Harry Kane – Anatomy of a goal scorer

What is there left to say about Harry Kane? The Spurs striker has dramatically exceeded all expectations with his meteoric rise from clumsy looking youth prospect, to one of the most feared strikers in world football.

Kane’s won the Premier League golden boot for the last two seasons and is leading the way again this time around.

I thought I’d delve a bit deeper into his numbers to see if they give us any insights into his incredible performances.

Note: All figures are after 20 games this season (i.e. before the round of games on the 30th/31st December). Expected goal numbers are from my own model – YMMV.

I’m going to compare him with the other players who have scored 8 or more goals this term – I am excluding penalties for this analysis as these aren’t really an indication of in game skill.

How many shots is Kane taking?


The first thing that stands out is the sheer volume of Kane’s shots. It far exceeds the rest of the league – Salah is second, a full 41 shots behind with only 64% of the Spurs striker’s total.

Kane is out in front by a considerable margin on expected goals too. So it looks like his goal tally is built on solid underlying numbers.

How good are the chances Kane is getting?

Is Kane taking more shots because he’ll shoot from anywhere? Expected goals gives an idea of the likelihood of a chance becoming a goal – a shot from the six yard box is assigned a higher probability than a punt from halfway. So by looking at the average xG per shot we can get an idea of chance quality. For comparison, the league average this season is 10% or 0.1 per shot.


Kane is taking the lowest average probability shots of the top 8 goalscorers but not by much. We are talking about one or two percentage points between him and most of the rest.

Gabriel Jesus stands out, five percentage points above the next highest. Is this because of the quality of service he receives at Manchester City? Is he more of a penalty box player than some of the others?

Is Kane particularly good at converting chances?

30% of shots in this season’s Premier League are on target, while 10% of shots become goals.

All of the top 8 are getting more shots on target, scoring more goals per shot and outperforming expected goals. This is not a surprise, they are all highly paid star players.


Kane actually has the worst goal per shot ratio of the whole group. He’s also bottom when it comes to getting his shots on target, though it’s very marginal.

Things look better when comparing his strikes versus expected. Here he is performing better than Jesus, Aguero and Lukaku. Overall his ratios are probably closest to Aguero.

So Kane does do better than the league average but not by an amount that distinguishes him from other top goal scorers. It is more the volume of shots that makes him special.

Who creates Kane’s chances?

The official assist numbers have Alli and Trippier top with four assists of Kane goals; Christian Eriksen is surprisingly only on one.

If goals are rare occurrences, assists are necessarily even rarer, so it is probably more instructive to look at key passes (passes that led to a shot).


Here, as expected, Christain Eriksen shines. Unsurprisingly, Kane’s main supply line are the players that tend to play just behind him and the fullbacks.

If we also want to take into account the quality of the chances that were created we can look at expected goals created for Kane by “assister”.


Lamela makes an appearance here despite his lack of game time. This hints at why the Argentine could provide the key when Eriksen needs a rest, or gets tired later in the campaign.


Kane is an amazing player. He has dominated Premier League goal scoring charts in recent years. His goal numbers are based on solid foundations.

What differentiates him from the competition is the sheer volume of shots he takes, partly because of his movement and ability to get a shot off, partly because the way Pochettino’s tactics play to his star strikers strengths and partly because of the creative abilities of the supporting cast of Eriksen, Alli and Son.

Follow me on Twitter: @ABPSpurs

Follow my Expected Goals numbers on Twitter: @ABPNumbers


4 thoughts on “Harry Kane – Anatomy of a goal scorer

  1. charlescrawford

    What strikes me is how good he is at using his balance to keep his head over the ball. This allows him to drill shots low into either corner. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of where in the goal-space he scores. I suspect he shoots on target notably lower than most.

    1. Jon @ AnythingButPenalties Post author

      Interestingly that is something I looked at but didn’t include it here. He does shoot lower than others in this list. His average shot height is lower and he has a higher percentage of very low shots than most.

  2. John Moore

    Great article. I’ve felt for some time that Kane’s success is due to him being strong in five fundamentals. He doesn’t stand out for what you might call ‘eye candy’ — that is, things like tricks, pace, dribbling, or spectacular goals (like overhead kicks). The five fundamentals I’m thinking of are: (1) technique; (2) game intelligence; (3) temperament; (4) physical attributes; (5) work rate.

    (1) Sound technique in shooting and heading means that you miss less chances than players who have unsound technique. If a player who’s sound in technique takes lots of shots, like Kane does, he’ll get many goals. This has already been mentioned in terms of Kane’s low, corner shots. In addition to hitting his shots low and in the corner, he also gets his shots off very quickly, stealing a march on the opposition goalkeeper. (2) Kane’s intelligence means he knows exactly where to run, at exactly the right time, in order to find a key space to score — he can read the movements of team mates and opposing players. He often makes full use of this intelligence by playing deeper as a 10, where he can read what’s going on in front of him.(3) His temperament means he stays calm, he doesn’t get discouraged when he misses a chance. (4) Physically he’s big and strong, but he’s a lot more agile and supple than many other big strikers (Lukaku, for example). (5) The harder you work as a striker, the more chances you’re likely to get.

    Another reason for Kane’s high number of shots could be that he makes more chances for himself than other players. When he falls back into a number 10 position he sometimes carries the ball forward and gets a shot off at the earliest opportunity. Sometimes, when he receives the ball in a deeper position, it looks like there’s no immediate goal chance — but very quickly he’s created a shooting opportunity for himself.


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