Spurs’ Kane pain: What are Pochettino’s options?
Tottenham talisman is out for six weeks
After a brief glimpse at a Premier League title tilt, Tottenham Hotspur might find themselves at the front of a fierce four-way scrap for a Champions League place.
And the North London club, still struggling to open their new stadium, must go through a crucial phase of the campaign without their star man.
Harry Kane has been ruled out until March, after suffering an ankle injury from a late Phil Jones tackle in the 1-0 defeat to Manchester United.
The England international missed just one game last season, and played every match of the 2015-16 campaign. Spurs rely heavily on their number 10 and on paper, boss Mauricio Pochettino has few alternatives to call upon in Kane’s absence.
But Kane missed eight games of the 2016-17 season, so it’s not the first time Mo Po has had to turn to Plan B.
What Poch did then
Spurs didn’t lose any of those eight games without Kane two seasons ago.
In his absence, Pochettino alternated between Son Heung-Min and Vincent Janssen in Kane’s place.
With five wins (including a 2-0 success over Manchester City) and three draws, Son and Janssen ensured Spurs didn’t suffer.
Why it won’t work now
But that won’t work this time around. Janssen has been cast aside by the club in the last 18 months.
He hasn’t played for the Whites since August 2017, and even though he has returned from injury, Pochettino has reportedly declared he has no intention of using the Dutchman while Kane recovers.
And Pochettino can’t call upon Son, either, who is on Asian Cup duty with South Korea.
What Poch can do now
That doesn’t leave the Tottenham boss with many options. Lucas Moura is also injured, and the club’s only other recognised striker aside from Kane is Fernando Llorente.
But the 33-year-old has few of Kane’s qualities, and his best days are long behind him.
What’s more, he’s played just 36 minutes of Premier League football this season, and hasn’t appeared in a single match for more than nine minutes.
He may be experienced, but it’s a critical time to call upon a striker who has barely played this term.
Timing couldn’t be worse
Were Kane to return at the start of March, he will have missed nine games.
That includes the second leg of the EFL Cup semi-final clash with Chelsea, the FA Cup fourth round trip to Crystal Palace, and the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie against Borussia Dortmund.
With six Premier League games in that spell, too, Kane’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for Pochettino and Tottenham.
Just a few weeks ago, Spurs were confidently fighting on four fronts. Their odds remain favourable – they’re 1/5 for a top-four finish. They’re also 13/2 third-favourites for the FA Cup, 3/1 for the Carabao Cup, and 25/1 for the Champions League.
But now they must go into the most critical phase of the season without their talismanic striker – and few trusted alternatives in his absence. How will Spurs’ season look by the time Kane returns?
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing