n the 18th minute of Tottenham’s depressing 2-0 defeat by Aston Villa on New Yr’s Day, Heung-min Son ripped off his protecting face masks and flung it to the sidelines.
Son had been enjoying within the masks since surgical procedure on a fracture round his eye socket earlier than the World Cup, however after five-and-a-bit appearances for membership and nation, and no objectives, the South Korean had had sufficient.
His choice to danger a blow to the face was a stirring present of willingness to place his physique on the road for Spurs, but additionally suggestive of a participant who’s desperately struggling to really feel comfy once more on the pitch.
However removed from releasing the Son of previous, eradicating the constraint had no discernible affect on his efficiency, and for the sixteenth League recreation in 17, final season’s Golden Boot winner failed to attain.
Forward of tonight’s derby at Crystal Palace, there is no such thing as a getting away from the truth that certainly one of Europe’s most deadly forwards is completely devoid of confidence and type.
Son has all the time been labelled a streaky participant, tending to hit type in bursts, however up to now even his quietest performances have been sometimes punctuated by telling contributions within the remaining third.
This season, nonetheless, Son has scored in simply two video games — a lightning hat-trick in opposition to Leicester from the bench and a double within the Champions League win over Eintracht Frankfurt — and has simply two assists, one in opposition to Brighton in October and the opposite all the best way again on the opening day of the marketing campaign.
Not solely is Son not contributing objectives and assists, he’s struggling to do the fundamentals.
Not solely is Son not contributing objectives and assists, he’s struggling to do the fundamentals, underlined when he did not lure a easy move which rolled out of play in the direction of the tip of Sunday’s defeat. He was additionally continuously dispossessed and his decision-making and contact within the remaining third was off, illustrated by an overhit move for strike associate Harry Kane.
Afterwards, Antonio Conte got here as shut as he ever has to criticising Son, saying he should “improve”, however forward of tonight’s go to to south London, the pinnacle coach insisted he has “zero doubts” concerning the ahead and backed him to remodel his season with one aim.
“In his situation, you have to play, you have to be focused and know that there is one situation that can change it totally,” Conte stated. “Football is like this. You hit the post and it goes in or it goes outside, it changes totally the mood, the perception of the performance of the players. For this reason he has to continue to be focused and to know he is an important player for us. We have zero doubts about Sonny.”
Son’s possibilities of discovering type would enhance if Spurs can rediscover some solidity, and the ahead, who loves charging into area on the counter-attack, has not been helped by his facet’s behavior of falling behind in matches, usually leaving Conte’s facet having to interrupt down compact defences, with restricted area to function.
Conte additionally believes Son resides with “really, really high expectations”, and the 30-year-old does look like feeling the stress of his standing as nationwide icon in Korea and certainly one of Tottenham’s main lights.
His excellent season final time period was adopted by Spurs’s summer season tour of his homeland, the place Son was each star attraction and ambassador, earlier than a marketing campaign punctuated by a World Cup by which he carried the hopes of a nation on his shoulders. He finally delivered, with an excellent help in opposition to Portugal, as Korea reached the knockouts, however the often happy-go-lucky, smiling murderer has appeared uncharacteristically burdened for the reason that begin of the season.
In several circumstances, Conte would think about resting Son — and his solely League objectives this season got here within the one recreation when he was dropped from the beginning XI — however accidents to Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski both facet of the World Cup means he should begin once more at Selhurst Park tonight.
Son scored within the final assembly between the golf equipment, Spurs’s 3-0 residence win in December 2021, along with his eighth League aim of the season on the best way to a complete of 23.
Over the previous three-and-a-half seasons, as Spurs have struggled to persuade beneath 4 completely different managers, Son and Kane have continued to excel, to the purpose the place it was simple to marvel if the pair have been merely carrying a median workforce.
This time period, maybe the only clarification for Spurs’s drop off in performances is that certainly one of their greatest gamers has suffered a catastrophic lack of type, and returning Son to a spot of confidence could possibly be the important thing to reversing the facet’s fortunes.
“Sonny and Kane are the two most important players, with Hugo Lloris,” Conte stated. “If we start to have doubts about them, then I think we are really in trouble.”
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