Son Heung-Min: Player Profile - Tottenham 2018/19
When it comes to Tottenham, most of the plaudits given to the club lean towards three men in particular – England duo Harry Kane and Dele Alli and Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen. But recently, another player has become just as key to the success of Mauricio Pochettino’s side, and in particular since Kane and Alli have been on the shelf with injuries.
South Korean forward Son Heung-Min has been on fire this season after somewhat of a slow start following his exploits in the 2018 Asian Games – where he helped his country to victory, earning an exemption from the Korean mandatory military service in the process.
It’s taken Son time to succeed at Tottenham, but now fans of the Lilywhites probably wouldn’t change him for any attacker in the world.
Player Profile (Current Season)
Name: Son Heung-Min
Nationality: South Korean
Appearances: 20 (Premier League), 11 (all other competitions)
Goals: 11 (Premier League), 4 (all other competitions)
Positions Played: Forward, attacking midfielder, winger
History at the club
Tottenham paid £22m to Bayer Leverkusen for Son in the summer of 2015, making him one of their all-time most expensive signings, as well as the most expensive Asian player of all time. But at first, it didn’t look like he’d live up to that hefty price tag.
Struggling to fit into the Spurs side during 2015/16, Son made just 13 starts in Premier League action, and 15 of his appearances came from the substitute’s bench. Sure, he scored 4 goals and had a handful of high points – some encouraging performances in the Europa League and a goal against Chelsea - that for a few moments at least gave Spurs hope of winning the Premier League title. But due to his lack of starts, the South Korean even considered leaving the club in the summer.
The summer of 2016 saw reports that Son was looking for an exit in order to secure more playing time, but instead, he was encouraged to stay and fight for his place by Mauricio Pochettino.
Thankfully, the patience of both men paid off, and 2016/17 turned out to be a landmark season. He scored 2 goals in his first game that season and continued to fire, earning the Player of the Month award for October – the first time an Asian player had won such an award.
By the end of the season, he’d plundered 21 goals in all competitions – finishing behind only Harry Kane and Dele Alli in the scoring stakes – and really, he hasn’t looked back since. 18 goals in all competitions followed in 2017/18, and this season he’s already hit 15 in just 31 appearances – meaning he’s probably on course to surpass those 21 goals from two seasons back.
A versatile forward, Son himself has stated that he doesn’t really have a favoured position, as long as he’s in the game. This versatility has become the key to his exploits under Mauricio Pochettino, who has used him in numerous different ways for Spurs, and usually he’s been devastatingly effective.
Son’s best asset is perhaps his blistering pace – which was on full view during Tottenham’s game with Chelsea in November, during which he sprinted past Jorghino and David Luiz to score a wonderful solo goal. Of course, pace is no good unless you can find the room to use it, and that’s where Son really excels – his ability to slip untracked into space beyond defenders is almost unmatched in the Premier League.
His speed and his ability to find space have meant that for the most part, Pochettino has deployed him as a wide forward, usually cutting inside from the left side of the pitch. The use of wide forwards to complement the more central Harry Kane has been one of Pochettino’s go-to tactical plans, and while Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela have seen success from the position, it’s always been Son who’s been the most deadly.
More recently, the South Korean’s positional versatility has come back into play, as he’s been moved further up the pitch to play as almost an out-and-out striker to compensate for the loss of the injured Kane. Fernando Llorente has often been used as the focal point of Spurs’ attack, but it’s no secret to fans who the real dangerman of this Kane-less team is.
Indeed, since returning from a trip to the Asian Cup quarter-finals to find Tottenham missing Kane and Alli, Son has been an unstoppable machine in front of goal. With Spurs crying out for an equaliser in their game against Watford in January, it was Son who popped up to fire the ball into the net.
He then repeated the same trick against Newcastle, scoring an 83rd-minute winner in a Man of the Match-level performance, and most recently added the crucial third goal against Leicester City, meaning he’s scored 3 goals in his last 3 games for the club. He might not be as natural a finisher as Kane, but nobody can deny he knows exactly where the back of the net is. Give him a chance, and the ball usually ends up in the goal.
Next up are Borussia Dortmund in tonight’s Champions League round of 16 tie, and given Son has scored 8 goals in 10 games against the German powerhouse, who would bet against him repeating the trick tonight?
While there’s some worry over the contract status of Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, Spurs fans need not hold their breath over the future of their South Korean favourite. Along with fellow wide forward Erik Lamela, Son inked a new contract with Tottenham in the summer of 2018, committing himself to the club until the summer of 2023.
Reportedly on a hefty wage of £94,999 per week, it’s likely that Son could well end up signing another new deal with Tottenham before his current one ends, purely due to the ever-rising wages at the top level of football. And given a recent valuation report put Son’s value at somewhere around €93.9m, the likelihood of Spurs losing him any time soon seems somewhere between slim and none.
In The Future
In all honesty, there’s little that Son can do to really develop his game under Pochettino at Spurs as he already fits so well into the way the Argentine manager likes to play his football. As a key player to the current squad he probably sits behind only Kane and perhaps Eriksen and Alli, and the more he continues to score goals, the more his value to the side rises.
Even more goals from the South Korean – perhaps breaking that 21-goal marker from 2016/17 – would add a lot to Tottenham’s title challenge, though, and based on his current form, it looks like Son is quite happy to attempt this step up. Here’s to more goals from him in the future!