‘Spurs show they can blossom under Nuno – whether Kane stays or goes’

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August 17, 2021
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    Tottenham 1-0 Manchester City: Nuno Espirito Santo 'very proud' of Spurs after opening win

    The figure of Harry Kane loomed large over Tottenham Hotspur's superb victory over Manchester City to such an extent that it firmly focused the minds of almost 60,000 fans filling Spurs' magnificent arena.

    Manchester City's supporters fired the opening salvo in the public battle for Kane's heart and mind – as well as taunting their Spurs counterparts – within seconds of the game starting, with loud chants of "Harry Kane, he wants to be blue".

    The tables were brutally turned as City's performance sank without trace, leaving Spurs supporters to deliver a retort of their own in the direction of the wanted man.

    They left it just late enough to feel confident victory was theirs before singing: "Are you watching Harry Kane?"

    He was. And he saw Spurs, under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo, give a performance that hints at promise ahead, whether that is with or without Kane.

    Ironically, it was Guardiola who once referred to Spurs as "the Harry Kane team". This, with delicious timing and a touch of irony, proved they are much more than that.

    Kane may not have been playing but he still cast a shadow over this pulsating opening Premier League encounter which was deservedly settled in Spurs' favour by Son Heung-min's second-half goal.

    The Kane saga will continue and it may just be that events here at a vibrant Tottenham Hotspur Stadium could have prompted the next chapter in the story.

    • Report: Son strike gives Spurs win over City

    Son Heung-min scoresSince the start of last season, Son Heung-min is one of only four Premier League players to have been directly involved in 40 or more goals across all competitions. Harry Kane is one of the others

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    Guardiola and Manchester City's Abu Dhabi owners will be contemplating whether they can win another title without a recognised striker, even after the £100m acquisition of Jack Grealish.

    Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is believed to be determined to fight off City interest as the clock ticks down to the close of the transfer window. But will City feel they are so acutely in need of Kane after this punchless show that they offer a sum that will make Levy blink?

    There was enough on show from Spurs to suggest all hope will not be lost even in a post-Kane era – especially with their brilliant match-winner Son just tied to a new long-term contract.

    Nuno's new side played with such passion and quality in their 1-0 win that the Spurs support were able to loudly remind the 28-year-old England captain they regard as "one of their own" just what he might be risking by leaving.

    Tottenham say Kane was not considered for selection for the match as he recovers from his Euro 2020 exertions with England followed by a holiday.

    Interest will remain in the story until he plays again, or leaves – but the manner in which Spurs performed without him may have eased concerns among those who fear his departure would be a hammer blow to the club's aspirations.

    A picture of Harry Kane was shown on the screen before the gameA picture of Harry Kane was shown on the big screen before the game – and that was the extent of his involvement

    New manager Nuno has walked into a difficult situation, having to deal with the Kane speculation while attempting to impose his strategy on the players he has inherited.

    Phase one was completed more or less to perfection as the Portuguese warmly embraced each one of his players before acknowledging a standing ovation from Spurs fans elated at what they had just witnessed, an extra gloss of pleasure applied by the fact City have their sights set on their prized asset.

    Spurs were helped by the fact they have become an away bogey side for Guardiola, who has now lost five games on his travels against them, the past four here at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

    Setting those statistics to one side, this was a win that carried a heavy weight of significance for Spurs in the context of their season and also the continuing conversation over Kane's future.

    Nuno is already getting his messages through to Spurs as they demonstrated his Wolves trademarks of fierce defensive discipline bolted on to a willingness to commit players forward on the break that made them a real threat.

    The Portuguese will not be daunted by the fact he appeared to be a long way down the list of candidates to replace Jose Mourinho. The job is his and this opening game delighted Spurs fans who revelled in their fierce physical commitment that shook City out of their stride before they were able to show their quality.

    And if there is the prospect of a Spurs without Kane, where there is Son there is hope.

    Son has never shied away from carrying a heavier burden of responsibility in several Kane injury absences during recent seasons. He was at it again here, the South Korean's relentless running and menace tormenting City all afternoon.

    Spurs would love to retain the dream team of Son and Kane but one will still pose a huge threat and offer world-class performances even without the other.

    It was not just the high-profile names that sent the Spurs fans out on to Bill Nicholson Way singing that unlikely summer football anthem 'Sweet Caroline'. They had heroes elsewhere.

    Young defender Japhet Tanganga was a symbol of this huge Spurs effort, so much so that he was handed the title usually afforded to Kane when he was told he was "one of our own".

    Harry Kane has scored 166 goals in 242 Premier League games for TottenhamKane has averaged just over 23 league goals a season across the past seven campaigns. He won the golden boot on three occasions, including last season

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    Lucas Moura was outstanding while Dele Alli, so often a peripheral figure in recent times, showed he was prepared to sacrifice his natural instincts to do the defensive dirty work, demonstrating his willingness to work in a deeper role.

    And to add to this day of satisfaction for Spurs, it was a result achieved with exciting new attacking signing Bryan Gil on the bench and defensive acquisition Cristian Romero only introduced to nail down the result in the closing moments.

    The talk of Kane will continue, with the post-match debate already moving on to who needs him most, Spurs or Manchester City.

    One question was answered irrespective of where he ends up. Life might be different for Spurs should Kane take the road to Manchester, but it will certainly go on.

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