Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte’s opinions have been made fun of by the South Korean international.
In the midst of the drama, mayhem, and scalding debate surrounding Tottenham’s 2-1 victory against Liverpool, another intuitive finish from Heung-min Son was mostly overlooked.
Less than two minutes after Luis Diaz’s disallowed shot should have stood due to a terrible error from VAR Darren England — which attracted blistering criticism from Liverpool — Son opened the score with his sixth goal of the season, bringing up his 200th in European football.
The main focus of Saturday’s game was the refereeing decisions, but one of the most fascinating side stories of Tottenham’s turnaround under Ange Postecoglou is Son’s transition from winger to central striker.
Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho, Son’s predecessors, both thought the Australian was an inadequate choice to lead the line for their counterpunching sides because he lacked the presence to hold up the ball and was better suited to play wide, where his speed and directness were lethal in transition.
Mourinho stated in February 2021, “He’s not a striker, first and foremost. Although he is not a striker, he scores like one. He plays the wing.
Conte later that year stated, “I have seen that Son played [as a striker].” I actually like Son to play winger, which is the position he is currently playing.
“I like to use nine as a point of reference.”
However, under Postecoglou, Son, 31, seems to be starting a new chapter in his career as a world-class center-forward.
Son’s ability to press from the front, sense for reading the game, and amazing finishing — he has routinely surpassed his xG (‘expected goals’ measure) at Spurs — make him a lethal No. 9 in this new-look, possession-based Spurs.
Similar to his first goal against Arsenal last weekend, his opening goal against Liverpool was another natural piece of penalty-box skill as he surged clear of two defenders to finish.
In the second half, Son added a second goal from a very identical sequence of play. Son once again outperformed himself to go in front of his defender and steal the ball past Alisson, but on this occasion Richarlison had strayed offside after James Maddison’s brilliant pass.
Son was only prevented from scoring a fantastic volley and adding another double against a “big six” competitor by a superb stop from the goalkeeper.
The most dangerous pairing in Premier League history, Son and Harry Kane, will be hard to top, but the England captain’s move to Bayern Munich has unintentionally freed Son to play through the middle.
Last year, Kane competed with Erling Haaland for the Golden Boot, but this year, Son, who shared the prize with Mohamed Salah the season before the Norwegian moved to England and has six League goals in just four starts through the middle, may win it.
Son will continue to get opportunities every week because of Spurs’ dedication to attacking under Postecoglou.
Postecoglou claimed on the eve of the season that Son could play as a striker in his system, and with Kane on the verge of joining Bayern, but the head coach obviously needed some convincing, starting his new captain on the left wing in the first three games of the campaign.
Son was relatively quiet even as Spurs earned seven points, but he hasn’t looked back since switching to the front against Burnley, where he scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory.
This is likely to be the case at Spurs for the time being, with the Brazilian poised to play from the flank or be utilized from the bench. It was telling that Postecoglou started Richarlison against Liverpool in an unorthodox position on the left rather than switching back to playing Son out wide.