Harry Kane seems to have spent an awful lot of time over the last few seasons having to prove himself. In his time on loan at the likes of Leicester City, Norwich City, Millwall and Leyton Orient he showed little sign of developing in to an out and out goalscorer and instead there was a feeling that he would become more of a link player operating between the midfield and attack.
Even when he broke in to the first team picture at Spurs there were still many detractors amongst fans of other clubs or even the media as he was thought to be too one dimensional relying on perseverance and strength to get the better of opposition defenders as opposed to technique and guile. Indeed there were many within and outwith the game that were quick to label Kane as a one season wonder who would struggle when the opposition found him out.
Now with over one hundred first team appearances for Spurs and (at the time of writing) 69 goals Kane has made huge strides in proving his calibre as a top class striker. Indeed there are few now who would argue against Kane being first choice for England as they look to build towards World Cup 2018 in Russia.
Whilst there is now no doubting the goalscoring prowess that Kane provides he has added a depth to his game with the ability to link with the midfield either in the initial build up phase or in the final third where he connects well with the likes of Eriksen and Alli in particular with short passes through the gaps in the oppositions defensive structure.
The strength of his performances this season have seen Kane named as one of the nominees for the PFA player of the year award which is no mean feet for a supposedly one dimensional striker. Whilst the favourite for the award is likely to be Eden Hazard whose form this season has seen Chelsea rise to the top of the table it does signify the shift for Kane from being a promising but raw striker to a top class striker.
Ability to finish a variety of chances
At the top level of the modern game it is no longer possible for a player to survive as a pure goalscorer we saw the first move away from this style of player when Michael Owen failed to find a team at the top level on his move back to England from Spain was indicative of the need for forwards to contribute in all phases of the game.
Whilst Kane has hugely developed his ability on the ball in the build up phase the most important aspect of his game is still his ability to finish chances.
As with the other pure striker on the PFA awards list Romelu Lukaku the impressive aspect of Kane’s game is the variety of goals that he can score. Equally comfortable finishing crosses from wide areas and striking from outside the area Kane is a difficult proposition for opposition defences to plan for.
Here we see a flash of opportunism from Kane on the edge of the penalty area. As the play builds and Spurs move in to the penalty area we see Kane drift out to the edge of the penalty area in order to lose his marker.
As the ball is miscontrolled in the box the Stoke defender fails to get enough on the ball to clear properly. As the ball falls at the feet of Kane who has of course drifted in to space his reaction is instant as he takes a touch before firing the ball across the face of the goalkeeper in to the far corner of the net.
The quality of finish is excellent and leaves the Stoke goalkeeper with very little chance.
This time we see an example of a finish where the key is not in the movement of the striker but rather in the lack of movement. As the play progresses through the centre of the field we see Kane on the edge of the penalty area.
As Eriksen gets the ball on the edge of the area he initially moves centrally and draws in the man who had been marking Kane.
The striker holds his position aware that he is still in the defensive line and will be onside. As the ball comes to Kane at the edge of the penalty area the striker is composed with defenders moving to close him down and he finishes comfortably past the goalkeeper.
Kane links play around the penalty area
As I alluded to earlier in this piece Kane has greatly developed his ability to link with teammates around the penalty area. This is greatly aided by the variety of movements around the final third that we see from Spurs under their Argentinean coach Mauricio Pochettino with the likes of Deli Alli, Christian Eriksen and Heung Son Min in particular providing excellent foils for the striker.
The ability of Kane to drop off in to pockets of space around the penalty area before combining with players coming from deeper positions prevents the opposition from man marking him tightly given his ability to play balls around the corner in to the penalty area.
Here as the play is built down the right hand side of the field we eventually see an impressive and instinctive assist from Kane in the penalty area.
As Eriksen is forced wide with the ball outside the penalty area we see Kane move in to a close position in order to offer the Danish international an easy passing option.
As the ball is shifted in to Kane the majority of defenders in the country would expect the striker to twist and shoot for goal. Instead Kane instantly flicks the ball behind him in to the path of Son and the South Korean finishes comfortably.
Again in this example we see the intelligence and technique of Kane as he receives a direct pass with his back to goal.
Spurs are extremely adept at accessing the final third of the pitch through direct vertical passes from the centrebacks as they carry the ball out from the back.
As the ball is played forwards in to the penalty area Kane has a defender in close contact but he instantly plays the ball around the corner freeing a team mate to have a strike on goal.
Kane links play in the final third
As well as short interplay in and around the penalty area Kane has also vastly improved his ability to play in the build up play showing increased ability in his hold up play and in linking attacking movements as he looks to give Spurs the ability to play from a more advanced platform.
This time the play develops down the right hand side of the field with the ball eventually being driven in low from the wide area in to the feet of Kane who has dropped off the front line in the central area.
As soon as Kane takes possession of the ball he immediately looks to shift the angle of the attack out to the far left before spinning and driving back in to the penalty area to look to take advantage of any ball that is crossed in to the penalty area.
Once again the key to this phase of play is the pace and accuracy of the pass from the backline in to the feet of Kane in the central position.
Once again Kane has come deeper off of the attacking line to take possession of the ball. He immediately cuts across ignoring the first runner and instead playing in Kyle Walker who is advancing in to space down the right hand side of the field.
Once again Kane plays the ball wide and then bursts forward in to the penalty area looking to get on the end of any ball that is crossed in to the box.
The nomination for this award signifies the strides that Kane has been making in his game there are still improvements to be made.
He is now one of the better strikers in European football with a goalscoring record to match and under Pochettino he has made marked improvements in the defensive and tactical sides of his game.
One thing however is for sure, Kane no longer has anything to prove to anyone.