Tottenham’s prodigious Son happy to put the collective first

South Korean wide man’s wholeheartedness has made him indispensable to Spurs’ plans

Son Heung-min, right, of Tottenham Hotspure celebrates scoring. Photograph: Steven Paston/PA Wire

Son Heung-min, right, of Tottenham Hotspure celebrates scoring. Photograph: Steven Paston/PA Wire

 

For Son Heung-min the statistics tell the story and one, in particular, stands out. The South Korea forward has started 75 games in all competitions for Tottenham Hotspur since joining them from Bayer Leverkusen for £22 million in August 2015 and he has been substituted in 53 of them. In the Premier League the trend is slightly more pronounced. Son has started 49 matches and come off early in 38.

The sight of Son’s No 7 going up and him trooping off has become a feature of Tottenham matches and something else almost always follows. The 25-year-old collapses back into his seat and looks as though he is ready to draw his last breath. Son’s fitness has been questioned in some quarters, but what is abundantly clear is that he leaves nothing on the pitch.

Son’s wholeheartedness is a big reason why he is loved by the manager, Mauricio Pochettino, and his team-mates. Another is his attitude. Although he gave consideration to his Tottenham future after a difficult first season in north London, he never shows any dissent when he is substituted or omitted from the starting line-up.

As much as anybody at Tottenham, Son appreciates the power of a harmonious collective. And this is from a player who is surely the most recognisable in Asia at present. Son will carry South Korea’s hopes at the World Cup finals next summer.

Pochettino smiled when it was put to him that Son enjoys David Beckham-like status in Asia. “That is what we think but we cannot prove whether it is like this or not,” he said. “When we talk about Beckham, he is a massive icon in the world. Maybe Son is like this but here he is so humble and such a normal guy. That only makes him bigger.”

Goalscoring knack

It was sometimes said last season that Christian Eriksen was Tottenham’s unsung hero but Son, while not quite in the Dane’s class, has flown lower beneath the radar. He finished last season with 21 goals – 14 of them in the league – while he has nine in all competitions this season and seven in his past 12 appearances, which are eye-catching numbers for a wide attacker.

When Son is hot he is extremely hot, and he is capable of pulling off the spectacular, such as his winning goal against Crystal Palace on November 5th, a lovely curled finish from the edge of the penalty area. Son brings pace and directness, together with the capacity to stretch opposing defences. Swansea City will be wary of him when Tottenham visit this evening.

“It’s true that Son doesn’t get the headlines of Harry Kane and other players,” Pochettino said. “It’s like a player that is next to Messi or Ronaldo who deserves a lot of credit. When you are next to Harry Kane, who scores and scores, it is normal that the focus is more on him – or on Messi or Ronaldo – than Son.

“But it is good to recognise him. He is a great guy and a very good professional. He is always there and he scores a lot of goals. He was very important for us last season. All of his team-mates love him not only because of his performances but also because of how he is as a man.”

Son is, perhaps, a victim of his selflessness and flexibility. He has shown that he can fill in at centre-forward for Kane – he was magnificent there in the home win over Manchester City last season – while he has even played at left wing-back.

“But I am happy with people like Son, who is not a specialist,” Pochettino said. “He is not a striker but he can play like a striker. He is not a winger but he can play on the wing. And he is not a No 10, who plays in the pockets, but he can play there. That is the good thing in the squad.” – Guardian

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