Few, if any, football clubs survive a full season unscathed without injuries. The loss of Spurs star striker Harry Kane until March will be felt particularly keenly, however.
The Tottenham talisman is not only the top scorer for his team yet again but 12-goal strike partner Son Heung-Min was on international duty with South Korea. Luckily, for Tottenham supporters, his venture didn’t last very long.
For all the plaudits surrounding Mauricio Pochettino – and, yes, for the detractors, he hasn’t won a trophy yet – things are now doubly difficult at Wembley.
Given Spurs are building a new stadium which belatedly won’t open until March at the earliest and didn’t make any summer signings, chairman Daniel Levy seems unlikely to finance a signing to provide cover for Kane while this project is delayed and potentially overbudget as a result.
Of course, Son could be back at Tottenham sooner rather than later, yet South Korea are already guaranteed a place in the knockout phase of the AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
That leaves veteran Basque target man Fernando Llorente – a World Cup and European Championship winner with Spain in his younger days – or the frozen-out Dutch international Vincent Janssen as the only senior natural options available to Pochettino up front.
Janssen, who arrived at Tottenham off the back of a prolific Eredivisie campaign with AZ Alkmaar that saw him awarded the 2016 Johan Cruyff Trophy as Dutch football talent of the year, has scored just two Premier League goals in 28 games. He spent last season on loan with Turkish Super Lig side Fenerbahce, where he managed four in 16 league matches.
Llorente, meanwhile, has had little option but to play second or third fiddle behind Kane and Son if both aren’t in the team. He has just one league goal for Spurs but scored 15 in 33 for previous side Swansea City, demonstrating that he can do it in the Premier League.
Both have been completely in the shade cast by Kane’s prolific exploits but – without him or Son – a bet on Tottenham to miss out on Champions League football despite a six-point cushion on fifth after 22 games can’t be ruled out. Bookmakers bet365 go 12/5 that Spurs finish outside the top four in their Premier League betting.
Pochettino’s team remain odds-on to remain in the upper echelons but are the alternatives in attack as mobile or hardworking as Kane and Son? Llorente, at 6ft 4in, certainly doesn’t shirk the physical side of the game, but simply isn’t going to get around the pitch like Kane because he turns 34 in February.
It takes a big leap of faith, even for the most optimistic Tottenham supporter, to see Janssen coming in from the cold and doing a job so, in order to maintain their style of play, a winger or attacking midfielder may have to nominally go up front.
Dele Alli has proven a fine foil for Kane and is one of three Spurs players to have netted half a dozen goals this term in all competitions. Whether he would be better suited than silky Denmark playmaker Christian Eriksen or South American wingers Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura remains to be seen.
Pochettino, regularly linked with both Manchester United and Real Madrid in tabloid gossip columns, has a problem to solve. If he is to win a trophy to silence naysayers, then finding a short-term solution to Kane and Son’s unavailability is key. Should no answer present itself, then their top four security looks potentially fragile.
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