Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez,…Harry Kane?
The Player of the Season gong often goes to a forward, but following recent reports suggesting the winner could be Harry Kane, I couldn’t help but think this is a case of heart ruling head for some of the British media who seem under the spell of this so-called fairytale.
There are at least two Gunners forwards who should be Player of the Season before Harry Kane, not to mention at least two players in the squad of likely champions Chelsea who stand head and shoulders above the current darling of the English media.
If the Tottenham man wins the award, it will be a total farce.
Indulge me with a bit of history before I get into the nitty gritty of which Arsenal players should be ahead of Kane in the reckoning.
About the award
Barclays Player of the Season – the current incarnation of the Premier League’s greatest individual honour – is awarded by a panel appointed by the sponsors – in this case Barclays.
It has been bestowed upon a lucky winner every year since the 1994-95 season, and three men have won it twice – Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nemanja Vidic.
In those twenty seasons, it has been awarded twelve times to a player representing the league champions, and eight times to a player from another club. Of those eight non-champions, two have won the European Golden Shoe (top scorer across all top flight European leagues) in the same season and four of those non-champions have been of British nationality.
In short, to win the award, you basically have to win the league, be the top scorer across all of Europe, or be British. There are only three winners who don’t fit these criteria – Juninho (it’s anyone’s guess why he won it in a season where his club got relegated – great job, Carling!), Patrick Vieira in 2000-01 and Thierry Henry in 2005-06.
The current holder – Luis Suarez – had a very impressive season despite Liverpool ultimately falling short, becoming the first player to win the European Golden Shoe based anywhere outside of Spain (Messi, Ronaldo and…Forlan) in seven attempts.
It’s not typically an award won by a player having his first good season, or a player who doesn’t win anything with his club. It’s not typically given to a player who hasn’t even graced the top table of European football.
But don’t forget – Harry Kane is English.
What are we up against?
Kane is having a breakthrough season – of that there is no doubt. He has carried a Spurs side which has been bang average at times and poor on others, with 29 goals in all competitions so far. However, he has yet to play Champions League football, and games like the Capital One Cup final and his recent full debut for England against Italy have shown that any defence prepared to mark him properly can completely nullify him.
In the League Cup final, we were subjected to the best part of 45 minutes pure boredom as Chelsea happily marshalled Kane so well it looked like the senior team teaching the u14’s a lesson. Too many defences early in the season didn’t give Kane the bare minimum of respect. When he is afforded time and space to shoot, he has shown that he can finish chances, and has racked up the goals in the process.
Of Kane’s 29 goals however, seven came in the qualifying and group stages of the Europa League against teams few of us have even heard of, and a further three in the League Cup. Of his 19 league goals, two were penalties and another one a rebound from a penalty he missed.
He also seems to have inherited Frank Lampard’s god-given talent for getting huge deflections which end up in the back of the net. As someone who has been forced to watch Kane on a semi-regular basis, let me tell you: he’s alright, decent in fact, but he’s certainly not the player the media would have us believe.
Don’t forget though, he’s English.
So is there a striker, any striker, out there who can match Kane?
Step up the first candidate to surpass Kane as player of the season – Arsenal’s very own number 12 – Olivier Giroud.
I like to take a look at the stats since, although they’re hardly gospel, you can usually get a feel for the contribution of a player, particularly an attacking one, through their numbers.
Let’s start with the main one for a striker: goals.
On the face of it, this is one area where Kane does surpass Oli, with 19 goals to the Frenchman’s 13, albeit three of those being penalties or penalty rebounds. So far so good for the English media.
It gets a bit sticky when you start to look at the numbers per 90 though – Giroud’s 0.94 (no penalties) compares favourably to Kane’s 0.91. When you take out the aforementioned penalty-related goals, Kane’s numbers dip to a paltry 0.77, which puts him below Frank Lampard and directly above the likes of Leicester City striker Chris Wood on the minute per goal list.
So perhaps Kane is not the all-conquering goal machine suggested by the same ludicrous reports which would have us believe he should get the Player of the Season gong.
Let’s try and save him some face – maybe he’s all about providing for his teammates then.
What about assists and chances created?
Kane provides 0.14 goals for teammates per 90 minutes, while Giroud assists more than half as many goals again at 0.22. It’s not just that Kane’s Spurs teammates are profligate either – Giroud has also created half as many chances again as Kane with 1.37 per 90 compared to Kane’s 0.82.
But don’t forget, England’s great big hope (now that Theo Walcott is apparently destined for League Two level football) has so many strings to his bow. Kane’s physical presence is reportedly dominating at both ends of the pitch. Except that his aerial duels percentage win is just 27.48%. Roughly half of Olivier’s 52.94%.
The Daily Express thought it would be funny to troll us with an EXCLUSIVE* “Arsenal agree £50m deal for Harry Kane” piece. Moronic.
I wouldn’t trade Oli for Harry Kane, and I’m pretty sure they’d laugh in our faces if we suggested Mr. Giroud is worth £50m. He is.
If we’re talking North London strikers as candidates for Player of the Season, there’s only one winner here – and it isn’t Harry Kane.
But of course, only one of them fits the “English” criteria . The one who didn’t suffer a broken leg at the start of the season.
*The Daily Express tend to be a bit lax with the use of the “EXCLUSIVE” label, plus it was an April Fool.
Alexis Sanchez Baby!
It’s not only strikers whose numbers beat those of Kane. It might not be quite the same fairy tale, given the £35m price tag and the world-class reputation, but Alexis Sanchez has had a huge impact on the Premier League too.
He’s played more or less the same number of games as Kane, but in a much more withdrawn position, playing primarily wide left behind Giroud, Danny Welbeck and, indeed, Yaya Sanogo on occasion. Yet his statistics, never mind his visible impact on games, surpass Kane too.
Like Giroud, Alexis has 13 league goals, which does admittedly compare unfavourably with Kane’s 16 (excluding penalties and penalty rebounds) but when you consider his position both in a deeper area of the pitch and as part of a much more selfless football team, it puts a different lens on the number, one which arguably puts the Chilean ahead of Kane.
As evidence of that selflessness, Alexis has seven assists to Kane’s three, and has created a whopping 64 chances to Kane’s 20. He has also made 41 tackles to Kane’s 25 and 28 interceptions to Kane’s 15. Even his aerial duels percentage is higher (29.03%) in spite on his diminutive size.
In short, in his first season in English football and even encompassing a fairly sizeable dip in form, our summer signing has still outstripped most of Kane’s numbers.
But of course, he doesn’t fit the ‘English‘ criteria.
And unlike the British media, here at Daily Cannon we’re prepared to look away from our own biases for potential candidates.
I haven’t even mentioned until now the Godlike Santi Cazorla (luckily someone else has covered our tiny Spaniard’s case for me) or the reborn Francis Coquelin (you’ll see why below) but there are some non-Arsenal players who also need a namecheck at the very least.
Blue is (sadly) the colour – for now at least
Chelsea are going to win the league.
It’s sad, but it’s also somewhat inevitable at this stage. Statistically, this means that their players are in with a very strong shout of picking up individual awards too.
For all the talk of Courtois, there are essentially two reasons they are going to win the league. It’s not because they have the nastiest striker in the league in Diego Costa or the most doted on midfielder in Cesc Fabregas. No.
One reason is a Belgian winger who has carried them through game after game of not playing all that well, and the other is the Serbian destroyer who allows his more illustrious teammates to get forward and scare defences silly. Exactly as Coquelin has done in fact, but he’s done it for more games.
Without those two players, Jose Mourinho would not have been able to field the mass of attacking talent which features regularly at Stamford Bridge at the same time. Nor would he have picked up four wins and three draws in the last seven.
That may not sound that impressive. Indeed, it was certainly part of a mini-stutter from Chelsea, but it could have been even worse. Hazard’s three goals in that period all secured one-goal victories and his two assists valuable draws in their inexorable march towards the Premier League trophy. Eight points more than they would have had without his contribution.
Hazard has similar numbers to Alexis (actually slightly inferior) with 11 goals and seven assists in his 30 games. But even when he hasn’t been scoring the goals, he has been both creating and worrying defences to the point where they have lapsed focus on other less dangerous threats elsewhere in order to deal with him.
It will surprise few that he is the most fouled player in the Premier League.
Put this way, both Hazard and Matic have had a much more meaningful impact on the Premier League season than Kane, and indeed will surely be finishing May with a winners medal in hand and big smiles on their faces.
They will not be looking forward to Europa League football in 2015-16.
They may not be British, but they’re also a heck of a lot more deserving of the Player of the Season award than a young Spurs forward who has had one good season off the back of some friendly defending. Next season may be a bit of a shock to the system.
The final reckoning
Kane may turn out to be the best player in the league in years to come, and at that point I’ll have no problems with him getting the award.*
The point of the Player of the Season accolade though is clear – it is to recognise the best player in the league that season, and that is not Harry Kane.
Even if he scores the more goals than anyone, that still does not make it Harry Kane.
*Somehow I don’t think he will though.
People talk about how everything Aaron Ramsey touched turned to goals last year. At least Rambo has shown that finishing touch again in patches this year. On the other hand, can anyone remember how good Papiss Cisse looked in his first six months in England?
Harry Kane is probably somewhere in the middle. He will always do well against mediocre defences but he has yet to prove he can do it at the top level once the opposition respect his game enough not to allow him time and space (note well, Laurent Koscielny, note well).
As for being the best player in the league? Don’t make me laugh.
He’s not even better than Olivier Giroud.**
**Before you get your knickers in a twist, Giroud is actually pretty good. I’m a huge fan, and if you really insist I’ll write about it another time. No swapsies.