After an average start to his Spurs career, Heung-Min Son is finally starting to make a role for himslef in Pochettino's plans, but what does the future hold for him? Nathan Weaver discusses our South Korean dynamo.
The weekend’s FA Cup game against Wycombe Wanderers was a thriller. Regardless of the calibre of the opponent or the performance that Spurs displayed early in the game, the spirit shown to not just get back into the game but to go on and win it as well is nothing less than remarkable. Central to Tottenham’s mid-game revival was Heung-Min Son, scoring the first and the decisive last of our four goals, the South Korean international summed up the temperament of Pochettino’s Tottenham side.
It was no surprise to Spurs fans that Pochettino rotated his side for this cup game with the likes of Michel Vorm, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Josh Onomah making a rare appearance. These changes are often praised when they pay off yet heavily criticised when they do not. Nevertheless, Spurs did have quality in their attack and outlets to score goals such as the likes of Son. Opportunities were occasional in the first half; the Korean failed to take advantage of the absence of Wycombe goalkeeper Jamal Blackman in the first half soon followed by a low shot well saved by the Chelsea loanee.
The Korean’s energetic force is why he plays such an important role for us despite not always making the starting XI
Despite Spurs’ rising confidence, a converted penalty by Paul Hayes reduced Tottenham’s hold of the game out before half-time. However, the three swift substitutions made by Pochettino reinvigorated his side. The introductions of Janssen, Dembélé and Alli saw a more attacking threat from Tottenham with Son beginning and finishing the astonishing comeback. The Korean’s energetic force is why he plays such an important role for us despite not always making the starting XI.
Son arrived in North London during the final days of 2015’s Summer transfer window. His arrival from Germany divided many Spurs fans with some admiring his attacking presence while others became frustrated at Tottenham’s failure to sign a true number 9 to play back-up to Harry Kane. Yet with just 4 goals in last season’s league campaign, Son sought a move back to the Bundesliga to attain more playing time. However, no move materialised and the Korean was challenged by Pochettino to fight for his place after guiding his country to the quarter-finals at the 2016 Olympics. With 7 league goals already this season, a revitalised Son has served Tottenham well in many ways.
The most notable contribution Tottenham’s number 7 has made to the team this season is by filling the void after the ankle injury to Harry Kane. While both Son and Janssen started the game in Middlesbrough, it was Son who shone by scoring a brace with Janssen struggling to find the back of the net. The Korean also opened our Champions League scoring account with a goal in Moscow but the real test was waiting when Guardiola’s unbeaten Manchester City team visited White Hart Lane.
The team performance was nothing short of magnificent yet it was Son who provided a vital assist for Dele Alli to double Tottenham’s advantage. With the South Korean playing as the lone striker, Spurs found a way of coping well and succeeding without their number 10. Son’s striking form did not last long though as Spurs went on a run of 6 games without a win until Kane’s return. Overall, the Korean deputised well in the absence of Kane while Janssen was unable to fill the void. Quality back-up strikers are rare to come by in the Premier League so Son’s ability to step up when called upon should and has been applauded accordingly.
While Son may not make the starting XI each week, the ability to bring real quality onto the pitch is a useful tool for any team to have
The term “impact sub” is often coined in football where a player can turn a game on its head. This is not the only way in which a substitute can be used to make an impact though. In the case of Son, the player has been utilised to kill games off by tiring the opposition out. With Spurs 2-1 up at St. Mary’s on a cold December evening, Pochettino swapped the power of Moussa Sissoko for the pace and energy of Heung-Min Son. Son capitalised on the fatigue of Southampton’s ten men and even got Tottenham’s third goal of the game, putting any chance of claiming points out of reach for the south coast team.
Similarly, Son came on to replace Kevim Wimmer at half-time at the Etihad and clawed Tottenham a point despite conceding two goals shortly after the break. These moments are not to be underestimated as the addition of an extra dynamic can provide a layer of security to games. While Son may not make the starting XI each week, the ability to bring real quality onto the pitch is a useful tool for any team to have. This will become even more apparent as Tottenham’s schedule becomes more congested with the juggling of three competitions.
The ability to score a goal despite a poor overall team performance can sustain a title challenge for any top team. The ability to convert losses into draws sees Tottenham as the team who has lost the fewest amount of league games so far this. While draws are never satisfying, drawing in games where we do not perform at our best maintains Tottenham’s credibility as genuine title contenders. Son’s equaliser in Manchester earlier in the year not only rescued Spurs a point but it also kept us on course to challenge for the title. Son is one of the many Tottenham players who have bought into Pochettino’s “never say die” philosophy which has served us well in terms of changing the mentality of the squad over the last two and a half years.
Son is one of the many Tottenham players who have bought into Pochettino’s “never say die” philosophy which has served us well
Despite Son’s struggle to cement himself a pivotal role at the club, he is undoubtedly a talented player who can offer a lot to this Tottenham side. With goals in his locker, he can be useful as both a starter, in times when Kane is rested or injured, or as an impact substitute to change a game accordingly. While he is both young and willing to fight for his place, Pochettino is sure to develop his attacking game further as he has done with the likes of Alli and Kane.
Son’s best position could also be debated but it is this versatility, to be able to play as a lone striker, a second striker or as a winger, that makes him so fundamental to Pochettino’s side. The Argentine’s tendency to change formations through this season has allowed Son to play in multiple positions, contributing to the team in different ways. Son’s presence should also encourage competition within the squad to encourage others to progress as he has done under Pochettino.