How well would Harry Kane fit Pep Guardiola’s system at Man City?

Harry Kane dribbles away from three Manchester City players

The most unedifying byproducts of the transfer window are the PR wars that accompany high-profile moves. The script is invariably the same every time. A club makes an informal agreement that the player can leave in certain circumstances; the player thinks the conditions are met; the club acts like a jilted lover; and fans rage at their former hero.

Eventually, Tottenham Hotspur will get their price and Harry Kane will move to Manchester City. The striker’s name will be mud around White Hart Lane. In all the fuss it will be forgotten that Daniel Levy, a chairman who has delivered just a League Cup in his two decades in charge, has made a mess of things again.

The obvious question for Kane is why did he sign a six-year contract extension three years ago? There is an equally obvious answer: for the pay rise. He also believed that if things did not go as well as hoped at Tottenham he would be allowed to leave on friendly terms. More fool him.

Fate has conspired to make the England captain look daft on Sunday. Spurs opened their Premier League campaign with a 1-0 victory over City. Almost the entire ground sang “Are you watching Harry Kane?” in the game’s closing moments.

If the chant gave him any second thoughts, last night’s 1-0 defeat by Pacos de Ferreira in the first leg playoff of the Europa Conference League would have brought Kane back to reality. The forward and City have their eyes on the Champions League trophy and the logic behind the proposed transfer is that Kane is the missing link that will help Pep Guardiola’s side go one step further than last season, when they were beaten 1-0 in the final by Chelsea. It might not be that simple.

Guardiola’s commitment to attacking football is impressive. His determination to do it without a traditional midfield is bold to the point of recklessness.

The idea is simple. The Catalan likes to play a high back line and condense the pitch. Five attack-minded players press the opposition defenders with the aim of winning the ball back in dangerous positions. In the first 20 minutes at White Hart Lane this worked almost perfectly. City should have been three goals up before Tottenham put a coherent move together. With a better cutting edge, the champions could have killed off the game before it turned into a contest.

Then things began to go wrong. City’s high press is not as voracious as it was. Kane will not improve it. Guardiola was never quite sold on Sergio Aguero, one of the best goalscorers in the world, because the Argentinian did not harry defenders as energetically as his boss would have liked. Naturally, Aguero preferred to save some energy for his real job: putting the ball in the back of the net. Kane might meet with similar problems.

If City do not dominate their opposition’s defensive zone, they become vulnerable to the break. Fernandinho – or whoever is deployed in a similar role – cannot cover the space between City’s five forwards and the back four. Steven Bergwijn offered a template for how to counter Guardiola’s men when City attacks break down. Instead of looking up for a pass – which would have allowed the pressers to swarm about him – he took off and ran at the centre backs. The front five were left trailing, the back four were forced into retreat. The sole (more or less) traditional midfielder was unable to protect the defenders. The better teams will exploit this weakness in City’s game – if they can survive the barrage.

Kane might help City kill off matches earlier but so much of the team’s success relies on pressing in the final third. Like Aguero, the Englishman is not the perfect fit for this system.

The key to Guardiola really enforcing his side’s hegemony in Europe is finding a way to reshape his midfield but an extra body in the centre will mean a less explosive front line. To dominate the Champions League knockout stages City need a better balance, not just more goals. In the Premier League against the likes of Norwich City, who they play tomorrow at the Etihad, City do not have to be perfect. Kane will get plenty of opportunities to win Golden Boots in domestic football. But that is not why they want him at the Etihad. European glory is the target.

After spending £100 million on Jack Grealish, it seems that City are throwing their resources at stockpiling flair players and the concept of caution is not a consideration in east Manchester. Beauty, not balance, defines the recruitment policy.

Kane will win trophies if he moves north but, like leaving Tottenham, it might not be quite as straightforward as he expected. Despite the cash being spent, there are no guarantees for City and Kane.

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