MONDAY'S BIG STORIES

The Kane Question

It's not really fair, what happened to Tottenham this weekend. First game under Nuno Espírito Santo and it's a win over the defending champions, earned with a performance of grit, endeavour, and just a little bit of luck … and all anybody wants to talk about is Harry Kane. Who didn't even play.
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So, let's talk about Harry Kane.
The official story is that Kane isn't ready. But given that Spurs, over the years, have driven Kane onto the field in all kinds of unready states — his ankle a ball of bubble wrap, his ankle on fire, his ankle just not there at all — we're inclined to disbelieve the official story. Sorry, Nuno. We don't like calling you a liar, but football makes cynics of us all.
And Kane's absence, whatever the reason, transformed the occasion from a big game — a Big Six clash; a Super League stramash — into something else. An experiment of sorts. An investigation into whether City need Kane and whether Spurs can do without him. Yes and yes, on the evidence of this 90 minutes.

Harry Kane im Training der Tottenham Hotspur in 2020/21

Image credit: Eurosport

Or perhaps: maybe and maybe. Drawing firm conclusions on the basis of one game can lead to strange places, so let's wind ourselves in a little. From Spurs' point of view, the resilience of their performance, and the impressive shifts put in by Dele Alli, Japhet Tanganga and Oliver Skipp, suggests that "Kane or not Kane" isn't going to be the defining question of the season. And where there's Heung-min Son, there's hope. So says Nuno:
Sonny and the talent he has is amazing. I truly believe that he is versatile enough to play and develop the tasks in all the positions at the front. He's dynamic, has speed and he knows the game … he's a killer, a killer.
Killers were notably absent from the opposition's line-up, as City racked up the chances and the expected goals without troubling the net. Would Kane have scored any of them? Maybe. Is it impossible to say whether City would have had the same number of chances, and the same quality, with Kane in the line-up, given the linear nature of time and the impossibility of reading patterns backward into the chaotic tangle of history? Calm down, it's a Monday morning.
But the weirdest thing about City's afternoon wasn't the lack of a starting striker, but the absence of Sergio Agüero — or any other finisher — on the bench.
Guardiola is always going to pick line-ups without proper striker from time to time: it's who he is, it's what he does. Sometimes it won't work. Kane is, of course, as good a finisher as is knocking around, but he's not the only forward in the world and he is the most expensive. An alternative suggestion for City's money-men: instead of spending the money on Kane, spend it on a time machine, then go back and nab Ole Gunnar Solskjær as he lands in Manchester all those years ago. Fixes the squad, solves history, and ruins all United's plans. Sorted.

Ready, Steady, Go?

The Premier League has started! Sort of! But if you want to get any sense of how the big teams are going to look this season, you'll have to wait a few weeks.
Are Arsenal going to have another season of chicken-hearted, lily-livered, dandelion-kidneyed nonsense? Well, yes. Obviously. But they are also going to have some senior strikers at some point, and Bukayo Saka will be back in the starting 11, so let's hold fire for the moment.
Are Manchester United going to score a million goals this season? Well, yes. If they play Leeds every week. But as with Arsenal, United began their campaign with almost their entire first-choice front-line missing. It didn't cost them, because Bruno Fernandes is magic and he scored a magic hat-trick, but we still don't know quite what United will look like once Sancho is starting and Rashford is back.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 14: Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United acknowledges the fans following victory in the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leeds United at Old Trafford on August 14, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Cathe

Image credit: Eurosport

Are Chelsea going to win the league? Maybe. But there's Lukaku to come. Are City? Perhaps but we don't know what's happening with the aforementioned Kane. No Bryan Gil or Cristian Romero for Spurs, no Konaté for Liverpool … you see where we're going with all this. And it's not just a Premier League thing: PSG presented their new signings to the Parc des Princes this weekend, but only two of them played.
This always happens at the start of the season, to a certain extent, thanks to the misalignment between the fixture list and the transfer window. But it feels particularly marked this season. Between the Euros and the squeezed calendar, we've effectively had a soft launch. We'd like to draw some big, sweeping conclusions, because that's always fun. But we haven't really seen what anybody's got yet.

Bish, Bash, Bosh

Well, except Erling Braut Haaland. The best thing about Haaland is that he doesn't seem to be going anywhere this summer, so we can enjoy him without fretting about his fee, his contract, his image rights, his agent, and all the rest. Imagine watching a footballer without him turning into a large pile of money every few seconds.
The second best thing about Haaland is probably the football. The lad's ridiculous.

Erling Haaland - Borussia Dortmund

Image credit: Getty Images

Borussia Dortmund scored five this weekend. Haaland scored two of them, which takes him to 62 goals in 61 games, which is stupid. Dixie Dean stupid. Gerd Müller stupid (RIP). And apparently he's a playmaker as well these days: he made the other three, judging his poked passes just as nicely as his finishes. We particularly enjoyed his first, which he made for himself with a perfectly legal flying jump tackle. Because that's a thing now.
And if it's too soon to make any big predictions about the Premier League, we can at least thank Dortmund for turning up and being incredibly on-brand. Five scored, two conceded; delightful at one end and squidgy at the other. Another season of Dortmund being Dortmund, then; another of Haaland being Haaland. Guaranteed fun for everybody.

IN OTHER NEWS

The perfect goal doesn't exi— oh.

IN THE CHANNELS

RIP to the great Gerd Müller, described by his contemporaries as "short fat Müller", by Eduardo Galeano as "a wild wolf on the field … disguised as an old woman, his fangs and claws hidden", and by his career numbers as one of the greatest goalscorers of them all.

HAT TIP

Actually, let's stay with Müller, and pop over to the Guardian. When it comes to the history of the game, Scott Murray is always worth reading.
His finishes were rarely crash-bang affairs: most of his goals were trundled, steered, poked, sniffed out or bundled home from close range. At first glance much of his work appears signally underwhelming, approaching unimpressive … until you realise he was doing it every single week, season after season, and wasn’t just some scruffy hack enjoying an abnormal run of blind luck.

COMING UP

We round off this weekend's La Liga festivities with Villareal vs. Granada and Elche vs. Athletic Bilbao. And there will probably be some transfers happening, if you like that sort of thing.
Ben Snowball will be here to crash tomorrow's Warm-Up off the underside of the crossbar and into the net.
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