Arsenal desperate for a Harry Kane of their own
The fact that Harry Kane was released from the Arsenal academy at age 9 has now passed into Tottenham legend. For Spurs fans, it must be all the more delicious to know that their talisman was once overlooked by their local rivals. Arsene Wenger has intimated that, admittedy with a considerable degree of hindsight, he's less than pleased at the academy's decision to let Kane go. That's understandable: The striker has evolved into one of Europe's most dangerous marksmen. However, perhaps even more so than his goals, it's his connection with the Spurs' supporters that Arsenal fans are most jealous of.
If Kane finds the net against Arsenal this weekend -- and the statistics suggest that he invariably does -- the travelling Tottenham faithful will doubtless serenade him with chants of, "He's one of our own." Loyalty and affection is frequently professed between club and player, but in the case of Kane and Spurs it actually feels authentic. He grew up in the local area, surrounded by a family of Tottenham fans. The fact that he is now playing and scoring goals on a remarkably regular basis is nothing less than a modern fairy tale.
How Arsenal crave a new hero to inject some life into a club that has gone horribly stale. You can sense it every time the club buys a new player -- there's hope that he could be the totemic figure to lead the Gunners into a glorious new era. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have both briefly worn that mantle, only for their relationship with the supporters to become fractured over the sticky issue of contract negotiations. Alexandre Lacazette has shown some promise, but Wenger's unwillingness to select him in the big games will have faith in him on the wane. Plus, none of these players could be said to have the natural affinity that Kane does with the Spurs.
However, Jack Wilshere is very much an Arsenal man -- he's been with the club since the age of 9. While he has shown flashes of ability since returning to Emirates Stadium, the desire to see him play regularly seems to be as much a consequence of the fans yearning for some sense of connection to the team. Their manager has alienated himself; their best players are openly mercenary. Arsenal need something, someone to get behind -- and Wilshere is the closest thing to fitting the bill.
That also goes some way toward explaining the hysteria around Eddie Nketiah. The teenage striker emerged from the substitutes bench to score twice against Norwich on his home debut, and while excitement over that is completely understandable, the fervour is remarkable. Arsenal desperately want their own self-schooled superstar. A young striker hasn't convincingly come through the ranks since the 1990s. Benik Afobe and Chuba Akpom were both talked about as having the potential to be a "Kane-like" figure, but neither delivered. Now the hope is that Nketiah could be the man to do it. The fact he was once released by rivals Chelsea is a notable parallel with the Kane story.
Arsenal fans crave a saviour: a homegrown hero to reignite their passion and their Premier League campaign. For different reasons, neither Wilshere nor Nketiah look particularly ready to be that player. Wilshere's fitness issues mean he's unlikely to ever be relied upon as a regular starter, while Nketiah is still a long way from competing for a first-team place. For now, Arsenal must continue to cast envious glances at Kane. The wait for one of Arsenal's own to lift them out of mediocrity continues.
James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.