• HARRY KANE PRESSES LESS THAN SERGIO AGUERO
  • SON HEUNG-MIN PRESSES MORE THAN ALL OF CITY’S FORWARDS
  • SON IS BETTER THAN KANE AT DISRUPTING OPPONENTS AND RETAINING THE BALL
  • ONLY 1% OF ALL FORWARDS PRESS LESS THAN RONALDO (EVEN ZLATAN PRESSES MORE!)

After all that Harry Kane is staying. Never mind the image of England’s captain effectively going on strike to try and force his move. Never mind the fact he signed a contract with no release clause in the first place. Never mind the fact that England’s champions could apparently countenance spending more than £100 million twice this transfer window when Barcelona had to release their captain due to financial fair play.

The transfer saga of the summer was risible in many ways. But did it make sense for Manchester City to go after Harry Kane? On the face of it, yes. Their top goalscorer last season was a player primarily signed as a defensive midfielder while Kane topped both the charts for league goalsl scored and created. Manchester City’s top goalscorer of all time has just retired. They have the sovereign wealth of a country to spend and, for now, are able to. Why would they not go for Harry Kane?

Except they could well be going after the wrong Tottenham Hotspur forward. Despite the love-in at the end of Sergio Aguero’s time at the Etihad a frequent criticism of the Argentinian from Pep Guardiola was his lack of pressing.

And, looking at data from the past 365 days, we can see that Sergio Aguero was not as frequent a presser as his teammate Gabriel Jesus. Per 90 minutes played Aguero would apply 13.8 pressures (applying pressure to an opposing player who is receiving, carrying or releasing the ball) versus Jesus with 14.88. Yet Kane is even lower than Aguero at 11.21 pressures per 90 minutes.

Of course, Kane is not a traditional ‘target man. For both club and country, he often drops as far back as the midfield in order to be involved with play. His fine link-up with Raheem Sterling for England will not have gone unnoticed by Guardiola.

But the key to Manchester City’s press is to protect their ‘back five’ of Fernandinho and defence. And if Guardiola were to sign a forward based on his desire to maintain a press he could do well to look at another Spurs player: Son Heung-Min. He made 17.46 presses per 90 minutes over the past year. This is more than not just Kane, Aguero and Jesus but also Raheem Sterling (10.06) and Ferrán Torres (14.92). While he scored 11 goals fewer than Kane last season across all competitions Son did provide the same number of assists and his return of 22 goals would have easily made City’s top scorer.

Son also has a feature Guardiola admires: versatility. He can play across the forward line as well as midfield. Using data from SmarterScout comparing Son and Kane as centre-forwards shows that while the South Korean scores far lower in shooting (10 vs 82) his ball retention (71 vs 19) and disruption (67 vs 18) are far higher.

Harry Kane is one of the best strikers in the world and it may be that Guardiola wants him to score goals with little thought to other aspects. If Guardiola does want a striker to better suit his demands it may be that he’s looking at the wrong Spurs player.

While we’re at it Cristiano Ronaldo (6.69 pressures per game) makes even less sense for Guardiola. He’s in the first percentile for pressing amongst forwards. This means only 1% of forwards press less than Ronaldo. Even Zlatan Ibrahimović (7.21 pressures per game) presses more.

http://JamesThomas.me Doctor and Educator. Podcast https://www.takeaurally.com Blog on Medical Education and History of Medicine https://mcdreeamiemusings.com