MARTIN KEOWN: Harry Kane can smash Thierry Henry and Kevin De Bruyne’s Premier League assists record


During lockdown, I caught up with Dennis Bergkamp on Zoom. We discussed what he used to do for Arsenal, and how he would start high but drop deep.

Defenders didn’t know whether to follow him – and risk leaving their fellow centre back alone with Thierry Henry – or let him drift into that space between the lines. ‘That was my little battle,’ Dennis told me.

Teddy Sheringham was one of my toughest opponents for this reason, too. He never played at the same pace as the match and would drop into difficult areas. If I go with him, I leave a hole in defence which Dwight Yorke could use to score. If I don’t, Sheringham is on his own. 

Forward Harry Kane (centre) has been a phenomenal provider for Tottenham so far this season

Forward Harry Kane (centre) has been a phenomenal provider for Tottenham so far this season

Martin Keown sees similarities in Kane and Dennis Bergkamp, his friend and former teammate

Martin Keown sees similarities in Kane and Dennis Bergkamp, his friend and former teammate

Seeing every Premier League team beaten just six games into this new season got me thinking about our Invincible days and how systems have evolved. The tactics we used in going unbeaten in 2003-04 have never been copied in full.

Most managers now prefer to use three up top. They also like an extra man in midfield, whereas we were able to rely on a fantastic pairing in Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva.

Arsene Wenger never overcomplicated things. He preferred to focus on how we’d play rather than the opposition.

We’d start with a 4-4-2 formation but that was fluid and could become 4-4-1-1 or 4-3-3 as we adapted to different situations. We knew how to create overloads and outnumber the opposition on the wings. Amid all this, Dennis was like our quarter-back, feeding those willing runners in front of him.

Keown thinks Kane can eclipse the assists total by another of his ex-teammates, Thierry Henry

Keown thinks Kane can eclipse the assists total by another of his ex-teammates, Thierry Henry

In 2003-04, he would have Henry, Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg to pick out. In 1997-98, Ian Wright or Nicolas Anelka would be the striker, supported by roadrunner Marc Overmars and the underrated Ray Parlour coming inside from the wings.

What anyone who played with Dennis will say is that his service was outstanding. I’m now watching what Harry Kane is doing for Tottenham and, dare I say it, he is starting to remind me of my old team-mate.

I’m not saying Kane is as technically gifted as Dennis – I don’t think anybody is. But the quality of the balls I’m seeing from the Spurs striker, and the way he is finding Son Heung-min, it is Bergkampian.

He is starting high, dropping deep, and showing there is more to his game than merely scoring goals. With eight assists in six games, at this rate Kane would obliterate the Premier League record of 20, shared by Henry and Kevin De Bruyne.

We’ve seen what Roberto Firmino does for Liverpool – how he drops into those pockets of space and has willing runners in Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, who start wide but come inside. 

Kane, likewise, has fast-paced forwards who he can pick out. That’s been Son of late – most notably in that 5-2 win over Southampton when Kane took advantage of the hosts’ high line to assist his team-mate four times.

But now he has Gareth Bale, too. Son and Bale could become Tottenham’s inside forwards with Kane applying those golden passes into their paths.

This is not to say he won’t score goals of his own – Dennis was still our top scorer when we did the Double in 1997-98. But Kane, who suffered that serious hamstring injury last New Year’s Day, has adjusted his game. He finds pockets of space in front of opposition defences, and will often be seen operating deeper than his fellow forwards.

It will be fascinating to see how this plays out, both for Tottenham and possibly even England. With Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford as two runners, and Kane dropping deep as a feeder, that could be a dangerous combination worth considering.

I am surprised managers haven’t tried to mimic the system that proved so successful for Wenger. Burnley boss Sean Dyche and Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson use a 4-4-2 which is workmanlike and not possession-based. Southampton’s Ralph Hasenhuttl uses this formation, too, with some flexibility.

But Wenger was blessed with players of pace and creativity, along with a magnificent midfield, and Dennis was key. Sometimes he was a striker, other times a midfielder, and he was never replaced at Arsenal.

The club tried having Cesc Fabregas push up from a deep starting position in midfield, but it wasn’t the same. It is always tricker for the opposition when the player starts high and drops deep.

That is what many Premier League defences are now discovering with Kane.  

Bergkamp was as much a provider as he was a scorer and Keown says Kane has mirrored that

Bergkamp was as much a provider as he was a scorer and Keown says Kane has mirrored that

If Liverpool avoid defeat against West Ham on Saturday it will be their 63rd league game in a row at Anfield without losing.

This will equal their record unbeaten home run from February 1978 to December 1980 under manager Bob Paisley.

The omens are good — the Hammers have won just one of their last 47 away league games against Liverpool and their manager David Moyes has never won at Anfield in the Premier League in 15 attempts (drawn six, lost nine). 

If Leeds forward Patrick Bamford scores a hat-trick against Leicester on Monday, he will be the first Leeds player since 1926 to hit a treble in consecutive top-flight games.

That year saw 24-year-old Tom Jennings score three on September 25 v Arsenal, October 2 v Liverpool and October 9 v Blackburn. Leeds have scored 12 goals in the Premier League this season — the most by a newly promoted team after six games since Middlesbrough in 1992-93 (also 12).



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