone was going to win a battle to sell Shearer. But who knows what might be been achieved if they had done?

It’s the same at Spurs. Kane is all-powerful. He does what he wants - but what if what he wants actually has a harmful effect on the ‘team’?

It happened at Everton after Rooney’s return. He’d sit in mid-field spraying worldies about enjoying himself and entertaining the crowd - but he wasn’t doing what his team-mates wanted. I remember one in particular telling me how relieved the rest were when Rooney moved on.

Fans don’t see it that way. They love their heroes and won’t hear a bad word said about them. Shearer’s answer to the criticism was ‘look at my goals record’. Fine. Brilliant. Amazing

In a team set up to accommodate him he blazed Blackburn to the title. But at Newcastle? There was nothing for the ‘team’.

Spurs have got a massive decision to make. How much is Conte frustrated by his No 9 and a half? And that might just be more than half of the problem.
How much would Conte really like to go in another direction? And I wonder if Gareth Southgate would ever share his true thoughts on Kane? There’s your challenge guys - get him talking about the problem away from cameras and recording devices.