As the final whistle blew, Eric Dier punched the air and went to hug a bandaged Toby Alderweireld, the strapping around his head both highlighting and camouflaging the evidence of his battle with Ashley Barnes. Tottenham Hotspur had left blood on the Turf Moor pitch but they had kept a clean sheet. The circumstances made it worth celebrating even more.
Jose Mourinho’s sides do not normally have to wait until the last week of October for their first league shutout of the season, and not merely because most campaigns start a month earlier than this. After the anarchy of West Ham came rather more control in East Lancashire. The crucial contribution at the back came not from the centre-halves but Harry Kane, clearing James Tarkowski’s header off the line; not content with mutating from Spurs’ finest finisher to their best creator, he contrived to prove their most influential defender as well.
Dier and Alderweireld could enjoy their night’s work, but it was about a different couple. It always is. Kane and Son may sound like a removal firm, but they are the prime reason why Spurs may be going places. “A nice little partnership,” said Kane, who downplayed his part in Son Heung-min’s winner at Burnley. “It was not an amazing assist but it fell well for Sonny,” he added.
The modesty even stretched to Mourinho. “They are two top players but close friends, no jealousy, they both play for the team,” he said. “There are no egos.” Not even his own, as the caring, sharing Mourinho thanked his predecessor. “It is an understanding that comes from Mauricio [Pochettino’s] time. I don’t want all the credit myself; let’s share with Mauricio.”
If selfishness is an essential part of many a striker’s armoury, Kane has rarely been more selfless. “In the last minute he was pressing and sliding tackles, trying to stop attacks,” added Mourinho and a manager who turned Samuel Eto’o into an auxiliary right-back in a Champions League-winning season could enjoy converting another feared forward into a willing defender. Kane materialised in his own box to make a brilliant block against West Ham; he ended up on Lloris’ line at Turf Moor.
And yet Son, rather than Dier or Alderweireld, is the main beneficiary of Kane’s altruism. The most prolific combination last season came when Adama Traore set up seven goals for Raul Jimenez. Six games in, Kane has already provided seven for Son. There was something symbolic in his header, running away from goal to head the ball back towards it. Spurs are going forward as Kane heads in the opposite direction. It is part evolution, part revolution; part Pochettino, part Mourinho.
“The gaffer said when I drop deep the wingers have to run in behind,” he said, and increasingly Spurs have an inverted forward line. “Harry is not always a nine, nine, nine now,” said Mourinho. Yet if his presence in other areas can signify an emergency for opponents and if that means he is a No 10 at times, it explains why Dele Alli is so surplus to requirements that he did not even travel to Lancashire.
Son, with six strikes on the road, is the happy traveller. With eight in the Premier League, he has as many as Arsenal and Manchester City. Some of the statistical comparisons are with the past. The most potent combination in a Premier League season was of Chris Sutton and Alan Shearer, teaming up for 13 goals in Blackburn’s 1994-95 season. The most productive in the division’s history was Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, two of Mourinho’s proteges. Over the course of their alliance, Kane and Son, with 29, are joint second. If one of the defining themes of the Drogba-Lampard double act was that the striker was often the supplier, that is true of Kane and Son, too.
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