“Harry Kane is an incredible player. What he’s done in recent years and his career is amazing, so Tammy needs to look up to that.”
So said Chelsea manager Frank Lampard on Saturday, after in-form striker Tammy Abraham struck his 10th Premier League goal of the season against Crystal Palace.
A few hours later, England captain Kane was enduring another frustrating afternoon as Tottenham were held to a 1-1 draw by Sheffield United, with the 26-year-old a largely peripheral figure.
Abraham, 22, has been included in Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions squad for this week’s Euro 2020 qualifiers against Montenegro on Thursday and Kosovo on Sunday.
And while Kane remains the undisputed first choice, what do the numbers tell us about who should be leading the line?
Abraham for England?
Lampard believes current England captain Kane is the “next stage” for Abraham, who has already “shown there are so many parts to his game”.
However, the Chelsea striker is outperforming Kane in almost every aspect after 12 Premier League games this season.
Abraham is the English top flight’s second-highest goalscorer this term, trailing Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy by one goal (we’ll get to Vardy later).
Of the strikers included in Southgate’s Three Lions squad, Abraham is out-performing his expected goals (xG) value by the biggest margin – so far scoring three goals more than would be expected based on the chances he has had.
Among those players, the Chelsea youngster has had the most shots – 38 – but still boasts the joint-highest shot conversion rate alongside Callum Wilson, with the Bournemouth attacker registering exactly half Abraham’s number of attempts.
And he’s already mixing it with some big names in the Chelsea record books.
Abraham became the second youngest player to reach double figures for Premier League goals for Chelsea after Dutch winger Arjen Robben.
In the club’s history, only Diego Costa and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink have required fewer matches to reach 10 Premier League goals.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live as Abraham put Chelsea ahead in Saturday’s game, former Premier League midfielder Steve Sidwell said: “I played against Tammy when he was at Bristol City and you could see he had all the abilities to get to the top.
“I’ve been really impressed this season. So far this game he had not had a sniff, but he showed coolness and composure to slot that in. He’s firing on all cylinders.”
The case for Kane
While Abraham and Chelsea are flying high, Kane’s Tottenham are struggling in 14th place in the Premier League table.
The England skipper has netted six times in 11 Premier League games so far, scoring with one in every five of his overall attempts.
That’s enough to keep Kane, 26, on track to beat his haul of 17 league goals in an injury-disrupted campaign last term, following a personal record tally of 30 in 2017-18.
But, watching Spurs for Radio 5 Live on Saturday, former goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer described Kane as “stationary”.
He added: “It’s one of the few games I’ve ever seen him play where he hasn’t really caused problems.
“He hasn’t had a lot of movement, he’s stayed very central and when they have tried to play balls up to him he was either too high or he was outnumbered and lost the ball very easily.”
The task facing Chelsea’s Abraham now is consistency, something Kane has mastered over recent seasons.
Across Europe’s top five leagues, only four players have scored more club goals than the Tottenham skipper since the beginning of the 2017-18 campaign.
His 53 goals in that time, averaging one every 122.55 minutes of action, is superior to that of Barcelona’s Luis Suarez and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo.
Meanwhile, for England, Kane continues to deliver consistently.
He has eight goals in England’s six Euro 2020 qualifying matches to date, a figure matched within the squad only by Raheem Sterling, taking him to 28 England goals in 43 caps.
The country’s all-time leading goalscorer Wayne Rooney managed his tally of 53 goals over 119 appearances. Kane is well on his way.
It is up for debate whether another striker, such as Abraham, would have achieved similar returns in a rather favourable Group A – but Kane has proven himself to Southgate on football’s biggest stage as he claimed the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot in Russia.
What about Vardy?
After Abraham had moved level with Jamie Vardy at the top of the goal charts, the Leicester forward returned to his overall lead with an 11th league strike of 2019-20 against Arsenal later on Saturday.
The top scorer in the Premier League in the whole of 2019 with 23 goals, Vardy has now registered eight in his past six games – only failing to find the net against leaders Liverpool during that run.
It’s the second season Vardy has been the first player to 10 goals, along with 2015-16, when now second-placed Leicester went on to win the title.
If he continues to perform at his current clinical best – converting almost half his shots so far and making a mockery of his xG value – there’s no reason why 2020 cannot be a successful year for both club and country.
Vardy will not play any part for England over the coming week after stepping aside from international football to allow England boss Southgate to hand younger players an opportunity.
The 32-year-old did, however, say he was “not shutting the door completely”.
His red-hot form led to Southgate inevitably answering Vardy-related questions at his latest news conference, with the England boss responding that he had “always left that opportunity open”.
“I don’t see the point at this moment in time because the conversation I had with Jamie was around looking at younger players in that position,” Southgate added.
The moment could certainly be next summer, should the Foxes frontman maintain his current level.
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