LONDON -- When you're in the desert, you'll take even the murkiest glass of water to quench your thirst. Tottenham will greedily guzzle down Tuesday's 5-0 win over Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League group stage, even if it was a victory gained over a team so limp and passive they barely qualified as opposition.
This was one of those games in which players struggling for form tried to boost their self-confidence with a couple of freebie goals, eschewing sensible passes in favour of slightly implausible shots because, well, why not? The other team wasn't going to stop them, so they might as well.
Red Star were such a nonentity that we can't draw broad conclusions or make definitive statements heralding the return of Tottenham's form or even place it in the context of their season as a whole. Sure, they swept aside what was put in front of them clinically, kept a clean sheet and will thus feel much better about themselves, but they play Liverpool on Sunday. This win won't carry them too far.
But if nothing else, it showed that there is a spark left somewhere in this Spurs team: It might have seemed dormant for most of the season, but they're not completely dead.
There was nothing more sparky than the performance of Harry Kane. There are statistics to suggest that his potency as an out-and-out No. 9 has faded a little in recent times, but his brace here took him to nine goals from 12 games (plus six in four for England) this season; not bad in a good team, and in one struggling as badly as Spurs have been, it's exceptional.
Yet the goals almost felt like a sideshow compared to the rest of his performance, which was that of an expert playmaker as well as a goal scorer -- a No. 10 and a No. 9 rolled into one. There was Kane, dropping deep and curling a beautiful pass over the defence; there was Kane, on the wing looking for a telling cross; there was Kane, allowing Dele Alli to run beyond him and play a neat one-two; and there was Kane, scoring two goals of precision and delicacy, one a header, one a caressed finish into the bottom corner having worked space for himself to shoot.
He started early. Just after settling a few nerves with that opening goal, Kane dropped so deep he was almost standing on right-back Serge Aurier's toes, as he fizzed a pass behind the Red Star backline that Kevin de Bruyne would have sagely approved of.
Not long after that, he created the space for Tottenham's second goal. As Erik Lamela ran down the right side of the box, Kane hung back slightly, when you might expect a centre-forward to drive for the 6-yard box. That movement seemed to briefly flummox the Red Star defence, unsure whether to track him or keep their line, and in the end they did neither. That meant Son Heung-Min had room to run into when Lamela crossed, and he could barely miss.
That sort of thing isn't an accident: Kane was half making himself available for a cut-back, half dragging his opponents out of position for the benefit of a colleague. Either way, the result was probably going to be the same, and it was the work of a player more cerebral than he is often given credit for.
Lamela himself could barely miss not long after half-time when, again, Kane dropped deep and curled another pass over a dawdling Red Star defence to put the Argentinean clean through, but miss he did, almost trying to be too careful about the finish. It was a shame that Kane wasn't able to find Kane with some of those balls.
Kane didn't actually register an assist, but that feels like a technicality. Just because he didn't provide the final pass doesn't mean he wasn't the creative force behind Tottenham's other three goals. Take the fourth, for which he again dropped deep to feed Aurier with a precision ball, the move ultimately finished off by Lamela.
It almost seems unfair, really. Kane is England's best goal scorer in a generation, and it now looks like he's developing into one of their better creative players, too. Having the vision to spot some of his passes on Tuesday was one thing, but the skill to pull them off is something else entirely.
Kane's dropping deep is not exactly a new thing. He has been doing it for a while, but it feels like he's getting so much better at it that we can almost think of him as two players in one, like the result of some gloriously outlandish experiment involving Jurgen Klinsmann, Teddy Sheringham and a madcap scientist's latest contraption.
This looks a little more like the role he has been playing for England, where he's usually flanked by two nominal wingers who are actually more like wide forwards, giddily filling the attacking spots when Kane drifts, menacingly. It's probably not a coincidence that Kane played like this with Son and Lamela either side of him, both in sparkling form themselves.
This is a player maturing, like one of those bands that bursts onto the scene with youthful energy, initially grabbing you by the lapels, but by the third album, they've discovered keyboards and produce richer, more fulfilling sounds. It has been an odd season for everyone at Tottenham, but good things could still come of it, not least the flowering of Kane into something even better than he was before.