When people look back at Harry Kane‘s 2017 season, they will marvel at not just the sheer ridiculousness of his accomplishments, but also at the names he surpassed as a goal scorer. Kane finished the 2017 calendar year, one in which he spent in undoubtedly the deepest soccer league on Earth, with 56 goals for club and country. That number surpasses both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, whom people argue back and forth about which is the best player of this generation, and sometimes of all time.
For Kane to be mentioned in the same breath as these two players is both an honor but also might actually diminish what he achieved this season. He was in a league nearly of his own, literally, as the English Premier League presents challenges unlike any other league. That did not stop him from scoring 39 goals in the EPL when the calendar read 2017. He had an astonishing SIX hat tricks for Tottenham in league play.
To put that in perspective, according to ESPN, “Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexis Sanchez, Alexandre Lacazette, Alvaro Morata, Diego Costa, [Mohamed] Salah, Roberto Firmino and Wayne Rooney mustered five league hat tricks between them in the same time, and one of those was scored in Spain.” The 39 goals is a Premier League top division record, beating the previous record of 36 set by Alan Shearer in 1995 for Blackburn Rovers.
It seems fitting that, in a calendar year in which he already had four hat tricks in league, he both tied and broke the record with hat tricks against Burnley and Southampton to close the year. Here is the Burnley hat trick:
Not since David Villa in 2009 has a player scored more goals for club and country than both Ronaldo and Messi, according to ESPN. That puts him in elite goal-scoring company, and should have Tottenham fans gushing over his ability to put the ball into the back of the net. As ESPN’s Richard Jolly writes, there are plenty of reasons to be impressed with Kane’s season.
While the Tottenham fans ironically chorus that he is just a “one-season wonder,” a man into his fourth consecutive campaign of goal plundering has taken his game to another stage. Kane scored 27 times in 2016, the kind of return others might envy, especially in an injury-interrupted year. He more than doubled that in 2017. A typically barren August apart, he has been unremittingly prolific and consistent.
There is a temptation to dismiss anyone who scores so frequently as a flat-track bully, and certainly a hat-trick specialist has become a master of momentum. It nevertheless feels misguided in Kane’s case: 28 of his goals since May 18 have come away from home. It points to a greater counterattacking threat that, in turn, reflects both fitness — and he revealed in October that his body fat has halved from 18 to 10 percent in three years — and the timing and precision of his runs.
And, above all, the number of them. Kane is a product of persistence. There is a machine-like element to his excellence. Repetition is part of his game. He keeps on shooting. If he scores more goals than everyone else, it is because he has more shots. He takes aim with his left foot and his right, in open play and from set pieces, from inside the box and outside. According to WhoScored.com figures, he averages 1.6 shots per game with his left foot, which is notable because he is right-footed. He averages 2.4 per match from outside the box, which is significant because he doubles up as Spurs’ penalty-box poacher. He has 1.3 per game from set pieces, often the preserve of a technician or flair player.
The end result is that, in the Premier League this season, he has had 41 more attempts than Salah, the next most frequent shooter. It is one reason he has hit the woodwork twice as often as anyone else. In 2015-16, he had 40 more attempts than Aguero, the next busiest. It means his conversion rate this year is substantially lower than those of Morata, Aguero and Raheem Sterling. But it also means no one works goalkeepers more; no one gives himself a better chance of benefiting if they err.
It’s obvious to anyone the impact Kane has had on Tottenham’s season, which heads into the January transfer window sitting in fifth place and competing for a Champions League finish. “He’s such an important player,” said Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino after their 3-0 win over Burnley, according to The Telegraph.
“It was so important for us to be in a position again to compete for the top four and change the feeling and mood from last week. During my three-and-a-half years at charge in Tottenham his contribution not only in goals but in attitude, professional ethics, how he works is fantastic, and a massive example for everyone.
“I’m so happy for him because not only did we achieve the three points, he equalled the record with Alan Shearer. He now needs one more to move ahead of Alan and I think that’s a massive achievement for him.”
Kane admitted to being human heading into their game against Southampton and his manager was obviously happy for his forward. Per USA Today:
“It was hard not to think about it going into the game being level [at 36 goals],” Kane said. “As always, I wanted to win the game first and foremost but of course I wanted to score as a striker. To get that goal early on and get that record was a great feeling and I could enjoy the rest of the game.”
“I want to congratulate Harry Kane. Massive achievement for him – well deserved,” Pochettino said. “We are all so, so, so happy. It’s an amazing thing to celebrate.”
Kane has elevated the expectations of his own game thanks to his play in the past calendar year, but he is well-equipped to handle those expectations. He has kept Tottenham relevant in the EPL table the last couple of seasons and should do the same in 2018.