Liverpool beware: Tottenham's Harry Kane will show critics he doesn't need rest
Just a month into the 2018-19 season, Harry Kane's form is seemingly cause for concern after a slow start for Tottenham and England.
Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher and Jamie Redknapp -- three former England internationals -- have all claimed this week that Kane's ineffective recent performances for Gareth Southgate's national team against Spain and Switzerland were a sign of the 25-year-old hitting a physical and psychological wall.
Neville recalled how he himself had "really struggled mentally and physically" after playing virtually non-stop from the start of the 1995-96 season for Manchester United and England until helping his club with the Treble in 1999.
Redknapp pointed to Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo benefiting from a family holiday during this international break, insisting Kane also needed "five or six days, just to break away from it," while Carragher claimed he has "never looked quite like the Harry Kane we know" since returning from an ankle injury last April after spending just three weeks on the sidelines.
There is merit to these comments. Kane certainly appeared less explosive during the latter stages of the World Cup and in the early weeks of this season. And, as he showed at Euro 2016 when his heavy-legged performances typified those of Roy Hodgson's team, when Kane runs out of gas he becomes a shadow of his usual self.
But if you flip the narrative, it could be argued that Kane is actually performing better at this stage of the season than any in the past.
Until this August, it had become a running joke that Kane had never scored in the first month of the campaign. He was the definition of a slow starter, though he broke that hoodoo last month by scoring in Tottenham's 3-1 Wembley win against Fulham, before ending another barren run with his first goal at Old Trafford against Manchester United a week later.
So for the only time in his Spurs career, Kane will return to Premier League action after the first international break having already opened his goal scoring account for the season.
Against Spain at Wembley last Saturday, Kane linked well with Marcus Rashford in a 2-1 Nations League defeat and looked sharper in open play than he had in the World Cup knockout games against Colombia, Sweden and Croatia, when the effects of a long domestic season looked to have caught up with him.
But his failure to score against either Spain or Switzerland has led to an inevitable focus on his performances, simply because he has been so prolific in the past that any dip becomes a topic for scrutiny.
It is too early to suggest that Kane is jaded and in need of a break, however, because his career thus far has been a tale of slow starts followed by an upturn of form.
If we get to Christmas without Kane hitting double figures in the goals column, then that will be the time to sound the alarm bells and consider sending him on a two-week holiday.
But with Spurs due to face Liverpool at Wembley on Saturday, it would be wise to suspend judgement until Kane has ploughed through his club's next batch of fixtures considering how he has performed at this stage of the season in the past.
After failing to score last August -- as usual -- Kane returned from the international break by scoring 11 goals in six games for Spurs last September.
Twelve months earlier, he had another blank spell in August before scoring two goals in three games after the international break -- a run that was halted by an injury which then kept him out until November.
At the start of the 2015-16 season, Kane had to wait until Sept. 26 for his first goal for Spurs, but he still ended the campaign with 25 Premier League goals and three more in the cups.
The encounter with Liverpool also offers a positive note for Kane, with the forward having scored five goals in his last seven appearances against Jurgen Klopp's team -- three coming last term.
Yes, there are concerns over Kane when his teammates struggle to create chances for him from open play. Yes, his World Cup exertions are unlikely to be fully out of his system considering that England did not return from Russia until July 15.
But he has always taken time to hit his stride at the start of the season, so let's wait and see how Kane goes from here. The smart money would still be on him finishing the campaign with at least 25 goals.