In case you missed the Harry Kane phenomenon, here are a few headlines and comments since his double against Arsenal in the north London derby.
“Scouted by Real Madrid three times”, declared the Daily Mail, “I’m struggling to see a weakness in the lad’s game”, said former England midfielder Danny Murphy while adding that England should, “build the team around him”. “A Soccer Star without Superlatives” led the Wall Street Journal, while Jamie Redknapp has named him as his Player of the Year so far.
There were jokes about him not winning a BAFTA, countless memes while Arsenal fans were keen to share pictures of him from his childhood wearing red and white. Only Lionel Messi has scored more in 2015 across Europe’s major leagues, his 0.64 goals-per-game puts him ahead of Wayne’s Rooney’s rate when he was 21, while his goals have won more points than any other player in England’s top-flight this term (15).
He is having an incredible campaign but the appeal stretches beyond his 22 goals and huge impact.
Firstly, he’s that long-romanticised and revered ‘classic English No.9’. A big, powerful striker who evokes memories of Alan Shearer. A battering ram who wears his heart on his sleeve and what he perhaps lacks in technique more than makes up for in attitude. It was what helped generate so much hype about Andy Carroll in 2010.
There’s also the surprise element. No one outside of the Tottenham academy foresaw this as he wasn’t a hyped teenager like Raheem Sterling or Luke Shaw. How he’s fired his way to the top – hard graft, understandably, resonates.
Consequently the clamour for an England call-up is considerable.
That’s not to say he doesn’t necessarily deserve a place in England’s squad for their European 2016 qualifier against Lithuania in March but, if he is as good as what we’ve seen so far, Roy Hodgson needs to play the long game.
Harry Kane scoring again, good to see a young English player doing very well, we’ll have Sturridge and Kane up top for England, looking good
— Jack (@J4ckConnor) February 7, 2015
If he is to be a fixture in the team, let alone being the foundation for the side as Murphy suggests, the focus should be on taking him to the European Under-21 Championships this summer. For too long, whether it be the power and influence of the Premier League or an innate apathy towards it, the tournament has largely been ignored by the English. Previous squads in 2011 and 2013 have been absent of the country’s best prospects. When you consider the talent Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and even Switzerland have taken to the last two tournaments, there is a feeling England aren’t getting the most out of it.
Never mind how they may fare, as federations and coaches across Europe will testify to, it is perfect preparation for the European Championships in France in 2016.
The same goes for Ross Barkley, Saido Berahino, Calum Chambers, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Shaw; those expected to be key components of the senior squad. Those call-ups would show the extent at which the FA values the importance of the Under-21s, instead of it being seen as an annoying obligation or a step down in quality.
A cameo against Lithuania and a few friendly appearances, however impressive, could give Spurs ample justification to ask for Kane to not play in the Czech Republic. And while he will gain the confidence and accolade of being a full international, a chance to focus on the future rather than the present (a continuing theme of English football) would have been missed.
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This week Sport 360 looks at two players that are under the radar but are in commendable form and three Premier League stars that you should avoid due to either: tricky fixtures, a shortage of clinical nature or a lack of faith from their gaffer.
DF – Andre Wisdom (West Brom) – 4.6m
After being subbed off in the 60th minute last week against Spurs, it seems like Tony Pulis has lost faith in Andre Wisdom, hence why he left the Liverpool loanee out against Burnley. Wisdom was a reliable defender to have in your fantasy team but if his cap wearing gaffer doesn’t think he is the right fit, neither should you.
The 21-year-old is the third most popular defender in FPL but that will inevitably change as he looks set for an exodus in the relegation-threatened side.
MF – Sadio Mane (Southampton) – 6.5m
Mane is the man making the headlines for the Saints this week after bagging a last-minute winner against QPR. Since coming back from African Cup of Nations for Senegal, he has been on explosive form scoring in each of his last four starts for Ronald Koeman’s high-flying team. This hasn’t come against easy opponents either. Two of his strikes were against Chelsea and Arsenal.
A 6.5m price tag is alluring with Southampton having four home matches and a trip to West Brom in their next six outings.
FWD – Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) – 10.7m
Although he is closing in on the all-time scoring record for Man U, Rooney certianly hasn’t hit the ground running in 2015. Whether this is a reflection of Louis van Gaal playing the tenacious talent in a deeper role, the striker isn’t providing any value for his money. Remarkable, he is still owned by 18.6% of FPL managers. If you are one of these blurry-eyed selectors, do yourself a favour and trade him for a compatriot that is nearly half the price such as: Harry Kane, Jermain Defoe or Peter Crouch.
Wayne Rooney in the Premier League during 2015: 5 games 0 goals 0 shots on target 0 assists 67 unsuccessful passes. pic.twitter.com/EUxE4n8Aol
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 9, 2015
DF – Alex Bruce (Hull City) – 3.9m
Bruce has been a rock in desperate times since being recalled by his father for the Tigers, nearly keeping out Sergio Aguero and co. last weekend. He is an absolute bargain and with Hull City having the best five fixtures (below) in the EPL, he can’t be ignored.
FWD – Danny Ings (Burnley) – 5.7m
This is a contentious shout but once you check out Burnley’s fixtures, you will probably agree with this decision. Ings has been in amazing form scoring four goals in his last five games for the Clarets, but you struggle to see his side picking up more than one win in their next eight matches.
Burnley’s next 8 fixtures. Easy. pic.twitter.com/mpBqnKtmFA
— Soccer Memes (@SoccerMemes) February 8, 2015
Dream Team: If you fancy using your wildcard…
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In the cash-rich world of modern football, there is plenty of room for cynicism; Sport360 has it for you in abundance every Monday. This week we take a sideways glance at Harry Kane’s best Marcus Stewart impersonation and Nigel Pearson’s touchline fraca with James McArthur.
ARE YOU STEWART IN DISGUISE?
Saturday was the day North London’s football fans were waiting for, the day form supposedly goes out of a wide-opened window and the city’s bragging rights belonged to whichever side emerged victorious. North London’s bragging rights now belong to Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham as the Lillywhites got the better of their more illustrious neighbours courtesy of two well-taken goals from this season’s top Marcus Stewart impersonator. Harry Kane is enjoying the most purple of purple patches and his second goal in particular was a lesson in how to defy the laws of physics by leaping up in the air for a few seconds before cushioning the ball past the stranded David Ospina. Or perhaps it was a lesson from Laurent Koscielny in how to lose a striker while acting like a hare blinded by the bright lights of an oncoming train.
Arsenal fan on Harry Kane – before and after yesterday’s game. https://t.co/CkB3I6BAAA
— FootyHumour (@FootyHumour) February 8, 2015
Arsenal, for their part, stuck to the formula that served them so well at Manchester City, ceding a large percentage of possession to their hosts while hoping to catch them on the counter attack. And they did just that. Danny Welbeck, returning from the first injury of his nascent Arsenal career and preferred to Theo Walcott on the right of the Gunners’ attack, left Danny Rose for dead with pace to deliver a cross for Olivier Giroud on a platter. The Frenchman’s miscued shot fortunately fell to Mesut Ozil who rifled home his volley from close range. If Welbeck had done that to Rose, one shudders to think of what Walcott would achieve with his searing pace in such circumstance. Presumably, Walcott would have left him behind in an entirely different postcode. That proved to be Arsenal’s only noteworthy attacking move and Rose had the better of Hector Bellerin all afternoon long with the young Spaniard offering him acres of space that a half decent left back would have made prudent use of. Nabil Bentaleb was extremely effective on his return from Africa Cup of Nations duty and if emerging reports are to be believed, Arsenal have officially written to the Premier League asking that the Algerian allows Santi Cazorla out of his deep pockets for their next game.
@James_Journo Just wondering if it’s worth putting Cazorla’s face on milk cartons. Missing since Friday, last seen in Bentaleb’s shadow.
— Ewan Roberts (@EwanRoberts) February 8, 2015
With Spurs now a point above their crosstown rivals, Arsenal are now in full crisis mode, as they always seem to be. Being the only club one defeat away from full-blown crisis is oddly remarkable and the Gunners are now in dire need of a quick fix. Luckily, Leicester City will be in town on Tuesday and all should be well again in Goonerland.
TITLE RACE = OVER
If last week’s draw at Chelsea offered Manchester City hope of somehow clawing their way back in the title race, Saturday’s barely deserved draw against Hull merely leaves them hanging onto second place. City have failed to win any of their games in all competitions since the 3-2, New Year’s Day victory over Sunderland which as you might recall coincides with the time Yaya Toure last played for them before jetting off to Equatorial Guinea for African Cup of Nations duty with the Ivory Coast. Off The Bar cannot quite fathom how a team as expensively assembled as City’s can be heavily reliant on just one absent member. “We have no doubt about how important a player Yaya is. But we play other games without Yaya and we could win,” said Pellegrini. This was just a manager consoling himself and trying to raise dampened morale.
City were mind-blowingly poor, with the first half being a strong contender for their poorest of the entire season. Stray passes, clumsy first touches that Romelu Lukaku would be proud of were the order of the day and their overall play was ponderous and slow. City resembled a Sunday League outfit – with all due respect to Sunday League outfits – and inexplicably made Hull look like world beaters, which in itself is a punishable offence. In the end, James Milner’s moment of David Beckham-esque brilliance levelled matters for City but with a gap that now extends to seven points behind Chelsea, the title race has now reached its inevitable conclusion.
With the title race now well and truly over, the excitement in the Premier League has come from the unlikeliest of sources. Forget the five-way battle between Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs, Southampton and Liverpool for the remaining two Champions League spots, it’s at the foot of the table where the race is intriguingly unpredictable with every passing week. And what could be better than two teams facing the grim prospect of Championship football squaring up with each other? Nothing, that’s what. It’s like getting a weekly dose of your favourite television crime series, you desperately look forward to the next episode despite being only halfway through the one right in front of you.
Alan Pardew continued his one-man mission to keep Crystal Palace up, winning the fifth game of his six-game long reign as the South Londoners managed to pick Leicester’s pockets to steal all three points at the King Power Stadium. The result leaves the Foxes firmly rooted to the bottom of the table and with their next three fixtures being trips to Arsenal, Everton and Manchester City, their supporters may be forgiven for preparing for life back in the Championship. Surely, it was fun while it lasted. The only shame was that the six points gained by Palace wasn’t reflected on their points tally.
The only man capable of saving Leicester from the funk they have found themselves in is weaving magic from under his hat at West Brom and he was in full throttle on Sunday, with his team coming from the dead to earn a 2-2 draw at Burnley as Sean Dyche’s team threw away a two-goal lead for the umpteenth time. Brown Ideye, the only rival to Mario Balotelli in the worst signing of the season stakes, grabbed only his second League goal of the campaign and with that has compensated for all the lost time.
QUOTE(S) OF THE WEEK
January 18, Harry Redknapp: “Do I look like I feel under pressure? When I get home I’ll take my wife for a nice meal, then in the morning wake up and take my dogs for a walk. My life’s very good.”
February 3, Harry Redknapp: “I’m struggling so badly now, I can’t walk, I can barely stand and watch. I’m in pain all the time. I’ve been putting it off, and putting it off, but it has got to the stage where I cannot do the job.”
It’s amazing how 11 straight away defeats and a lack of transfer window activity can make a man go from happily walking his dogs to needing surgery on his knackered knees.
WHAT WE LEARNED THIS WEEK
First lesson in Irony 101 for the semester: Nigel Pearson choking a player and Alan Pardew creeping into the frame https://t.co/6Y7sdsBWM8
— Antö (@rossoAnto) February 8, 2015
All evidence suggests Nigel Pearson is out of his depth at Premier League level, but what he is not is dull or uninspiring. In a world where managers spout clichés and toe the company line more often than not, Pearson is a welcome break from the norm. Two months after being banned for a game and fined Dh56k (£10k) for swearing at one of his own supporters, Pearson was involved in a touchline fracas as he appeared to put his hands around the neck of Crystal Palace’s James McArthur in a move that many WWE superstars would approve of with a nod and a cheeky smile. In the probable event of Leicester going down, their football won’t be missed but Pearson would leave an indelible mark in our hearts.