Harry Kane the new Erling Haaland for England? And that’s a *bad* thing?

Jason Soutar
Harry Kane in action for England against Serbia
Harry Kane in action for England against Serbia

Harry Kane was too uninvolved against Serbia? England manager Gareth Southgate is ‘reinventing him as Erling Haaland’? Good.

The reaction to England’s 1-0 win over Serbia in their Euro 2024 opener has been as mixed as the performance. After an outstanding first half-hour with Jude Bellingham running the show, it became unnecessarily uncomfortable and the Three Lions had to battle hard for three points.

The discourse has been largely dominated by Bellingham’s outstanding scruff-of-the-neck approach and how this is now his team. Elsewhere, there has been plenty of criticism for Harry Kane and Phil Foden, with the latter failing to replicate his Manchester City form in the white of England.

That does feel somewhat inevitable as he is playing off the left and is not as influential as Bellingham, who could and indeed does pick up the ball on the halfway line to pull some fancy strings before appearing in the box within a matter of seconds.

And while the system is hindering Foden (but certainly not England), it has changed how Kane plays for the better, as we mooted in our player ratings on Sunday night.

For years, Kane has frustrated England and Tottenham fans with his desire to play a quarter-back role, despite being tasked with leading the line for both club and country. It makes sense as he is a world-class passer of the ball, but then it absolutely does not make sense as he cannot teleport into the box to get on the end of a cross just seconds after swinging a ball out to the wing.

You can’t have it both ways. Kane is either too involved in England’s build-up play or he is now not involved enough after 90 minutes v Serbia, and in Jamie Carragher’s words, ‘that reduces his effectiveness by 50 per cent’. With Kane taking up the Tom Brady role, England have won diddly-squat, and now as an out-and-out No. 9, ‘England will not win the Euros if that continues’. It is impossible not to cut yourself in the middle of all these double-edged swords.

If England do not win Euro 2024 – and it is rather more unlikely than likely – it will not be because Kane is not involved in the build-up play. Any tactical tweak that keeps Kane closer to the penalty area should be welcomed. Having Kane in and around the box is key, even if his passing range is better than almost all his team-mates, with the possible exception of Trent Alexander-Arnold.

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As the designated playmaker, Bellingham was outstanding. Foden was obviously limited as a nominal left-winger but Kieran Trippier’s high positioning and Kyle Walker’s role as part of a back three with John Stones and Marc Guehi when England were in possession allowed him to have something of a free role in between the lines. He simply failed to do anything of note as Bellingham thrived.

This is the right system for England just as it eventually was for Manchester City, the intricate football team with a different false 9 every week. They eventually got over the line in the Champions League by signing Erling Haaland, who didn’t just win Europe’s biggest prize but scored over 50 goals to bring home the bloody Treble. Not a treble. The Treble.

Now Southgate ‘reinventing Kane into Haaland’ is a negative and a reason why England will not win the European Championship this summer. From the League Two Haaland nonsense to this, it is hilarious to see how the Nordic robot is perceived by media personalities in England.

📣 TO THE COMMENTS! Is this version of Harry Kane likely to help or hinder England? Join the debate here.

You are hardly wasting the England captain by turning him back into a striker who sits on the centre-back’s shoulder when he is playing in front of Bukayo Saka, Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Had he taken the exceptional chance created by Jarrod Bowen, it would have been a perfect striker’s performance.

Service was lacking but Kane will not play against three brutish Eastern Europeans every night; Nikola Milenkovic made it a very uncomfortable evening for the Spurs legend and he deserves praise for doing so. Ultimately, Kane’s know-how helped get his team over the line as he won a few fouls to break up play and didn’t lose his cool at any point despite being rag-dolled by Milenkovic.

This England team will improve through playing together and the chances will start to consistently fall to a final third-dominant Harry Kane. He doesn’t need to completely limit himself to how Erling Haaland plays for Manchester City but being ‘reinvented’ into something resembling the Norwegian will hardly harm the Three Lions’ chances of glory at Euro 2024. He is a joke after all. Just look at these stats.