Many people had Harry Kane down as a one-season wonder when he burst onto the scene during the 2014/15 season. He’s now into his fourth season as the main man for Tottenham Hotspur and he just seems to be improving year upon year.
He’s already broken one record this season, the most goals scored in a calendar year, but he’s on course to shatter another – the most goals scored in a 38-game season.
The 24-year-old has 18 goals to his name this term and there’s still 16 matches left to play. He’s currently averaging a goal every 99 minutes and going off his current rate, if he plays every single match in the league now, he’ll finish with 32 goals.
However, what's really scary is when you look at Kane's expected goals (xG) numbers and expected assists (xA), as well as his shots per 90 minutes. This season, even though we're still only in January, he's almost matched his xG for the entirety of last season (16.22 to 19.22). Furthermore, last season Kane outperformed his xG by close to 10 goals.
He was converting low quality chances at an alarming rate. And manager Maurico Pochettino must have noticed this. Because this season there's been a noticeable difference in how Spurs are as an attacking unit.
Kane, for example, is taking more shots this campaign. He's currently averaging 6.24 shots per 90 minutes, way up from the 3.87 he averaged last term. No other top forward in Europe has increased their volume of shots like the Spurs No.10.
Edinson Cavani, Romelu Lukaku, Sergio Agüero, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are all consistent when it comes to the amount of shots they average. The only player who comes close to such a jump in shots per 90 minutes is Mohamed Salah. The Liverpool attacker was averaging 2.35 while in Italy but is now firing off 4.5 shots per game.
It's by design, too, otherwise Pochettino would have spoken to Kane and you would have seen the forward cut back. Salah is often criticised for missing ‘sitters' but the sheer amount of chances he gets means he's still averaging a goal every 93 minutes.
Spurs have a similar approach with Kane. They're creating an abundance of chances for their star striker knowing he's likely to put one away. The England International has gone from averaging 0.73 xG+xA90 to 0.91 this season. As stated before, he has a history of over performing his expected numbers, so it won't be a surprise if he does so again.
“That Harry Kane team”
Pep Gurdiola was criticised back in October when he referred to Spurs as “that Harry Kane team”. People believed the Manchester City manager was being disrespectful and was basically calling Spurs a one-man team. Something which they obviously aren't.
The former Barcelona manager tried to defend himself: “I said it because he (Kane) scored two goals more against Huddersfield and a goal for the national team and another goal for the national team.” The damage, however, was already done.
But, whether Guardiola was right or not, it's indisputable that Tottenham are *more* reliant on Kane this season. It's obvious not only in his stats but of those who play a starring role alongside him.
According to many, Dele Alli hasn't been at his best this season. He's bagged just five goals in 20 league starts and it looks highly unlikely that he'll match last season's tally of 18 league strikes. And his xG90 for the season is down from 0.43 to 0.31.
However, his xGA is is up from 0.13 to 0.24 and he's averaging 0.5 more key passes this season than he was during the 2016/17 campaign – and he was by no means slacking in that metric to begin with, averaging the third highest last season with 1.53 per 90 minutes.
What we can see from these numbers are that Alli is being used as much of a creator this season. He's scoring fewer goals but creating more chances for the team. But despite this, he's averaging xG+xA90 of 0.55, which is his average since signing for the club.
It's a similar story with Heung-Min Son, too. The South Korean attacker has caught the eye this season and his underlying numbers paint a picture. His xG+xA90 last season was 0.54 but this time around it's 0.64. His xG90 has stayed the same (0.34) and the difference has come when looking at xA90.
It's now at 0.30 up from 0.20 which might not seem like a lot but combine that with Alli's and you being to understand why Kane is having more shots this season. He's getting better service and it's clearly a tactic on the part of Pochettino.
Kane could be the first player to score 40 goals in a Premier League season with Pochettino creating the perfect environment for him to flourish. He's reaching Ballon d'Or levels and, to an extent, it's going under the radar.