Harry Kane's Tottenham problems have filtered through to England as silence proves conspicuous

By Alan Smith

They were few in number but as Harry Kane walked off with 14 minutes remaining in arguably England’s most disjointed performance of the Gareth Southgate era, a couple of cheers could be faintly heard from the north east corner of Wembley.

Kane had huffed and puffed his way through a game in which England’s line-up looked thrilling on paper but lacked cohesion on the pitch. Afterwards it was easy to point to a lack of balance in midfield, where the experiment to play two attacking No8s for the first time backfired, and the fact that almost the entire team played below their top levels.

And yet the biggest concern must be the captain, who remains in August form in mid-October. Kane is yet to score for Spurs in the league – he has three in the Conference League and did find the net in September’s World Cup qualifiers – and his sluggishness now looks to be filtering through to the international sphere.

The 28-year-old again looked well off the pace against Hungary, his play too often sloppy as he even struggled to create from those divisive forays into midfield. Kane had 21 touches, the fewest of any starting outfield player, and the only attempt on target was a tame effort from range.

Southgate unsurprisingly played down any concerns afterwards, saying it would be wrong to single any one player out for criticism when the collective performed so poorly and the decision to replace Kane with Tammy Abraham was to inject some more energy into a stodgy game.

“I just think tonight we didn’t play as well as a team as we should and we can,” England’s manager said. “In the end we need to refresh that and get fresh legs into the game. With any of the forward players there’s always a story when we take them off.

“They’re big players. We have to have a team able to do that. We felt it was the right thing at the time. I don’t think singling out any player is fair because we’re all responsible for that.”

Only Kane will know to what extent the failure to secure a move from Spurs in the summer has bothered him, although it has undeniably loomed over him since the beginning of the European Championship. With time for cold reflection, his tournament was a disappointment considering it had been framed as a month in which he could steal the title of world’s best No9 from Robert Lewandowski.

The outlier was that demolition of Ukraine in Rome but he stumbled through the group stage, was predominantly anonymous against Germany and hardly impressive against Denmark despite converting that rebounded penalty before a no show in the final.

Burnout seems another factor and the fact even Mason Mount, whose greatest asset in the first few years of his career has been the consistency of his performances, appears jaded points to the toll the summer has taken. These players had an inadequate time to recover before reporting for their clubs, even if Kane controversially reported for Spurs duty late as the non-transfer saga played out.

It is obvious that he is currently lacking in both speed of thought and legs.

It does not help that the national team’s leader has also been conspicuously quiet. He has swerved press conferences that he would often be a part of before England’s past four games and was criticised last week for staying silent when younger players such as Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham faced difficult questions about the squad’s vaccine status.

History dictates that the role of England captain, much like the manager, carries responsibilities beyond football. And those expectations are far from ideal when he is so out of sorts on the pitch.

Anyone who has paid close attention to Kane’s career expects him to come good and it may just take one good Premier League performance for the confidence to come flowing back but this malaise feels a little different to his previous slow starts to the season and the questions and criticism will only grow louder.


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