The acquisition of South Korean international Heung-min Son from Bayer Leverkusen last August represents the third largest transfer fee ever in Spurs’ history.
The £22 million spent on the player seemed to suggest that he would be an automatic inclusion in Mauricio Pochettino’s plans for the season. Unfortunately for Son, the early good form of Erik Lamela, Mousa Dembele and Dele Alli all seemed to set jeopardize his status as a regular starter.
A foot injury sustained in September’s 4-1 win over Manchester City also didn’t help matters. Son was sidelined for a number of weeks, during which time those players who had kept him out of contention early in the season only solidified their holds in the starting XI.
When Son was given a chance in those early days, though, he shined. His two goals scored against Qarabag FK in the Europa League were followed by the winning goal at Crystal Palace days later.
The injury cut that early streak short, and upon returning to the lineup in early November, he seemed to lack his knack for finishing. A number of assists kept him in contention for minutes, though, and he finally scored his fourth goal for the club in the dying minutes of December’s match against Watford. Again, it was the winning goal, and it hinted once again toward the immense quality Son can bring to bear.
If he’s given the chance and he’s played in the right position, that is. Since December Pochettino has elected to field Son in a rotational spot with Lamela on the right side of the attack. While Son can play there in theory, in practice he’s been a much more effective attacker from the left or going down the middle. With Christian Eriksen, Alli and Harry Kane locks to start in those areas, it seems unlikely that Son will slide into his strongest position anytime soon.
There’s good reason to believe too that Lamela is the more effective player from the right side of attack. That is the Argentine’s natural position, after all, and he uses it to play key roles in both build up play and the pressing game. By all rights, he should be starting over Son in most games.
All of that being considered, how can we adequately judge Son’s Spurs career so far? It’s difficult. He is very clearly a talented player, and still young. But circumstances have evolved over the course of the season to make it difficult for Pochettino to justify including him in the starting XI on a regular basis.
Son will get the chance to work some magic in the striker position over the next week or so however. With Kane being rested for either Fiorentina in the Europa League or Crystal Palace in the FA Cup, Son should slide right into a striker role. He turned in arguably his best performance in lily-white from such a position against Leicester City in the fourth round replay, so perhaps we are about to witness another solid argument for playing Son in his deadliest areas.