Harry Kane has struggled for England in Euro 2020
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
In his first two games at Euro 2020, England talisman Harry Kane has mustered just three shots at goal – with none hitting the target. So what is going wrong for the Spurs star – and how can it be fixed? Our experts suggest what is required to draw the best out of England’s No 9.
Full-backs need to deliver
By Ally McCoist
You can count on one hand the amount of times Reece James, Kyle Walker, Luke Shaw or Kieran Trippier have got close to the byline and just whipped it in for Harry Kane to attack.
The only occasion that springs to mind is the diving header against Scotland and even then I immediately called offside, although it might not have been with Var. I dislike it when pundits like myself say strikers are not getting service but in Kane’s case there is an element of this.
When the full-backs are in that position to attack, don’t lay it back or play it inside. Just whip it into the box and give Kane a chance. Attacking the box gives you the best chance of scoring, rather than trying to score the perfect passing goal.
The Harry Kane blueprint – 1/2
Kane has looked half a yard off it and will be disappointed at two games where he has not really shown up, but the whole team need to play their part too.
What England didn’t do well against Scotland was play with tempo, which would have suited Kane. He would have positioned himself in the box to finish off chances, that is what he does. He is comfortable as a No10 but what he is best at is being in the box and attacking the ball. Forget about him dropping off.
Gareth has a massive decision to make on whether to play him against Czech Republic. But I would play him. I don’t buy into his head being elsewhere when I look at it because every time I watch him I see an incredibly selfless person and don’t think he’s focused on anything but these Euros. I understand the train of thought but don’t buy it.
The key will be getting that tempo right. Jack Grealish came off the bench and while he won free-kicks, he did not get England playing quicker. When the free-kicks came over, Scotland dealt with them well.
So the best thing for Harry Kane to do is come for the ball, spin off and get into the penalty area after bringing others into play. When he arrives in the box, that is when we will see the best of him.
Also, it should not be forgotten that Scotland had a big part in keeping him quiet. England are absolutely, for some obscure reason, distraught with the Scotland result. But Scotland played better than they have for a long long time. That doesn’t necessarily make England a bad team. It certainly doesn’t make Kane a bad striker. Looking at the players, it should have been an England win but that is the beauty of the game.
Be more selfish – keep the ball and draw more fouls
By Oliver Brown
For all that Harry Kane flourished in a playmaking role at Tottenham last season, ending up with the most assists in the Premier League as well as the most goals, there is a case that with England he should concentrate simply on keeping the ball. On the few occasions he touched it in the first half against Scotland, he attempted five passes, completing just two. He is intent on trying to spread the play, to influence the build-up, justifying the captain’s armband. And yet the wiser strategy would be for him to show the selfishness of the classic centre-forward, keeping possession, drawing fouls, and winning the free-kicks that have become his team’s most fruitful attacking platform.
Of course, it would be useful if England’s misfiring full-backs gave him the ball in the first place. To that end, the only solution is for Kane to scream at them to do so. He has never been a natural ranter or raver, preferring to set an example through his performances, which have already yielded the Golden Boot at a World Cup. But as Alan Shearer, well-versed in the demands on an England No 9, has pointed out, Kane should have been yelling at Reece James or Luke Shaw whip in the crosses for him to run on to, not watching promising chances evaporate as they dawdled to decide.
He looks curiously tentative within Gareth Southgate’s system, when he should be making his presence felt. At the same stage in Russia three summers ago, he had five goals. At these Euros, he is barely registering a blip. It is time, surely, for him to throw off the shackles, to run into dangerous areas rather than taking the ball short, and to demand – loudly – that the wide men provide him with some semblance of service.
Unleash Jadon Sancho
Jadon Sancho is yet to make an appearance for England at the Euros
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
By Jeremy Wilson
England’s next best assist-maker from last season has not yet left the bench.
This simple fact does not mean that Jadon Sancho is guaranteed to single-handedly reignite Harry Kane but, in a team that has yet to find its creative spark, there are some very obvious attacking options staring Gareth Southgate straight in the face.
Sancho finished the Bundesliga season with eight goals and 11 assists. Only Kane among the England starters on Friday either created or contributed more.
The most frustrating characteristic of England’s one-paced goalless draw against Scotland on Friday night was a tendency to pass the ball sideways and prioritise keeping possession above taking a risk.
The Harry Kane blueprint – 3
That left Kane constantly drifting back towards the midfield in an attempt to show for the ball rather than gambling on running into the attacking areas where he carries the greatest threat.
A tactical tweak is needed and the good news for Southgate is that he has alternatives who are not dissimilar in style to Son-Heung Min, with whom Kane has forged such an outstanding partnership. Sancho is also quick, direct and skillful. And he has a point to prove.
Marcus Rashford is another who could potentially invigorate Kane and Southgate should now use the Czech Republic match to see, in the full glare of a tournament, who is ready to seize the opportunity. This does not even necessarily have to come at the expense of his other more creative midfielders and there is also a case for asking Phil Foden or Mason Mount to play in a deeper midfield role alongside Declan Rice.
Sancho, though, was in excellent form in crucial matches as the Bundesliga season ended last season. It all adds up to a compelling case at a moment in the tournament when England are crying out for a different attacking balance.
Tell Kane to get in the box – and stay there
By Mike McGrath
Harry Kane needs to focus on having all of his touches in the opposition’s penalty area and forget about getting involved in other areas of the pitch.
If that means not touching the ball for 20 minutes of a game then it is a price worth paying for having England’s best striker in the right place to finish off moves. I would go as far as carrying out Roy Keane’s ploy of continuing to put balls into the penalty area. If Kane has dropped deep his team-mates should tell him where he needs to be.
Kane needs to trust his team-mates to do the creating and position himself off the shoulder of the last defender. As good as he is at assisting, goals are his currency and what he will be judged on. It will take discipline for him to get back on track and stay away from midfield. But fewer touches will bring more goals.
The movement of Dominic Calvert-Lewin is actually what England need at the moment but having Kane in those positions would make them more of a threat. Carlo Ancelotti tweaked Calvert-Lewin’s game and he became a penalty-box predator for Everton with an economy of involvement before coming alive in dangerous areas.
Pep Guardiola once described Spurs as the Harry Kane team but it does not need to be that way. The team does not need to revolve around him to get the best out of him and other players. With a scuff or a fluke, his fortunes will change and the confidence will return but he needs to be in the right position for that to happen.
Minimising his involvement in play may also help him preserve energy and explode in the penalty area. He has looked leggy so far in the tournament and needs a second wind to get him going. The perfect scenario would be him scoring early against the Czechs and then taking him off to keep him fresh for the knockout stages.
Take the City road to success
By Jason Burt
Use Harry Kane as Pep Guardiola would. There is a reason why Guardiola wants Kane. He believes the striker would score 40 goals a season at Manchester City because of the quality of chances they create. And he would not expect him to drop deep. Given Kane has had two City players – Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden – either side of him in attack then England should follow the City approach.
That means making both Sterling and Foden – if it is them who play against the Czech Republic – stay high and wide. Get chalk on their boots, as the saying goes. It also means ordering Kane not to try and link the play.
He needs to be the focus of the attack, not its instigator. Maybe against better teams when England are countering Kane can drop in to pick out the runner ‘in behind’ but he has to play further up the pitch.
The Harry Kane blueprint – 4
The problem for England is who is their Kevin de Bruyne? The obvious candidate is Mason Mount. So move him more centrally and leave out Kalvin Phillips for either Jordan Henderson or, more boldly, Jude Bellingham. It would give England a more creative platform to provide for Kane. But getting Sterling and Foden to hit the byline and cut the ball back for Kane is crucial.
There is a lot of focus on England’s full-backs delivering crosses and that, too, is necessary. But the priority has to be to improve the service to Kane from the attacking wide players and to get the combinations working. So far Kane has touched the ball just six times in the opposition penalty area and that simply is not enough for a team that has enjoyed as much possession as England.
Harry Kane has been dropping deep to get more involved
It may take a change of shape to a 4-2-3-1 with Kane at the top of the attack and a pure play-making No 10 in behind him, such as Jack Grealish, but this would only work if Kane is disciplined enough to stay ‘up top’ and not drift back in search of the ball. England do not have the combinations to interchange cleverly as City do but it is interesting that Guardiola knows his own approach would improve with Kane.