Tuesday 20 August 2019

John Aldridge: 'Harry Kane poised to have big season after Champions League final disappointment'

Harry Kane (Mike Egerton/PA)
Harry Kane (Mike Egerton/PA)

John Aldridge

HARRY KANE is the best out-and-out goalscorer in the Premier League and that’s why I would put my money on him finishing as top scorer in the new season that is now less than two weeks away.

The Community Shield match between Manchester City and Liverpool will be on the agenda next weekend and then the action will get back under way in the best league of them all, with Tottenham striker Kane my tip to finish as golden boot winner IF he stays fit.

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That is a very big if given the events of the last couple of years, as his ankle problems have constantly undermined Tottenham’s challenge and that was evident when they rushed him back to play in the Champions League final against Liverpool last month.

Kane may have been physically fit for that match, but he was a long way short of being ready to play in a game of that magnitude and his below-par performance contributed to a disappointing display from a Tottenham side who were not good enough to capitalise on Liverpool’s uncertain display. Had Kane remained fully fit and Tottenham were at their best then Liverpool may well have come out second best, but those two scenarios were not in evidence in a game that failed to catch fire.

The reason why I believe Kane is the player to bet on for the golden boot is so much of the Tottenham game plan is built around him, as he is the focal point of their attack, he takes their penalties and he is the player they look to score their goals. That means he gets a higher percentage of chances than someone like Mohamed Salah at Liverpool or Sergio Aguero at Manchester City, who are focused on fitting into a team formation that has proved to be highly successful at both clubs.

I see some of myself in Kane as he is desperate for goals and even claimed one that he probably didn’t get a touch on at the back end of the previous season, when he was vying with Salah for the top scorer prize. There was no problem in being cheeky enough to claim that goal and I would have done the same if I was battling it out to win the golden boot prize I won once in my career, in the 1988/89 season when Liverpool ran away with the old First Division title. Kane is listed as 4/1 favourite by Paddy Power to finish top of the scoring pile in the Premier League this season and for me, he has a slight edge over Aguero when it comes to all-round finishing ability inside the box.

I’m no fan of Manchester City, but it’s hard not to admire the qualities the club’s all-time record goalscorer brings to the table, with his achievement of scoring more than 20 Premier League goals for the last five successive seasons a fine achievement. He has learned how to play in Pep Guardiola’s team and now contributes so much more to their play outside the box than he did a few years back, and he will be one of the leading contenders to win the Premier League golden boot for the second time in his career.

You may be surprised that I am putting Kane and Aguero ahead of Liverpool duo Salah and Sadio Mane in the race to win the golden boot, but I just feel those two are in a team that are not channelling their scoring efforts into their talents. Salah scored 44 goals the season before last and that was primarily because he became the main man leading the Liverpool line, but he and Mane ended up with 22 goals apiece as their shared the golden boot last season and I can see that scenario happening again.

Jurgen Klopp has a team ethic at Liverpool that doesn’t have space for individual players to hog the limelight and while I can see Salah and Mane breaking the 20-goal barrier again, that might not be enough to win the golden boot.

Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang shared the golden boot with Salah and Mane last season and he is a goal-scorer who has to be respected, even though he is playing for a side you cannot rely upon to deliver consistently. Then we have Marcus Rashford, who has signed a new contract at Manchester United and is being hyped up as their lead striker in a summer when they are trying to offload Romelu Lukaku.

I’m a fan of Rashford’s talents and if he was working under a top manager like Guardiola, Klopp or Pochettino, I believe he could develop into a top player. Yet he is not at a club that is functioning successfully, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer working in an environment that has proved to be challenging for managers with much more experience than he has under his belt.

Rashford will score goals this season because he is a top talent, but you need to be in a team that is moving in the right direction to win golden boots and that is not where United are at this moment. So it’s Kane for me in the golden boot race and I believe he would have won the prize last season if it were not for the ankle problems that could be the biggest obstacle to him finishing as top scorer once again next May.

Read John Aldridge every week in The Sunday World.

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