It’s the circle of life from a football content perspective, and while sometimes it offers just some time-wasting filler, it occasionally offers some meat, too. Typically, anything to do with Jose Mourinho is pretty meaty.
After Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur tied Manchester United 1-1 on June 19 — a solid, if unlikely, result given United’s 1.82-0.47 advantage on expected goals — former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson played the role of the pundit by declaring that Spurs forward Harry Kane will need to “have a serious think at the end of the season” because he isn’t likely to continue his “25-30 goals a season,” according to Merson, for a team managed by Mourinho.
There are plenty of reasons to doubt whether Mourinho was the right hire for Spurs. He wears out his welcome and falls out with certain players, and his performances have regressed a bit over the past seven years. But an elite striker will score goals in Mourinho’s system. It’s one thing that doesn’t belong on the doubts list.
Kane vs. other Mourinho strikers
Kane only recently entered what one would normally call an athlete’s prime years. He turns 27 in late July and could theoretically command pretty big money on the open market. But a combination of injuries and dead legs has impaired him over the past couple of seasons. In four seasons from 2014 through 2018, Kane averaged 47 club and cup appearances per season for Spurs and scored an average of 34 goals. That output fell to 40 matches and 24 goals in 2018-19; in an injury-ravaged 2019-20, he’s contributed only 26 appearances and 17 goals thus far. After averaging 0.71 goals per 90 minutes in 2014-18, he’s been at only 0.65 the past two years.
His average in 13 matches under Mourinho: 0.70. He was nearly invisible against United, but it was his first match in nearly half a year. He was doing fine with his new boss early on, or at least, he wasn’t doing any worse under the Portuguese manager than he was before Mourinho’s arrival. (On Thursday night, he saw two goals disallowed in a 3-1 defeat to Sheffield United but did get on the scoresheet in the 90th minute, scant consolation for Spurs.)
That number alone gives Mourinho something to refute Merson’s declarations, but luckily for everyone involved, he brought his own stats to the table when responding to Merson’s claims last Monday.
“I can say that I had a few strikers who played for me and they are not bad,” Mourinho said. “I had one guy called [Didier] Drogba. He played for me four seasons, he scored 186 goals which gives an average of 46 goals per season.” He went on to point out the numbers many other elite strikers produced for him, from Cristiano Ronaldo (“He played for me for three seasons. He scored 168 goals which gives an average of 56 goals per season.”) to Karim Benzema (“He scored for me 78 goals in three seasons.”) to Diego Milito (“He played one season for me, he scored 30 goals.”) to Zlatan Ibrahimovic (“He played for me for 1½ seasons, he scored 58 goals.”). Continue reading