In the wake of yet another Harry Kane goal, this seems like a crazy question to ask.
With Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado struggling to get on the score sheet, Harry Kane has been knocking them in.
He is making such a serious push to be starting Premier League games, that even Mauricio Pochettino is now acknowledging this. But can he play as a solo striker as the manager often requires? Or does he need a partner?
Harry Kane with a partner
Most of Harry Kane’s time with the first team has been spent operating with a partner.
Last season the 21-year old played his way in to the starting eleven under Tim Sherwood. Kane only saw a total of 23 minutes action during the controversial gaffer’s first 16 Premier League games in charge. However, it was in the final six matches of last season that Kane would get his chance. He took advantage playing in a combination working off Emmanuel Adebayor.
Kane would play very much as a second striker, trying to feed passes through and arriving late in the box from a deeper position.
Nowhere was his movement better showcased then in his second Premier League start away to West Brom. After going 3-0 down, Kane was instrumental in the come back.
Our first arrived after Kane dropped short off Emmanuel Adebayor to feed in Aaron Lennon to get behind Baggies full back Liam Ridgewell.
Jonas Olsson deflected Lennon’s cross in to his own net.
Kane’s movement from deep to arrive later in the box saw him grab the second goal to pull the score back to 3-2. Again Emanuel Adebayor was up ahead of him in the penalty area with Paulinho, which drew the attention of West Brom’s defenders, allowing Kane to arrive unmarked to head home Lennon’s cross.
Another one of Kane’s late runs from deep saw us complete the comeback to make it 3-3. The ball again went wide to Aaron Lennon and as he crossed it in, Kane was again arriving with a late run.
Gareth McAuley jumped with Kane and the loose ball ended up being turned in by Christian Eriksen.
Kane’s performance to come short and feed others in, whilst arriving later in the box behind the other striker had been integral to the comeback.
His passes received map highlighted his build-up play outside the box and then arriving in the area to get shots away.
In our next match with Fulham, Emmanuel Adebayor once again partnered Harry Kane, as he played off the Togolese striker.
We once more saw this movement of him coming short in to midfield to be involved with the link up play.
He then used his range of passing to try and play others in with through balls towards or inside the penalty area.
He then arrived later in the attack whilst the defence was focussed on his partner to score. Kane was between the lines outside the box when the ball went wide to Aaron Lennon, with Emmanuel Adebayor occupying the centre backs inside the penalty area.
Lennon’s cross once more picked out Kane’s run, as he headed home a perfectly flighted ball.
Kane scored four goals last season and all of these came from playing with a partner. Whether it was Emmanuel Adebayor in the Premier League or Jermain Defoe in the Capital One Cup, he looked comfortable playing as a second striker.
We’ve seen his good form continue this term. His hat trick against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League came from playing off Emmanuel Adebayor. His goal against Villa at the weekend arrived from a free kick, but he operated off Roberto Soldado after being introduced as a substitute.
His goal in our 2-0 Capital Cup win against Brighton also came from playing off Soldado and perfectly highlighted his ability to arrive late in the box.
The move for his strike started with Kane having the ball out on the left wing. As it went inside to Townsend and then Soldado to shoot, Kane continued his run from the flank, arriving in the box at the perfect time to sweep home the rebound.
His passing from outside the box had started it; his late and well-timed run in to the area finished it.
Harry Kane as a single striker
We’ve seen relatively little of Harry Kane playing as a single striker for the first team.
One such occasion was Spurs 3 Limassol 0 in our Europa League qualifying tie at the Lane. Kane played as a number nine in a 4-2-3-1 with Paulinho, Lennon and Townsend behind.
He missed an early penalty, but did do a decent job to hold the ball up. He was rewarded by getting on the score sheet after good work from Paulinho.
The Brazilian stoke the ball from an errant pass in midfield and fed Kane in to open the scoring.
The move was finished by Kane, but highlighted the excellent work of Paulinho. The Brazilian had a rare good game and his runs often took him past Kane who wanted to play more as a number ten and come short.
Paulinho added a second before we made it 3-0 from the penalty spot. Again Kane had dropped in to midfield as Naughton, Dembele and Paulinho were all in advance of him.
We also saw Harry Kane play up top as a single striker away to Partizan. The game was played on an awful pitch with very few opportunities for each side. Kane smacking the ball off the upright in the early moments was about as good as it got.
The only other time we’ve seen Harry Kane on the pitch as a sole striker was in the dying moments at Upton Park.
With us down to ten, Kane replaced Emmanuel Adebayor and his natural game to drop off and come short between the lines paid dividends.
He tried several times to play through balls for runners off him, and eventually found the run of Eric Dier.
Harry Kane has found it easy to play his usual game of coming short and playing others in. But as a single striker, he has found it difficult to then get forward and arrive later in the box as he has done with ease when playing with a partner. He seems to struggle when he is the focal point rather than having a decoy.
What Mauricio Pochettino wants from his centre forward
Whilst Harry Kane has played much better with a strike partner that he can drop off, play through balls to and then arrive later in the area unmarked, this is actually what Mauricio Pochettino wants.
At Southampton, Pochettino used Rickie Lambert as his centre forward to take advantage of the big man’s movement and range of passing. Lambert didn’t finish last season as Southampton’s top scorer; that honour went to wide forward Jay Rodriguez, who was playing in the role Nacer Chadli operates for us.
Pochettino used Lambert to be a hold-up man to come short, receive the ball and then hit the runners, like Rodriguez, beyond him. Once Lambert had laid the ball off, he then needed to get forward in to the penalty area to get on the end of any crosses, just as he did here against Fulham.
Lambert’s passing was a feature of his game and why Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez scored goals. His penetrating balls towards the box in the same match show what he was tasked to do. Although they often fail to find their target, he did create two shots and assisted on a goal.
We also got a first hand glimpse of this at the Lane, as Lambert created Southampton’s second goal for Lallana running past him. Typical Pochettino centre forward play.
The role requires a player who is strong, can come short, hold the ball up and pick a pass to those running off him. All attributes that Harry Kane has.
The striker then can’t admire his work and needs to get forward to arrive later in the attack. This is something that Harry Kane does when playing with another striker, but has struggled with in the limited appearances we’ve seen from him on his own.
Where does Harry Kane fit in?
Harry Kane does have the attributes to play as a single striker in Mauricio Pochettino’s system, but he needs time to develop in to the role. Right now he doesn’t look to have the balance right to play on his own, which is understandable given he is just 21 and has only just broken in to the first team. He looks much more comfortable when he can play with a strike partner.
Many have compared him to Teddy Sheringham and he was always at his best when he could play off another striker. This was whether it was Tony Cascarino at Millwall; Jurgen Klinsmann, Ronny Rosenthal or Chris Armstrong at Spurs; Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Andy Cole at Man Utd or Alan Shearer with England. Teddy was always much better as a support striker, rather than being up top on his own.
At this stage of his career, giving Harry Kane the burden of playing week-in, week-out as a single striker would be too much too soon. We want to nurture his talent, not burn it out.