Not for the first time this season, Ange Postecoglou fielded a question that gently tried to suggest his Tottenham Hotspur team might be better off without Harry Kane ahead of the London derby against West Ham United.
Sensibly and quite rightly, Postecoglou was not having a bit of it, pointing out that his team were doing just fine with the club’s record goalscorer in it during pre-season.
The fact many people predicted Tottenham to fall apart without Kane caused an overreaction in the opposite direction following their encouraging start to the season under Postecoglou.
But that is not to say Spurs are not missing Kane because they quite obviously are. Aston Villa would surely have been dispatched during a dominant first-half had Kane still been around and it is hard not to think the England captain would have got in the scoresheet against West Ham.
David Moyes’ side were there for the taking but Tottenham are not clinical without Kane and it is something Postecoglou and his team need to quickly address.
Nobody loves a London derby more than Kane, who will return to England with Bayern Munich next Tuesday night for a Champions League game against Manchester United.
Tottenham have adapted well to his departure, but anybody who thinks it might have somehow ‘freed’ Postecoglou’s team is kidding themselves and the Australian himself admitted that his Spurs team should be scoring more goals.
Within minutes of entering the game as a substitute, Richarlison nodded a difficult headed chance just wide of the post. The Brazilian did his best, but Kane would have scored.
It was not long afterwards that West Ham took the lead and Brennan Johnson then sliced a good chance wide of Lukasz Fabianski’s post.
In each of the past four seasons, Tottenham’s shot conversion rate was in the top three of the League with Kane in the team. Without him, they currently sit seventh.
Postecoglou himself has clearly given thought to just how potent his team might have been with Kane in it, saying: “I don’t think our style would have been hampered by having Harry there. And I think that’s selling him short a little bit.
“I don’t think it’s like the team has to play to him. I also think his game has evolved over time. He can play in lots of different ways and different systems. I think if Harry stayed, I don’t think it would have changed my approach or how I set up the team. I think from my perspective it would have been great if we kept him, but I kind of knew from day one that he wasn’t going to be here.
“So then we started building other things into it, but I think the way we play requires footballers who have a willingness to buy into the team ethos and the way we play our football. And I think Harry has that.”
Heung-Min Son enjoyed an almost telepathic relationship with Kane, who profited from his assists and returned the favours in almost equal measure.
Son and Kane were one of the hottest tickets in town, but the 31-year-old, now wearing the captain’s armband, is having to adapt to life without his partner.
He has done so admirably, scoring nine goals, but it was interesting that Postecoglou did not rule out the possibility of signing a new striker at some point and moving the South Korean back out to the left, where he finished the West Ham game after the introduction of Richarlison.
Postecoglou and Spurs and prioritising a new centre-back in the January transfer window, but could they look at Brentford’s Ivan Toney if an attractive bid arrives from Saudi Arabia for Richarlison? They should because, for all Johnson’s promise, Kane has not been replaced.
Speaking about Son’s impact under him, Postecoglou said: “Yeah, he will be a very important part of what we’re building. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t sign another striker because I think even Sonny would demand that of me.
“If you’re going to build a team that’s going to win things, I’ve always found your best players want more good players in the building. They’re not comfortable, they don’t want to be comfortable. They don’t want to just be sitting there saying, ‘Well, I’m the man’.”
Kane was very much the man for over a decade at Tottenham. They will never find another like him and try telling Postecoglou that he is not missed.