Three solutions to Tottenham's striker crisis with Harry Kane and Heung-min Son out of action

Aditya Devavrat 13:30 15/01/2019
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Harry Kane's injury has created a crisis for Tottenham.

Tottenham‘s woes were compounded at the end of their 1-0 loss to Manchester United on Sunday by the sight of star striker Harry Kane sitting on the ground clutching his ankle.

There are suggestions he could miss at least a month due to the injury, which comes at an awful time for Spurs given that Heung-min Son could be absent until February as he joins the South Korea squad for the knockout stages of the Asian Cup.

One thing working in Spurs’ favour is that apart from the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final against Chelsea, Tottenham don’t have a tough assignment until their Champions League Round of 16 tie against Borussia Dortmund – with the hope being Kane will be fit for that February 13 game.

The Lilywhites face Fulham, Watford, Newcastle, and Leicester in the league before that Dortmund fixture, with only one of those games, against Fulham, away from home.

Crystal Palace away from home in the FA Cup will provide a tough test, but as Pochettino is usually unconcerned about the cup fixtures, overall it’s a friendly run of fixtures to be facing when two of your best players are missing.

Here’s a look at the options available to manager Mauricio Pochettino as he decides how to set up his team without Kane and Son.

STRAIGHT SWAP – FERNANDO LLORENTE FOR KANE

Fernando Llorente looked to be on his way out of the club this January transfer window, having made only 44 appearances across competitions since joining on deadline day in summer 2017. He’s scored only nine times for Tottenham, and six of those have come in two hat-tricks against lower-league opposition, once last year against Rochdale and then a repeat earlier this month against Tranmere.

Yet Kane’s injury means the Spaniard is unlikely to be allowed to leave until the summer – when, incidentally, he will be available on a free transfer, unless club and player decide to extend his contract.

That scoring record, which reads three goals from 42 appearances apart from those hat-tricks, won’t inspire too much confidence in Spurs fans. But Llorente has been prolific in England before, with his 15 goals for Swansea in 2016-17 saving the club from relegation that season.

The issue at Tottenham is more one in terms of stylistic fit. Spurs’ attack is built on speed and mobility, and playing with a target man will force them to change their style. In Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli, they do have two good crossers of the ball, so perhaps Pochettino will tweak his tactics in order to maximise Llorente’s impact.

The Spaniard’s ability to hold the ball up could make up for his relative lack of mobility, as well. Alli, Erik Lamela, and Lucas Moura could all play off the Spaniard and run in behind while he occupies the defence.

His link-up with Eriksen will be key. If the two of them can strike up a good partnership, the rest of the attackers will benefit.

Fernando Llorente is the like-for-like replacement up front.

Fernando Llorente is the like-for-like replacement up front.

DELE ALLI PUSHED FORWARD

Alli has been deployed as a second striker before, playing off Kane, but he’s rarely played up front on his own.

But given Spurs’ style, deploying Alli up top could be a highly effective, if unorthodox, solution to Kane’s absence. Alli has the physical attributes to bother any defence, and if he’s given the freedom to roam away from a central position, he’ll pull defenders with him and ruin the opposition’s shape.

That would allow for his playmaker traits to flourish, as his team-mates could take advantage of the spaces he creates with his movement.

Equally, Alli is strong enough in the air and sharp in the box, which means he could potentially thrive in a central role. His heading ability is a skill Tottenham have already taken advantage of, as he gets a decent amount of goals by being on the end of a cross.

But it would require a great deal of adjustment for a player who’s always had another central player to link with when playing in an advanced role before. Alli has shown his adaptability already during his young career, playing in a deeper midfield role and on the wings when required, but playing as a striker is a different beast.

Being the central focus of a defence will be a new challenge. Not to mention, defenders would likely target him for his petulance even more, and he’d have to be careful not to lash out.

This seems like the sort of solution Pochettino would come up with, however, so don’t be surprised if, given some of the weaker opposition Spurs are about to face, the manager tests out this experiment.

Alli has experience playing off Kane - can he do it on his own?

Alli has experience playing off Kane – can he do it on his own?

LUCAS MOURA AS A FALSE NINE

Like Alli, Spurs’ Brazilian attacker has almost no experience playing up front on his own. However, he does have the knack of scoring goals, as a record of eight goals from 20 starts in the Premier League and Champions League this season, his first full season in England, shows.

Given that he plays largely as a winger, that’s a commendable scoring record for the man signed from Paris Saint-Germain last January.

The Brazilian doesn’t quite run around the pitch like Son does, but there are similarities between the two players’ games that suggest he could perform in a central role just as the Korean often does.

The former PSG player would be allowed to roam – that movement from the main attacker is a key feature of Spurs’ game – so Moura would likely end up playing as a false nine more than as an orthodox striker. But he also has the nous to get behind the defence, as he often makes clever runs associated more than strikers.

Moura has pedigree as a goalscorer.

Moura has pedigree as a goalscorer.

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