MATT BARLOW: Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham really ARE the Harry Kane team, with star striker’s desire and dedication dragging the north Londoners back into contention
- Jose Mourinho has eased fears over Harry Kane’s fitness ahead of Arsenal clash
- Spurs star was seen icing his knee during Thursday’s win over Dinamo Zagreb
- Kane’s absence induces a mild form of terror, such is his importance to the side
- Mourinho needs Kane not only for his goals but also his leadership off the pitch
- Spurs have a handful of stars but Kane is more vital than ever for Mourinho
Jose Mourinho moved swiftly to ease fears but the sight of Harry Kane icing a knee ahead of a derby at Arsenal was a reminder of how the hopes and ambitions of one club appear to hang so heavily on the fitness of one man.
Anything seems possible when Kane is rattling in the goals. Spurs have a more pleasing rhythm and patience. Confidence spreads. In his absence, a mild form of terror grips.
On the eve of Sunday’s 4-1 win over Crystal Palace, Kane was ruled out. He was not in Mourinho’s team until he passed a late test, just hours before kick-off. There was a change of plan, he started, scored two, created two and came off in the 80th minute.
Jose Mourinho’s really are the Harry Kane team, with the striker more important than ever
He played another 84 minutes on Thursday in a bruising Europa League first leg against Dinamo Zagreb. He scored both goals in a 2-0 win, finishing the match on the bench with a huge bag of ice pressed against his right knee.
‘He had a little knock the day before,’ said Mourinho, clearing up the pre-Palace mystery.
‘We have everybody fit. We don’t want to risk players. We want a 100-per-cent guarantee that playing wouldn’t affect the near future. We did a little test to make sure he was right and he was. With me, players make these decisions. I trust the player more than anything.’
Kane wants to play every single minute of every single game. His dedication and desire are never in question.
The north Londoners’ strong run of results has coincided with Kane’s return from injury
The England captain has scored four goals in two games this week in a duo of strong showings
Mourinho, of course, wants him to play. Not only as a source of goals but as an example to those who might not share his appetite to go through pain barriers, suffer in pursuit of the dream, to endure poor patches of form until the goals flow again.
‘I have been lucky enough to work with players with great ambitions,’ said the Spurs boss. ‘It is not possible to have a career like mine without players with ambition. He has that. No doubt he wants to win matches, score goals and win trophies.’ At 27, Kane has matured from a pure goal machine into a creative role likened by his boss to one played so successfully for years at Real Madrid by Karim Benzema.
‘These players get better with time, experience, understanding of the game,’ said former Real manager Mourinho.
‘When the striker is the kind of goalscorer who can only play in that position it is more difficult, because when they lose that intensity of the young people they have nothing.
‘Harry and Benzema — who is 33 now — are very intelligent so they can drop back and assist, transform their game. Later in their career, instead of being the No 9 target, they become a nine-and-a-half, between a nine and a 10, and they can play football until they want.’
Mourinho moved to allay fears that Kane would miss Sunday’s north London Derby at Arsenal
When Kane is absent, a mild form of terror is sent racing through the Spurs dressing room
Kane’s 10-day absence with minor ankle injuries in January coincided with three successive defeats.
Upon his return, Spurs tried to manage his workload and crashed out of the FA Cup at Everton with him on the bench until they were 3-1 down.
Defeats at Manchester City and West Ham sent them sliding away from the top four.
Three months after climbing to the Premier League summit by beating Arsenal, the fragility of the Mourinho project seemed to be exposed.
Mourinho needs Kane not for his goals but as an example of the desire and dedication required
The Spurs boss compared Kane’s game to that of Real Madrid veteran Karim Benzema (left)
Spurs’ recovery has been a collective effort but Mourinho will be aware of Kane’s importance
Critics rushed to condemn him as a has-been, never the right fit for Spurs. He is a divisive figure. It comes with the appointment. His brand is about success and thus easy to judge. There are no shades of grey around footballing philosophies.
And yet, such is perspective, down the road Mikel Arteta presides over a worse season at a club far more accustomed to success. ‘I like Mikel,’ explained Mourinho. ‘If Arsenal want to give Mikel five, 10 years of peace and no pressure and to develop his job and they believe in him and he believes in the club, I am more than happy with that. I do my job the best I can.’
Tottenham have recovered and stabilised. It has been a collective effort.
Sergio Reguilon, a key to balance in the team, is back from injury. Gareth Bale has exploded into form out of the blue. Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura are flickering in spring.
Davinson Sanchez is emerging from his error-strewn struggles of early season. Tanguy Ndombele and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg continue to impress.
And then there is Kane, back in the business of goals and icing his knee as others debate where his footballing future should be. He has scored four goals and made two this week.
He has 26 for the season in all competitions. No player has more than Kane’s 11 goals in the north London derby. Yes, there is more to Mourinho’s Spurs but Kane’s presence seems more vital than ever under a head coach for whom every defeat invites a backlash and an instant crisis.
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