A month ago, I wrote a piece assessing Hueng-min Son’s failure to cement a starting role at Tottenham this season. Despite emphasising the Korean’s obvious qualities, I argued that his impact, thus far, had been somewhat inconsistent.
Since then, Spurs have suffered a dip in form, briefly slumping to seventh in the league, before a comprehensive win against Stoke stopped the bleeding. Whilst some players have misfired during a tough period for the club, Sonny has stepped-up and proved his worth.
In Spurs’ last six games in all competitions, the Korean has started five and scored four.
I doubted whether Son could do enough to force himself into the team, in spite of his ability. I was wrong. So much can change in a month of football, as Tottenham know all-too well. Son should now be regarded as a key player and an almost essential starter.
He already had a case for being one of the most underrated forwards in the league, but now, Son may get the recognition he deserves.
His performance against Stoke at the weekend was symptomatic of his importance to the Lilywhites.
20 minutes into the game, with Tottenham characteristically struggling to breakdown mid-table opposition at Wembley, Son picked up the ball on the left touchline.
Instantly, Spurs’ number seven drove directly at the full-back, forcing him onto the back-foot. The Korean produced his trademark step-over and burst of speed to create a yard of space, before producing a cross which resulted in a fortunate opening goal – the kind of good fortune which only comes when players look to get beyond defences and pose questions – something Son does with regularity.
It was a comfortable win for Spurs, but the importance of an early goal and lead should not be underestimated. Spurs’ problems at Wembley have predominantly come when they’ve failed to score the first goal, enabling the opposition to stay compact and deep for the entirety of games. Through going 1-0 down, Stoke were forced to open-up in the second-half, leading to a furious Tottenham onslaught.
Son, once more, was heavily involved. In a ruthless counter-attacking move, he scored Spurs’ second. As Dele Alli received the ball on the halfway line, Son was already in full-flight, sprinting down the field at breakneck speed, anticipating the opportunity. He flew past Stoke’s defence, latching onto Alli’s perfectly-timed pass before finishing with conviction.
At 4-0 up, Son continued to torment The Potters, sliding a gloriously-disguised pass across the goal, with the outside of his boot, towards an onrushing Erik Lamela, who was unlucky not to score.
Then, for Tottenham’s fifth, Son picked up the ball in his own box and roamed half the length of the pitch, deep into Stoke territory. Faced with four different Spurs players to pass to, he almost had too many options. Yet he picked the right one, a well-executed delivery into Christian Eriksen’s path for the Dane to finish.
It was a performance which exhibited exactly why Son is such a force, and so valuable to Spurs. His speed and energy is instantly noticeable, particularly in a Spurs side which has appeared, at times, somewhat laboured recently. Yet his technical ability and positional intelligence is criminally underrated.
The former Hamburg man can operate from almost any position across the front line, and his proficiency off either foot makes this all-the-more easy. Preferring simplicity over trickery, his dribbling is direct and purposeful.
In front of goal, Son is a naturally instinctive finisher, typified by his recent Champions League goals against Borussia Dortmund and APOEL – both exquisite curling efforts, one with his right foot, one with his left; both unstoppable.
It will be interesting to see whether Mauricio Pochettino starts Son in Tottenham’s upcoming fixture with Manchester City. In the past, Pochettino has commonly opted for his trusted front-three in the big games. But with much being made of Spurs’ dire away record in these fixtures, perhaps Son could be the difference.
With Erik Lamela looking sharp and Son firing on all cylinders, Eriksen and Alli may have some serious competition – this can only be a good thing.
Son has earned the opportunity to start consistently for Spurs, he must continue to make it count. Still only 25 years old, the likeable Korean could potentially be a significant player for Tottenham for years to come.