What has happened to Son Heung-min? Tottenham’s struggling star put in another poor performance against Man City… last year’s Golden Boot winner has lost his shooting touch, is lacking confidence and Spurs fans would happily see him dropped
- Son Heung-min was one of the star performers of the Premier League last year
- This season though he has struggled with calls for him to be dropped
- The South Korean is at risk of losing his starting place in the Spurs line-up
How quickly things can change in football. Just eight months ago, Son Heung-min was holding the Golden Boot trophy after scoring 14 goals in as many games to finish the season.
Tottenham are now on a run of seven defeats in 13 games, and nobody typifies the club’s troubles this season more than the South Korean.
It is almost impossible to believe that Tottenham fans would now happily drop the long-time fan favourite – who has only netted four goals in 18 games.
Just eight months ago Son Heung-min won the Golden Boot after his incredible scoring form
Now the Tottenham star is enduring his worst season since joining with just four goals
After years of top performances and being widely regarded as the most underrated player in the Premier League, fans are now left wondering how things have gone so wrong.
Son has recently recovered from a fractured eye socket, which also impacted his performances during the World Cup for South Korea. But there were already questions being raised about his performances just a handful of games into the season.
Something that is as clear now as it was at the start of the campaign is that the 30-year-old has lost his shooting touch.
Last season, everything he touched seemed to turn to gold.
He had a stunning shot conversion rate of 26.7% by netting 23 of the 86 shots he attempted – the best of any player who attempted 20 shots during the 2021-22 season.
By scoring 23 goals, he also surpassed his expected goals rate, which was 15.82.
Those figures have completely turned during the 2022-23 season so far.
This year, he has a measly 8.2% conversion rate with four goals in 49 games. His goal and assists per 90 minutes have suffered a massive drop from 0.89 to 0.36, although his expected goals is actually higher than what he has netted with 4.87.
All of this comes despite the South Korean international averaging more shots per game (3) than he did last season (2.7). However, this should be balanced by the fact he’s only averaging 0.36 big chances this season compared to 0.89 last.
Antonio Conte could soon lose patience with Son’s form and drop the South Korean to the bench
Son struggled again on Thursday as Tottenham suffered a 4-2 defeat to Manchester City
Why he’s not working as well in attacking areas could be down to a number of different factors – one of which is the same fatigue that has affected a number of other players in the league, particularly at Liverpool.
It has been a pretty relentless few years for Son, who is now in his 30s, and he didn’t get much of a break in the summer as he played every minute of four friendlies for his country from June 2 to 14 before returning to pre season on July 13.
He doesn’t get much rest for Tottenham, either, with the match he started on the bench – the 6-2 win over Leicester, where he scored a 14-minute hat-trick as a substitute – one of only two Premier League games he’s scored in this season.
Another factor is that there is some suggestion that Ivan Perisic does not suit Son.
The attack-minded left wing-back likes to bomb forward and he occupies some of the spaces that Son likes to slot into.
It leads to Son coming into crowded areas in-field, or hanging out wide behind Perisic as the Croatian goes ahead.
The big problem though appears to be a lack of confidence which seems to only get worse with every performance.
He fractured his eye socket just before the World Cup and forced him to play with a mask
After his goal against Crystal Palace earlier this month, there was hope he would turn things around. But his display against Man City seemed to be a continuation of his ongoing issues in front of goal, giving the ball away regularly and not getting involved in the game as much as he would like to.
It is not just in terms of goals and assists that things aren’t functioning for Son as much as they have in recent season.
Throughout his career, he has been known as a ball carrier and a supplier of goals. But both of these elements have also shown a decline in the 30-year-old’s game.
The number of chances he creates has dropped from 2.2 to 1.9 per match. His amount of successful dribbles has also declined from 1.5 to 0.79.
Son’s partnership with Harry Kane has been impacted this campaign as a result
On both of those statistics, he is performing at his lowest level across his seven seasons at the club.
His form has also impacted the effectiveness of his partnership with Harry Kane.
Kane is still performing to his expected standard in front of goal with 15 Premier League goals this season, with the Spurs captain second behind Erling Haaland.
However, both Kane and Son have only assisted the other player once in the league this season. This compares to last campaign where Kane and Son both provided four assists for the other player.
His form will have been a concern for Tottenham throughout this season, though Spurs boss Antonio Conte has attempted to stay loyal to the player to help him to his best.
He said earlier this month: ‘Son for sure is trying to find the best form. After the injury he had against Marseille he struggled a bit and also in the World Cup he didn’t score.
‘But we are talking about a player that if we put him in this discussion we are in trouble, because Sonny and Kane are the two most important players with Hugo Lloris.
‘If we start to put into discussion them or to have doubts about them, then I think we are really in trouble.
Dejan Kulusevski has been one of Tottenham’s star performers while Richarlison could steal Son’s position
‘For sure a team like us we need in every game, injuries or not injuries, the most important players to give their best, but you know across a season in 60 games that you can’t play every game at the peak of your form and make a difference. This is normal.
‘But for sure we are talking about three players in Sonny, Kane and Hugo, who can make the difference. Our expectations are always very high for them. I think their commitment, their will, their desire is always the same. They know the role they have in the squad.’
Despite Conte’s hopes that Son will return to his best, even he will be starting to lose patience with his form this season.
With Dejan Kulusevski one of Spurs’ best players this season, and Richarlison waiting in the wings, Conte is running out of reasons and time to keep trusting Son – no matter what he has done in the past.
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