Rivals

Harry Kane vs Thierry Henry: Assessing who was better in their prime

Jamie Spencer
Kane in action
Kane in action
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Arsenal legend Thierry Henry and Tottenham talisman Harry Kane are two of the greatest strikers in Premier League history, sitting on either side of one of English football’s fiercest rivalries.

Each has their own incredible strengths, with few obvious weaknesses, and fans and neutrals alike could argue either’s corner all day long.

But assessing their pair on four important criteria, who actually was the better player?


North London derbies record

Kane has an excellent record against Arsenal
Kane has an excellent record against Arsenal / IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

One of Henry’s most famous Arsenal goals came against Tottenham in 2002, carrying the ball 60 yards or more from deep inside his own half at Highbury and firing low into the corner.

He also never lost a north London derby during his career, although he scored far more goals against other teams than he ever did against Spurs. Five goals in 11 derby matches is certainly respectable, but there are 19 clubs Henry was more prolific against – 12 in 13 against Leeds, for example, 10 against Chelsea, nine against Manchester United, or 13 against poor Middlesbrough.

Kane, meanwhile has completely redressed the balance in north London. He has scored 11 times in 15 derby appearances, helping Spurs win six of those, bettering Arsenal’s record over the same period. That would have been utterly unheard of in Henry’s day.

In his career to date, the Spurs talisman has only ever scored more often against two clubs – Everton (12) and Leicester (17).

Verdict: Harry Kane


Pace & dribbling

Thierry Henry
Henry could leave defenders in his wake / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Where Kane cannot hold a candle to Henry is when it comes to pace and dribbling. The England striker is a skilled passer of the ball, a side of his game he has developed as he has matured, but his overall strengths are built on power and movement rather than obvious athletic agility.

Henry started as a winger, a role he played for Monaco and Juventus, as well as at the start of his international career for France. His effortless speed lent itself perfectly to playing out wide, whether it be on the left or right, while he was also a natural ball carrier.

Those assets later underpinned his transition to a more central position and helped make him one of the best strikers in the world by the time he had reached Arsenal in 1999. Some of his most memorable goals for the Gunners were the result of solo runs.

Kane just doesn’t have that kind of speed to run away from defenders.

Verdict: Thierry Henry


Trophies

Thierry Henry
Thierry Henry won a huge amount with Arsenal & others / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Henry won team and individual accolades throughout his illustrious career, with his first taste of silverware coming as a golden Monaco side won the French title in 1996/97 when he was 19. At 20, he had a World Cup medal and added Euro 2000 glory to his haul two years later.

In England, Henry won two Premier League titles with Arsenal, one of which was the historic ‘Invincibles’ season, as well as two FA Cups. Individually, he also won four Premier League Golden Boots and was twice a top three finisher in the Ballon d’Or.

Following on from that, the Frenchman won the Champions League with Barcelona as part of an historic treble and even tasted glory with New York Red Bulls by winning MLS’ Supporters’ Shield, handed to the club that tops the regular season standings each year.

In stark contrast, Kane has won…well, nothing. He has his three Golden Boot awards, but in terms of actual team trophies his cabinet is bare. That was one of the motivating factors behind his desire to leave Tottenham this summer, to find a club who could help him win something.

Verdict: Thierry Henry


Goalscoring instinct

Kane has an outstanding goal record in the Premier League
Kane has an outstanding goal record in the Premier League / JON SUPER/Getty Images

Both Henry and Kane are exceptional goalscorers in different ways.

Henry is sixth on the Premier League’s list of all-time top scorers on 175, having spent his peak years in English football with Arsenal and leaving at the age of 29.

A 28-year-old Kane is already only one place behind and would be expected to overtake him at some point during the 2021/22 season, barring an improbable and unforeseeable total loss of form.

Even though he had stopped playing on the wing early in his career, Henry’s preference was still to drift to the left flank. Kane is much more of a natural ‘number nine’ in a traditional sense, a player who is more comfortable in the penalty area as a poacher.

Kane is arguably also the marginally better goalscorer. If we were to strike off Henry’s last season at Arsenal in 2006/07 when he played only a limited number of games, plus his brief loan return in 2012, and judge Kane from the start of 2014/15 when he became a regular until the end of 2020/21, both have played seven full directly comparable Premier League seasons at a similar age.

Within that, Henry scored 164 Premier League goals in 237 appearances at an average of 0.69 per game. Kane got 163 in 232 games, averaging 0.7 per game.

Verdict: Harry Kane

Results

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So with the two players locked level after our analysis, we decided to throw the decision out to all you football fans out there.

And now the results are in...

Your winner, with a whopping 88% of the fan votes is prime Thierry Henry.


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