There were eyebrows raised in Germany when Tottenham spent £20 million to sign Son Heung-min from Bayer Leverkusen in 2015. The South Korean attacker was seen as a hard-working player with an eye for goal, but the price tag was considered high and an example of Premier League clubs spending over the odds. It wasn’t thought that he would be a huge success in England and that Spurs would later regret the money spent. The first season that he was at White Hart Lane did suggest there was some truth to those claims. He started only 13 times in the league and scored four times.
It wasn’t the impact that was expected from a player that cost more than £20 million and it resulted in murmurings about his short-term future. However, Mauricio Pochettino is a loyal coach and he continued to show faith in Son. He was kept for a second season and the improvement was obvious and ended the 2016/17 campaign with 23 Premier League starts. The attacker’s goal contribution rose sharply, as he scored 14 and got six assists. Although he was yet to become a fixture in the first-team, he proved that he was good enough to play a significant role and became the goal-scorer that the team looked towards if Harry Kane wasn’t on the pitch.
The improvement was stark and supporters were then interested to see if he could maintain the form over a number of seasons. This was an important campaign for Son to show that he could and establish himself as a regular starter. At the time of writing, he has already got 22 Premier League starts and he looks set to better his goal contribution from last season. Currently, he has 12 goals and four assists with a goal involvement every 117.2 minutes in the league. That is an incredible record and shows why he has been given a more prominent role in the Tottenham attack.
In 2018, he has started in 14 of Tottenham’s 18 matches across all competitions. It is clear that Son is now one of the first names on the team-sheet under Mauricio Pochettino due to his work rate and goal threat. A quick comparison with players in similar positions at the top of the Premier League table shows that the South Korean is now one of the best wide attackers in the division. His average of 3.11 shots attempted per ninety minutes is higher than Raheem Sterling (2.92), Leroy Sane (2.31) and Sadio Mane (2.67). Meanwhile, his shot accuracy of 55% is marginally higher than the other players mentioned.
One area that Son may look to improve is his creativity, as that would make him a complete attacker. He currently averages 1.53 chances created per ninety minutes, which is less than Sterling (1.93), Sane (1.97) and Mane (2). That said, it is difficult not to be impressed with the development of the former Leverkusen player as he is now regularly impacting games and proving that he has the ability needed to thrive at the top end of the division.
The next few weeks will bring a different challenge for the South Korean as he will be asked to lead the line in Harry Kane’s absence. He will need to alter his movement and positioning to be as effective, but he has done well in the position previously and will be relishing the increased responsibility. With the season drawing to a close, he will want to end strongly as he has the challenge of taking part in the World Cup with South Korea. That will provide a different challenge as he is the main man in a weaker team, but if he has a strong tournament, his star will continue to rise.