Tottenham Hotspur are having to prepare for the possibility of losing Harry Kane for the majority of the rest of the season, including for the FA Cup semi-final, after the England striker sprained his right ankle against Millwall this afternoon.
Kane twisted his ankle under a tackle from Jake Cooper after just seven minutes of the 6-0 win, forcing him to limp off. He left White Hart Lane in a protective boot and on crutches, to “immobilise the joint”, Mauricio Pochettino explained. Spurs hope that he will be scanned on Monday to assess the extent of the damage.
Back in September Kane damaged right ankle ligaments in the 1-0 win against Sunderland. He ended up missing seven weeks of the season before his return. Pochettino admitted at his post-match press conference that he feared this could be a repeat of that injury, with the same prognosis.
“Kane twisted his ankle, the same ankle that was [injured] before in the game against Sunderland,” Pochettino said. “It's difficult. It looks a similar situation to [the injury sustained against] Sunderland, but we'll see. We need to wait and be positive.”
Pochettino effectively ruled Kane out of next Sunday’s game against Southampton, but ultimately Tottenham will not know how long Kane will be out for until he has the scan. Even that could be delayed if his swelling has not gone down in time. “We need to assess him,” Pochettino said. “It is too difficult, today, to give you a real level of how his ankle is. We hope it's not a big issue, but it looks similar. If you watch it on television, it was a similar action.”
If Kane returns seven weeks from now then that would be Sunday 30 April, the day of the historic last ever north London derby at White Hart Lane. He would miss the cup semi-final, the previous weekend, and there would only be another three rounds of Premier League games this season after the Arsenal match.
Such a diagnosis would drastically diminish Spurs. Kane is currently the joint-top scorer in this Premier League season and is aiming for his second straight golden boot trophy. Pochettino would be forced to choose between Heung-Min Son and Vincent Janssen to play up in Kane’s absence, although he was buoyed today by good performances from the pair.
Son scored a hat-trick, with two brilliant finishes among them, while Janssen scored his first open-play goal for Spurs after a very frustrating season so far. Pochettino said it was a chance for both players to prove their worth.
“When you lose a player like Harry Kane, you know you will miss him,” Pochettino said. “But it is important for the players who play in his position, Son or Vincent, to find the net and score goals. In the key period, we may miss our main striker. Players like Vincent and Son, who haven’t played in the starting eleven in the last few weeks, may now be important for us.”
When Kane had his ankle injury in the autumn, Son was more successful as a replacement for him than Janssen. “I was always happy with Sonny, he can play as a striker,” Pochettino said. “One of our best performances was against Manchester City here [the 2-0 win on 2 October], and he was the striker when Harry was injured. We have different opportunities to play, use different formations.”
Son’s qualities are well known now and he adds speed and sharpness to the front line if selected. But Janssen is a different case. He has been dreadfully disappointing since joining last summer but his goal, his first in open play for Tottenham, felt like a genuine turning point. The fans got behind him and he briefly looked like a different player.
Just last month Pochettino said that Janssen needed to “show more in training” if he wanted to be selected, after leaving him out of the 18 for a Europa League game at KAA Gent. When he was not brought off the bench against Fulham in the last round of the cup, it felt as if his Spurs career could be over already.
But Janssen impressed Pochettino with his response to that criticism, earning himself more time from the bench, culminating in today’s triumph.
“I told you that in the last few months he has stepped up and started to work better, and I was happy in the way he was performing in training,” Pochettino said. “In football you need to be ready. Sometimes players aren't ready because they're not fit, but with Vincent it was different. He had an opportunity today and scored.”
Janssen is more of a conventional target man than Son but he has looked so devoid of confidence in his Spurs career so far that Pochettino has felt unable to use him. But if this goal transforms his confidence then he could be a powerful presence that Spurs have lacked up front in Kane’s absence. The decision between Janssen and Son, this weekend and beyond, will not be an easy one.
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