Man City have been consistently linked with Tottenham talisman Harry Kane throughout the summer transfer window as the club hopes to reinforce their attack. With the transfer window shutting on August 31st, time is running out for City to move for Kane.
If City do not sign Harry Kane, they will be left with Gabriel Jesus as their only out and out senior striker after the Citizens legend Sergio Aguero left for Barcelona earlier in the summer.
Although City boasts a deeply talented squad with plenty of world-class attacking midfielders and wide players, Harry Kane could prove to be the missing piece of the puzzle. Without Kane, the Citizens could face a tough title defence compared to previous seasons as Guardiola's tactical tweaks were undone towards the end of last season.
Number Nine Instead of the False Nine
After a patchy start to the 2020/21 campaign, where City dropped points in six of their opening 12 games, Guardiola changed tact. The Spaniard moved away from an out and out striker and instead deployed one of his midfielders in a false nine position, linking midfield and attack. Often, Kevin De Bruyne or Fernan Torres took this role in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation.
The alteration worked to good effect for large spells of the season, and the attacking players all pitched in with goals and assists. Seven City players scored ten or more goals during the 2020/21 campaign. Attacking midfielder Ilkay Gündogan benefitted the most, top scoring with 17 goals in all competitions.
The fluid attacking approach introduced by Guardiola was effective for much of the 2020/21 season, helping the Citizens secure the Premier League and the EFL Cup. However, the false nine tactic was found out by top opposition and less effective towards the end of the season.
In particular, Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea blunted City's attack. In the Champions League final, the Citizens lacked an attacking focal point, and they were stunned on the counterattack several times as they fell to a 1-0 defeat upsetting the Football Odds.
Guardiola faced criticism following the loss for his tactical setup, most notably, overloading the attacking midfielder positions and not having a recognised striker on the pitch.
The fluid attacking setup of interchanging wingers and attacking midfielders may pay off against lower-league opposition, as was seen when City hammered Norwich 5-0 last weekend. However, against title challengers, like Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool, having a 20 goal a season talisman, such as Harry Kane, can provide the difference.
Going into the 2021/22 season without one senior striker would be a naïve approach by any club. For City, their need for Harry Kane couldn’t have been highlighted more as they lost 1-0 against Spurs in the opening game of the season. The Citizens went with a false nine again for this match, with Torres against occupying the false nine position. Ultimately, Guardiola’s side were undone on the counterattack again as their intricate, quick interplay in and around the box between midfield players was snubbed out by Spurs’ defence, allowing them to break and eventually score.
An Out and Out Finisher for Big Games
With 20 or more goals in four of his last six Premier League seasons, Kane would provide an attacking focal point for Man City this season. Although he sometimes drifts deeper for Spurs and England, often starting and assisting attacks, he still has a presence in the box, and his positioning in and around the box to finish chances is world-class.
City have no problem producing goal-scoring opportunities in the Premier League either, which would suit Kane. In the 2020/21 season, City created the second-most big chances in the league (79), and they were the top-scorers out of all 20 teams with 83 goals.
Kane would certainly be a welcome addition to the Citizen’s squad this season. His ability and experience as an out and out goal scorer would provide a welcome alternative for Guardiola. This diversity in the squad will be key in a successful title defence.
Furthermore, Kane would provide a much-needed goal threat in the tighter matches against their title rivals. In their 2020/21 Premier League run-in, City lost against Man United (2-0 at home) and Chelsea (2-1 at home). Despite having the title wrapped up by this stage, the results highlighted City’s frailties without a striker against top-opposition.
The loss against Spurs already this season has shown how a few tactical tweaks by the opposition can stifle City’s attacking threat when they don’t field a striker. And this is why City need Kane. He may not be relied upon for goals as much as he is for Spurs. But he may be needed more by providing an attacking focal point and an out and out attacking threat for Guardiola.