In the North London Derby on Sunday afternoon at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal, the captain of Tottenham Hotspur took the initiative.
Son Heung-min’s performance against Arsenal on Sunday stands out as the performance that best demonstrates how incomplete statistics may be.
You would be gravely mistaken to believe that Spurs’ South Korean star had little of an impact if you had chosen to focus solely on the statistics and headline data from the game rather than the final score or scorers of the North London Derby at the Emirates Stadium.
The data revealed that the visiting team’s captain only touched the ball 18 times during the game. 18 times only. No one else had as few touches of the ball as Son did in the 78 minutes that he played. Only one other starting player from each team’s lineup had a similar stat line, but Brennan Johnson played 16 fewer minutes.
James Maddison actually had more touches than the next player down in the Spurs starting XI, who had the second-fewest touches with 43 touches. Dejan Kulusevski, another offensive Tottenham player, had 45.
These statistics demonstrate that the majority of the Spurs team played with the intention of gaining possession of the ball before Son and Johnson ran and were identified by passes. There would be less involvement.
Son only completed 17 of his 42 efforts at a successful action, made no crosses or attempts at dribbles, lost one of his one aerial duels, won three of his seven other duels, recovered no lost balls, and lost the ball twice, once in his own half. However, Son’s performance was made even more exceptional since he made the most of his brief time on the ball.
The first was a deft flick inside the right post, and the second was a wonderfully placed rolling effort inside the left upright. Two of the 18 touches resulted in goals, both first-time strikes.
Son had a total of three shots, the last of which he sent into the side netting after Kulusevski had recognized his run. He was the only player on the field to score more goals while having a low xG of 0.86. In terms of scoring, only one Arsenal player did so on the day. Son only attempted 12 passes, but 11 of them were successful, resulting in a 92% success percentage, with both of his long passes finding their intended recipient.
The running Son did was the most astonishing of all, possibly even more so than those precise finishes. The captain of Tottenham may be 31 years old and, in the opinion of his head coach, Ange Postecoglou, not in the best of physical shape, but he ran around virtually nonstop from the opening whistle until the Australian substituted him with 12 minutes remaining in regulation.
Son went after everything. Although he failed to recover the ball, he made sure that the Arsenal defense never had a chance to relax or prepare before a pass. Soon after the game resumed following Bukayo Saka’s penalty kick, he and Maddison rushed towards the Gunners’ midfield and defense, leading to Tottenham’s second goal.
Postecoglou praised his skipper, saying that “both as a player and as a leader, he’s been outstanding.” “Now that we’ve moved him to the nine position, he just works so hard. It is truly amazing how team-oriented he is. When he puts himself in those situations, his first consideration is what is best for the team, and he then has the ability to finish.
“In my opinion, Madders did a fantastic job on both assists, and Sonny was there to complete them. He truly cares about what we’re doing, so I’m happy for him. It is wonderful that he is receiving his reward because he, Madders, and Romero, as well as players like Bissouma on the field, are largely responsible for the team environment I discuss.
Son is reaping the benefits of his labor. In addition to leading the league in assists this season with Maddison, Tottenham are unbeaten, and he is currently the second-highest goalscorer in the Premier League.
Son became the first Spurs player to score a hat trick at Arsenal since John Hendry in a Premier League game in May 1993. They were his 149th and 150th goals for Tottenham and his 197th and 198th goals overall since switching to European sport.
Son Heung-min is the best person to demonstrate why some statistics don’t represent the complete story.