FootballPremier League

We must start talking about Son Heung-Min as one of the best players in the Premier League

January 3, 2019

IT was the perfect response from Tottenham on Tuesday night. Days after their limp 3-1 home defeat to Wolves, Spurs bounced back with a comfortable 3-0 win at Cardiff, not necessarily to get a title bid back on track, but rather to end the festive period on a high. Tottenham won four of five league games during the Christmas break, a commendable return for any team, and, in truth, they barely had to get out of second gear in Wales to wrap up the three points.

The victory was guaranteed 20 minutes in as goals from Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-Min ensured a rapid return to winning ways. It wasn’t the best performance by the north London outfit, but it didn’t need to be as Spurs eased past their Welsh counterparts. Needless to say, Mauricio Pochettino’s side showed their class where required. Eriksen’s touch to set himself for his goal was to be expected of the mercurial Dane, while Kane was at his playmaking best at times as he dropped deep to free up space for his attacking teammates to exploit.

Three of Spurs’ awesome foursome – Dele Alli joins Kane, Eriksen and Son in making up the quartet – are nigh-on unstoppable on their day and even as the former struggled to really stamp his authority in the midweek win, Pochettino can rest easy knowing his top attackers can shoulder the burden when one isn’t performing to the best of his ability. It’ll be a shame for Spurs, then, when Son departs for the Asian Cup later this month.

Son’s season has been a stop-start affair, having already missed a chunk of the campaign in South Korea’s Asian Games triumph last year, which means the former Bayer Leverkusen man avoids military service having landed a gold medal in Indonesia back in September. Spurs granted the player the chance to partake in the competition, provided he sat out the November internationals and the Premier League outfit benefitted tremendously. Upon his return to north London and prior to November, Son netted just twice in 13 competitive outings, both of which came in the Carabao Cup win over West Ham.

However, upon his return to regular action after the November international break, and with a richly-deserved prolonged rest under his belt, the 26-year-old looked back to his best, netting nine goals and registering four assists in 12 competitive outings. He signalled his intentions for a sustained run of form with a superb individual effort in Spurs’ 3-1 win over Chelsea, that was enough to win the November goal of the month.

Over the festive period, he really came into his own, having scored six and assisted three in his last five appearances as Tottenham kept the pressure on Liverpool at the top of the table and secured their spot in the next round of the Carabao Cup at rivals Arsenal’s expense. It showed the versatility of his attacking quality as his goals come from every area of the pitch. Of his eight league goals this season, four have come from inside the box; only Kane (10) has more of all Tottenham players in the Premier League. Only Eriksen (3) has scored more goals from outside of the box than Son (2) for Spurs in England’s top tier, as per WhoScored.com

His 16 key passes is the fifth best of every player for the north London side, this coming despite playing just 52.8% of a possible 1,890 minutes in the Premier League this season. With eight goals and five assists to his name, he is having a direct hand in a league goal every 76.8 minutes, that the best record of the 74 players to have scored or assisted five or more Premier League goals this term, as per WhoScored.com. Whenever the discussion of the Premier League’s best player is brought up, that Son is frequently overlooked is almost criminal.

Pochettino has at his disposal one of the most effective versatile attackers in the Premier League, with Son able to operate out wide or centrally. Be it cutting in from the left or right and going for goal from distance, breaking down the wing to peg defenders back, bearing down on goal one-on-one with the goalkeeper or capitalising on a chance in the penalty box, Son’s unpredictability and ability to maximise his wide range of tools renders him one of the most dangerous forwards in England. Mohamed Salah, Eden Hazard, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Kane are all mooted as the best in their respective roles, but, as impressive as they may be, you know exactly what you’ll be getting from the quintet. Given their form this term, this isn’t a critique of the five attackers.

With Son, his adaptability in the final third means he is arguably the jack, and master, of all attacking trades. It could have been all so different for Son, too, as he asked for permission to leave Spurs after his debut campaign in order to gain more playing time, but Pochettino convinced him to stay and both player and club are all the better for it. His departure later this month will come as a huge blow for Spurs, in any case. If South Korea do reach the final, he’ll miss four games, including a possible fourth round FA Cup tie and the semi-final second leg meeting with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, with Son jetting off to the UAE after next weekend’s welcome of Manchester United.

“I feel very sorry because I already missed matches at the Asian Games and now I’m going away with the national team again. I feel very sorry for my team-mates, the fans and the coaching staff,” Son said this week as Spurs ready themselves to bid farewell to one of their key attackers. Of course, supporters will be quick to forgive the South Korean sensation given his excellent form, but there is no denying that his absence could hinder Spurs, even with Pochettino able to call upon Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura during his time with the Taegeuk Warriors.