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This is England, not Tottenham: Harry Kane must focus on being a No9 at Euros

·3-min read
This is England, not Tottenham: Harry Kane must focus on being a No9 at Euros

England need a No9. Not a nine-and-a-half. Not a nine and 10 all rolled into one — but an old fashioned No9 to prowl the penalty box and snaffle up chances, as limited as they are in international football.

It is no secret that Harry Kane is not your average No9. He is so good that he is two players in one. There is no one like him on these shores — perhaps not in world football.

He was not only the Premier League's leading scorer last season, but also topped the assists chart. It is why he is England's captain and talisman; why he is the player opponents fear more than any other in Gareth Southgate's squad.

But against Croatia, World Cup finalists and the best team England will face in Group D — local rivalries with Scotland aside — he was near anonymous.

Kane did what he often does and dropped deep to try to link play and create space for others.

The problem is that when Kane drops deep, England are denied their most potent force in the most dangerous area of the pitch. Croatia will have been happy to see him 30 yards from goal, rather than, say, where Romelu Lukaku spent most of Belgium's win against Russia.

Lukaku is one of Kane's main rivals for the Golden Boot — one of his main rivals to be the best striker in the world. He, too, can come deep or play out wide. But he spends much of his time at the point of Belgium's attack, waiting for a Kevin De Bruyne or Eden Hazard to load up the bullets. On Saturday, he scored twice to establish himself as favourite to be the competition's leading scorer.

England may not have the creative talents of Belgium — but they do have plenty in Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling, to name a few.

This is England, not Tottenham. Kane does not have to be the chief provider as well as the hitman.

One thing England do lack is consistent goal-scorers. Aside from Kane, Sterling is one of their deadliest — yet his winner against Croatia was his first in tournament football. Then there is Marcus Rashford, so out of form that he did not start England's Euros opener.

 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

Kane remains England's most potent force, so he should be spending the majority of his time in the area where he can do most damage.

He would do well to take note of Cristiano Ronaldo's reinvention as an orthodox centre-forward in the latter part of his career. He has extended his playing days at the highest level by making his game more efficient and economical.

No more is he attacking from either side, as he did at Manchester United and the first part of his time at Real Madrid. Instead, he has made the penalty box his domain and continues to plunder the goals in logic-defying numbers.

Southgate has regularly lauded Kane's link-up play and was complimentary despite his ineffective display at Wembley yesterday. But when he substituted his skipper after 82 minutes, it felt more like an admission that Kane had run out of ideas, rather than a sense of protecting him for later in the tournament.

The assumption is that Kane is following orders, rather than taking it upon himself to switch up his role. This is where he needs help from Southgate and to be told to act as a target for Sterling, Mount and Foden to hit.

England have enough creatives but only one centre-forward to strike fear into the hearts of opponents.

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