White Hart Lane truly is the land of the rising Son. Tottenham’s modest bit-parter has been suddenly thrust centre stage, drawing praise from all angles for his recent performances.
Spurs attack had been slow to get going this season, and while results had been steady, their forward play hadn’t been at its penetrative best. It takes a while for most teams to blow the cobwebs off of course, but Spurs attack looked strangely clunky and out of sync for a set of players who know each other so well.
Things improved considerably a fortnight ago in a 4-0 away win at Stoke and a large part of their attacking improvement at The Britannia was down to the inclusion of Son Heung-Min, who started his first league game of the season.
The 24 year old bagged two fine goals against Stoke and excelled when picked to start again at the weekend in Spurs narrow home win over Sunderland, the 1-0 score line flattering the visitors.
When a back-up player takes a chance with both hands with such alacrity, it must be one of the most positive feelings a manager can have. Is it any wonder Pochettino has been getting a little carried away in his interviews lately?
With an incessant work rate, two good feet, clever movement and an impressive end product Son Heung-Min is currently ticking all the Tottenham boxes that Erik Lamela is supposed to. It must feel like a new superstar summer signing (Levy’s favourite /sarcasm) has just kicked into gear.
Spurs Argentine poster boy hasn’t been playing particularly poorly, it’s just that his South Korean team mate is in such white hot form, Lamela has looked ordinary in comparison. If both players are in direct competition for a starting berth in Pochettino’s starting XI, Son simply has to play.
From a statistical standpoint, Son’s figures are noticeably better than Lamela’s in all the right areas. Son has managed an average 5 shots per game in the Premier League compared to Lamela’s 1.8, he has made an average of 4 key passes per game in the league to Lamela’s 2.2 and Son has completed an average of 2.2 successful dribble per game to Lamela’s 1.8.
As always, statistics only tell a part of the story and Son’s appreciation of space and intelligent positional sense can only be witnessed first-hand. Regular watchers of the Bundesliga won’t be surprised by Son’s sudden upturn in form, his quality is highly appreciated in Germany. And had Son got his wish over the summer, that’s where he might have been plying his trade this season.
“He came to see me and said he needed my help, and I said: OK, always my door is open. He is a quiet person, a nice person. After the Olympic Games his idea was to leave to go to Germany. In his mind, he would like to move but in the end he accepted the decision to stay and fight for his position.” Manuel Pochettino revealed recently.
The urge to start every week can sometimes push players into making hasty decisions and Son is being rewarded for his patience and professionalism.
Pochettino will hope that Son’s blistering form and growing influence can help offset what could very well turn out to be a less than auspicious summer transfer window for Spurs. It would be harsh to cast players on to the flop pile after a month of football, but on the evidence thus far, Vincent Janssen looks like another Eredivisie-dud, the latest in a lengthening line of players who excelled in a league of drastically declining standards. Tottenham fans may be aghast at that kind of assessment of a young player a month into the new season, but with Harry Kane facing a spell on the sidelines, I doubt many of them are overly optimistic about Janssen’s chances of filling the gap adequately.
The purchase of Moussa Sissoko screamed of last minute panic and while he will provide energy, I can’t envisage him providing much else. Wanyama arrived for a reasonable sum, but will only flesh out the squad without improving it by much. He should find himself playing second fiddle to Dier and Dembele most weeks.
The question marks over Tottenham’s summer business means Son’s emergence as a big hitter takes on extra importance. Without a direct improvement to their strongest XI, it could have been argued that Spurs were standing still while their rivals were making strides.
Son’s form suddenly means Spurs range of attacking midfield options looks almost unparalleled in the Premier League and if Man City can claim superiority there, the difference looks marginal.
With the South Korean expected to feature heavily in Spurs team over the next few weeks, it really is Son’s time to shine.
by Simon Winter