In the second of our series of player reviews, Anthony Koval evaluates the maiden season of our summer signing Son Heung-min; has he stacked up to the billing since his £22 million move?
The debut season of Son Heung-min was one filled with many highs and lows, having been brought to White Hart Lane in late August of 2015 for £22 million – making him the most expensive Asian signing in football history. At former clubs Hamburger SV and Bayer Leverkusen, Son impressed scoring a combined 41 goals in 135 appearances and his signing appeared an exciting step away from the blank-firing Roberto Soldado who had recently departed to CF Villareal.
A Promising Start
Having completed his transfer to the club on the 28th of August, with the season already having begun, Son made his debut some two weeks later after joining Tottenham, making a substitute in the team’s first win of the season – a late 1-0 win at Sunderland.
But it was to be in Spurs first Europa League game that Son would make his mark on the Tottenham side, starting as the lone striker against Qarabag FK the diminutive forward netted twice in a display full of conviction as his side as his side romped home to victory.
Three days later, Sonny scored his first Premier League goal, earning Spurs three points against Crystal Palace. It was a promising start for our most expensive signing of the campaign and it looked as if Tottenham had finally found a solid backup, or even partner, for star forward Harry Kane.
Son’s willingness to run head on at defenders looked to prove that he could be a viable option as a scoring threat. Since the departure of Gareth Bale, Spurs had always lacked a man with the dribbling ability and willpower to take opponents head on, and within those honeymoon first couple of months at the club, the prospects were looking incredibly promising.
Injuries and struggles
As quickly as things were looking up, things spiralled back down to earth even faster for young Son.
In late September, Sonny suffered a foot injury during the 4-1 thrashing on Manchester City, and it seemed like Spurs would be missing his presence for the future.
However, the emergence of Dele Alli into a one of the Premier League’s leading stars, Son was left stranded on the sidelines; made to play second fiddle to an ever-growing precocious talent.
While Tottenham chased a league title for a considerable amount of time, Son remained unused – making little to no impact in the games he competed in… Except for one.
Just before the New Year, during a 1-1 tie against Watford, Son’s audacious flick between the legs of the hapless Heurelho Gomes gave Spurs a crucial three points in the title race; a late goal that seemed somewhat emblematic of the team’s willingness to fight until the death as the team perfectly harmonised physical fitness with utter mental resilience. Alas, this proved to be the only legitimate impact Son offered at Spurs up until the final few games of the season.
Son’s sublime late winner vs. Watford
With something of a point to prove, he went on to score against Chelsea and Southampton before being subbed off in both games, leading to rumours that Son lacked the fitness for a full 90 minutes, especially when considering he had arguably been Spurs most impactful player in both those games. It’s clear that Son does have the potential to be a game changing player or a very special impact sub, but did Spurs pay £22 million for just an impact sub?
Son sweeps home to make it 2-0 against Chelsea
A mixed season, but what does the future hold for Son?
Despite a bright start and maybe an even brighter end to his inaugural season, Son has a lot of work to do this off-season if he is to compete for a spot in next year’s starting XI.
His ability to get into quality positions is exceptional, however, his final ball, whether it be a pass or shot, needs to be improved if he is to grace the same pitch as players like Eriksen and Kane.
Ultimately, Son Heung-min’s first season has to be chalked up as a disappointment. He hasn’t lived up to his transfer fee, scoring a disappointing four goals in the Premier League.
Much like Erik Lamela’s early seasons at White Hart Lane, Son showed only flashes of the brilliance that Spurs paid for, but never consistently enough to prove his value. With the rumors that Son will be sold this summer, I think it is a bit harsh to discard a player of known talent so quickly, what would our squad look like had we sold Dembele and Lamela after their below average first seasons?
Son Heung-min has a future at Tottenham Hotspur in my opinion. Next season will be his make or break season, and I believe Son will prove invaluable to the rotation of cup competitions and the Premier League.
Written by Anthony Koval
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