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Fantasy Premier League Rankings: Is Harry Kane the Top Forward?

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird, a four-time FSWA Award finalist, is RotoWire's Senior Soccer Editor and an editor for the site's NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, CBB and DFS content.

Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus scored seven goals in 10 appearances (eight starts) last season after joining the club in January following his move from Palmeiras in Brazil. Meanwhile, Tottenham's Harry Kane scored seven goals in his last two Premier League matches, bagging four at Leicester City and then clinching his second consecutive Golden Boot with a hat trick at Hull City on the final day of the season. Kane finished with 29 goals, his third straight season with at least 21 during league play, and he is understandably the front runner to win the 2017/18 Golden Boot, coming in with better odds than Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku, Jesus and City teammate Sergio Aguero, who is the last player not named Kane to finish as the highest goal scorer in the Prem.

Kane's totals are eye-opening, but a closer look has me less optimistic that he'll be the top-scoring forward in the Premier League's official fantasy game this season. Looking at Kane's home and away splits, we see that he scored 17 goals on 71 shots (23.9 percent) in 16 home matches and 12 goals on 39 shots (31.0%) in 14 away games. Additionally, five of his 29 goals came from the penalty spot (he missed one), tied for the second-most in the league (James Milner led with seven, while Jermain Defoe also had five). I took a less optimistic stance on Alexandre Lacazette's goal prospects because of his penalty success, so I will certainly acknowledge that Kane has scored five penalties in both of the last two seasons.

As discussed on our latest podcast, it doesn't matter in the Premier League's official fantasy game if players score in bunches because it's simply an accumulation of points over the course of the season. However, that can be detrimental in a format like Togga because you need more consistency for weekly head-to-head matchups. Scoring 120 points one week and then 40 in each of the next two isn't likely to yield positive results in head-to-head leagues, but 200 points in an accumulating format is excellent.

Many people laud Kane for scoring 29 goals in 30 matches, but it's actually 29 goals in 16 games, while he went scoreless in 14. It's a testament to his upside, as he bagged four braces while adding three hat tricks and the four-goal demolition of Leicester City, but he's obviously a player whose production map is all over the place. His home/away split is pretty pronounced there too, as his 12 goals in 14 away matches is really 12 in six, scoring once at Stoke, Arsenal and Southampton, twice at Watford, three times at Hull and four times at Leicester City. His 17 goals at White Hart Lane were spread out over 10 matches, including braces against West Ham, Swansea and Everton and hat tricks against West Brom and Stoke City.

All of the talk about Kane's home and away splits go further to Spurs overall, as they'll play all of their home matches at Wembley Stadium this season while White Hart Lane undergoes a massive upgrade. Playing in a bigger stadium will at least help Spurs' revenue, it may not be as helpful for the on-field product, as they'll go from the second-smallest pitch in the Premier League to the biggest one, as explained by Squawka, a significant difference for a side that has dominated at home over the past few seasons. In fact, Spurs have won just one of their last nine matches at Wembley (they played Champions League and Europa League matches there last season), with their lone win coming against CSKA Moscow. Yes, the caliber of opponents were higher in those matches than, say, Burnley, but one win in nine matches isn't good.

I'm not here to say that Kane is going to be awful and only score 12 goals while Spurs fail to finish in the top six just because they are playing their home matches at Wembley. However, I am becoming more and more confident in my thought that Kane will not be the highest-scoring player in the league's official fantasy game. With Lukaku at Manchester United and Aguero and Jesus about to play together for a full season together, it's entirely possible that three players could score more goals (which are really the foundation of fantasy points for forwards in the league's official fantasy game) than Kane. Again, it's not that I think he's going to be bad, but there seem to be a number of factors working against Kane becoming the first player to win three consecutive Golden Boots since Thierry Henry.

I'm still working on my rankings for this season, but here's what I have now (I didn't include Diego Costa, as he isn't expected to be with Chelsea this season):