Harry Kane's Injury Thrusts Son Heung-Min Into the Spotlight
When Son Heung-Min was bought by Tottenham Hotspur at the end of the 2015 transfer window, it looked to be a fair piece of business for a highly-touted talent in the Bundesliga. After a year, Son had just four goals and one assist in the English Premier League for the North London club, and even turned in a transfer request, which manager Mauricio Pochettino confirmed, according to the Evening Standard.
Through three appearances this season, Son has replicated those numbers and looks set to take over major attacking responsibility at White Hart Lane. Scoring two goals against Stoke, adding an assist for the winner against Sunderland and scoring another brace to ensure victory against Middlesbrough, Son has been able to take advantage of a string of weak competition to keep Tottenham within reasonable distance of the currently dominant Manchester City.
While all that is good news, the competition he's shined against are currently sitting 19th, 20th and 16th, respectively, in the Premier League table. Performing on a similar level against the marquee forces of the Premier League will be significantly more difficult, and the aforementioned Citizens come to North London this upcoming Saturday, a fixture in which Son will likely start and will be looking to deliver a performance in the absence of Harry Kane.
Kane's recent injury was thought to sideline for six to eight weeks, although Pochettino has recently said a second scan was much more positive. Either way, it will be a prolonged absence, and it will likely be up to Son or Vincent Janssen to be the top goal scoring threat in the meantime.
Son has gotten off to a hot start, but Janssen is also looking to prove himself and is a better like-for-like replacement for Kane. However, Pochettino could experiment with both of them up top to double down on goalscoring threats.
The latter option is very interesting, mostly because Son's play as a winger is heavily dependent on cutting in and taking shots. Not a bad passer by any means, but it's getting into the box and finishing where Son has shined. His quickness and deft touch mixed with a strong forward who can hold up play, like Janssen did against Boro, could become a deadly combo that can get the most out of both attackers. For example, look at the moments that got Son his first goal against Boro, with the assist from Janssen.
Christian Eriksen feeds Janssen in the box, who takes a moment to let Son come behind him or in front, and Son chooses the latter. Janssen's pass isn't perfect, but after two clever touches, Son has a shot from the penalty spot and he buries it.
Janssen and Son create a multi-rounded duo up top, and Kane is arguably more talented at most aspects than Janssen, so his return may see him teaming up with Son rather than playing up top by himself.
Son's pace has allowed Spurs to get even quicker on the break, and scoring goals on the counter is crucial when facing opponents of world-class quality. Son may still need some refinement and experience, but the talent is there, especially when he's getting help from another striker or someone who can get him the ball in dangerous situations.
There is certainly a place for Son as a winger, as well, but it's hard to play him over a fit Erik Lamela, Eriksen or Dele Alli. In the broad view of this season, fitting three or four of Lamela, Alli, Eriksen, Son into the starting 11 may become difficult depending on how unlucky Tottenham gets with injuries.
The next month or two will be crucial to Son's career with Tottenham. He provides sensational moments, but to become a definitive starter and possible star, he has to either show that he's capable of providing decent service and performing defensively outside or that he has the lethality to score goals against any opponent, not just the bottom of the table.