In the summer of 2015, it was rare to see Harry Kane’s name written without labels like “one-season wonder”, “fraud” or “new Francis Jeffers” closely followed. Two years and two Premier League golden boots later, he has put all those questions about his ability to bed. The critics were right about there being a one-season wonder at Tottenham Hotspur, however, but he had not arrived yet.
Vincent Janssen finished the 2015-16 season as the Eredivisie top scorer. He had been playing second division football in the Netherlands only a season earlier, and his sudden nationwide fame at the age of 21 naturally drew comparisons with his future team-mate, Kane.
In the summer of 2016, he was handed the Johan Cryuff trophy for the best Dutch talent of the year. Mauricio Pochettino had watched him play for the national side on several occasions that summer, and he eventually signed for Tottenham from AZ Alkmaar for a reported £18m.
Janssen’s rise and sudden success was almost identical to Kane’s, but after his transfer the fortunes of the two could not have panned out more differently. Regardless of how well Janssen had done in the Netherlands, he was never going to walk into a Spurs side which preferred to play a lone striker, considering the preferred choice up front was the current Premier League golden boot holder.
Janssen started off somewhat brightly, but found first team opportunities hard to come by until Kane suffered a serious ankle injury that kept him out for around two months. This was the Dutchman’s big chance to prove himself, and he flopped spectacularly.
For context, Kane got injured on the 21st of September; Janssen scored his first Premier League goal (a penalty) on the 29th of October. He constantly looked off the pace, struggled to get into goal-scoring positions and when he did receive a chance, he usually fluffed his lines.
The beginning of the end
Near the end of Kane’s time out injured, Pochettino began to play winger Heung Min Son as the main striker, returning Janssen to the bench. The manager seemed to lose all faith in the Dutchman, not even providing him with the five-minute cameos which made up the majority of his Spurs career.
The striker proceeded to make only a few more appearances, scoring one league goal for the rest of the season. He managed a number of goals against lower league opposition in the cup competitions, but in the Europa League he failed to score at all in the six matches he played.
In all competitions, he managed six goals in in 35 appearances, which for a striker at a top side is simply not good enough. So far this season, he has barely featured and has now been left out of Tottenham’s Champions League squad. His future at the club is looking bleak to say the least.
The dying art of the Premier League poacher
Janssen had the same issue as another notorious flop, Roberto Soldado: their goal-scoring predominantly takes place in the six-yard box. Unfortunately for both, in England, especially in sides playing with a lone striker, this makes them very easy to mark and keep quiet. Ten years ago, Jannsen could easily had a prosperous spell in North London, scoring tap-ins for fun, but the rise of the attacking midfielder and the death of the 4-4-2 formation has made life impossible for old-fashioned poachers.
To his credit, the 23-year-old has very strong hold-up play, which was one of the only bright spots in his performances, but Tottenham did not need that. With the likes of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen in the side, creating chances was not a problem. What the team needed was a backup for Kane who was capable of scoring more than one goal from open play a season.
What happens next
Janssen has proved his talent for the Netherlands, but Spurs is certainly not the club for him and the Premier League may not be the right league, either. During the last transfer window, there were several media stories suggesting that he was unhappy with his lack of involvement at the club and would consider a move away.
Following the arrival of Fernando Llorente, it was presumed Janssen would be packing his bags, but he bizarrely turned down the chance to sign for Brighton on loan. The chance to play more regular football was on offer, so one can only presume he believes them to be below his level. He still remains first-choice in the national side, but he is unlikely to get much game time at Tottenham. In all likelihood, he will move abroad in January—perhaps after a few more appearances in the cup competitions—and that would be in all parties’ best interests.
Embed from Getty Images