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Fantasy EPL: The trouble with Harry

How the mighty have fallen! What's going on with Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur? Focus Images/Imago/Icon Sportswire

We're just five weeks into the season and there are already plenty of strikers upon whom fantasy players can rely. Thus far, Sergio Aguero, Teemu Pukki, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have all scored at least one goal in four of their five domestic matches. Add that to the group who have scored in at least three matches, and there are about 10 forwards that have been consistently producing at the start the 2019-20 campaign. All of that success has masked criticism for some pretty big-name strikers thus far -- and no striker has underperformed his ability this season quite so much as Harry Kane.

This may come as a surprise to some, especially considering the England and Tottenham talisman has scored more goals since he became a full-time starter in 2014-15 than anyone else in this competition. This year is already a bit different though. His three goals thus far aren't awful, but a quick glance at his underlying numbers shows that something is not quite right.

The most notable change for Kane is the pronounced drop in his shots on target. Historically, Kane has been dominant in this category, ranking among the best in the league in four of the past five seasons. The only year he didn't was last year's injury-plagued campaign. While one might expect a healthy Kane to once again rise to the top of the charts in this category, so far he sits just 22nd in the league in shots on target, having managed just four of them.

Significantly contributing toward that plummeting rank is the fact that Kane has failed to direct even a single shot on frame in three matches already this season. For context, he only had seven such matches all of last season. If we zoom out a bit further, we find that Kane is also coasting below his career marks in goals and total shots taken as well. Now, the decrease in total shots is the real root of the problem: fewer shots leads to fewer shots on target, which leads to fewer goals.

This is obviously a problem in general, but in the ESPN game, it's even worse. Typically things like shot totals are used to project the likelihood of goals, but for fantasy purposes, the number of shots you take -- be they on or off target -- directly impact your fantasy point total. So, not only is Kane less likely to score goals, but he's also less likely to provide you points from any of the shooting-related statistics.

His performance in the other categories isn't particularly helping his value either. Kane's involvement in overall flow of play has also taken a tumble with his total touches, touches in the box, passes attempted, and passes completed all also falling short of his per-90 career averages. The cumulative effect of all of this has been that Kane has dropped more than two points per game (11.26) from his average last season (13.46). Remember, this is a drop from last year's worst goal-scoring season for Kane since becoming a starter at Tottenham.

That drop in points has obviously tarnished Kane's relevance in the ESPN game on the whole right now, let alone in the first forward tier. This season, the Tottenham man ranks No. 8 overall at his position. He fails to even break into the top five in his own tier. In fact, out of our 15 scoring statistics, Kane currently leads in just four of them. He's tied for the most appearances with five. He also has not yet done anything in the "negative categories" such as yellow cards, red cards, and penalties missed.

Hopefully, I've been quite clear that you shouldn't be using Kane in your fantasy team at the moment. Over the course of the season though, there's every chance that Kane could put things together. After all, in general, things typically regress to the mean. For those new to the concept, just ask yourself if it's more likely that "Harry Kane was a world-class striker and an absolute fantasy stud and now suddenly isn't" or that "Harry Kane will eventually get things back on track"?

Somewhat promising is the fact that, despite all of the other statistical upheaval, there is one number that has remained surprisingly consistent. Over the last three seasons, about 80% of Kane's fantasy points have come from just three categories: shots on target, shots off target, and goals. Obviously, he does more on the pitch than just stand in the opposing penalty area and launch shots all day, but that is nevertheless where the overwhelming majority of his points come from.

After all of the negative statistics I mentioned earlier, it would be safe to assume that this number would be depressed as well. However, it's not. Despite all of the turmoil, Kane is currently recording 81.7% of his points from those same three categories. In other words, Kane's points are still coming from all of the same places -- and at the same rate. There just haven't been as many of them. What this says to me is that once Kane starts winding up the spiral of shots, which will translate to more shots on target, which should convert into more goals, he could quickly re-establish himself as one of the best strikers in the Premier League and one of the best fantasy options in the ESPN game.

Until that happens, however, it's probably best for you to steer clear.