Much has been made of Tottenham’s season; one that for all intents and purposes should have been derailed a long time ago. A lack of any new signings and a failure to complete a stadium build would have seriously hampered most clubs.
However, Tottenham are once again showing that they are a club of a different ilk and in turn are going a long way to defying the critics, who have been quick to predict a halt in progress for the North Londoners.
And that’s before you even consider the fact that Harry Kane and Dele Alli picked up injuries at the start of 2019, injuries that were meant to kill off any title hopes that Mauricio Pochettino and his players would have been harbouring. There is never a good time for either Kane or Alli to pick up injuries, so the fact that they were both ruled out for at least a month meant that the sky was almost falling in for Spurs. If ever there was a need for a hero to emerge, now was the perfect time.
And thankfully for the north Londoners, that is exactly what happened. Then again, it is probably unfair to say that Tottenham have had just one recent hero, when in fact a whole supporting cast have stood up to be counted.
But if we have to pick out one player for his efforts, then we really cannot look any further than Hueng min-Son. The former Bayer Leverkusen forward has had quite the campaign already, what with international exploits for South Korea. At the start of this campaign, the 26-year-old represented his country in the Asian Games – a football tournament that usually does not take on all that great of an importance. However, this time, there were more than just medals at stake.
That’s because the prospect of Son having to return to the Korean Peninsula for military service was one that was looming large, and only an exemption earned from a feat of international sporting success would be enough to see him avoid army training.
Thankfully for Son and, by extension, Tottenham, a gold medal in the tournament was exactly what he delivered to his homeland and with that, the threat of donning military fatigues was one that fell by the wayside. That, however, was not the end of the international exploits for Son, as much to the chagrin of his employers, he was then called upon to play in the Asian Cup – the continental equivalent of tournaments such as the European Championships and the Copa America.
But if Son’s absence at the start of the season was a small inconvenience, then his January departure was one that Tottenham really could have done without. So much so, that his hiatus meant that the club had only one recognised forward in their first-team squad.
The further South Korea progressed in the Asian Cup, the longer that Son would be away from domestic action. So, although it would have come as a personal disappointment that he suffered defeat to Qatar in the quarter-final, it’s fair to say Tottenham would have been quietly delighted. That’s because Son was then available to fill the huge attacking shoes that had been left temporarily vacant by Tottenham’s talisman Harry Kane and after his recent performances, it is fair to say those shoes are now a perfect fit for the versatile front man.
So big has the contribution been from the infectious forward, that Tottenham have not lost a stride in the race for this season’s Premier League title. If anything, you could argue that their position has now been strengthened.
What was initially viewed as a two-horse race now has a new entrant all saddled up and ready to compete in these final few furlongs. A look at the market aggregator Oddschecker suggests Tottenham could still play a huge part in the destination of English football’s richest prize. At 20/1 to win the title with most bookmakers, Mauricio Pochettino’s men may well be the outsiders looking in, but with trips to both Liverpool and Manchester City still to come and with a penchant of defying the critics, that is a price that could quickly plummet if results go their way.
That’s even more likely if the likes of Hueng min-Son can continue to turn in match-winning performances like we’ve seen recently. His return to club action has undoubtedly been the catalyst for Tottenham being able to continue the form needed to stay in the title picture. The perfect example of this would be back-to-back league home wins in just the space of three days. First up, it was Watford who were pushed aside and although Son’s goal only restored parity, his late leveller provided the spark for his teammates to push on in search of a winner.
That search would turn out to be fruitful after Fernando Llorente headed home in the dying seconds. It was a goal that would deprive Javi Gracia’s Watford of earning anything at Wembley after taking the lead in the first half through defender Craig Cathcart.
If Son was the ignition spark against Watford, he was the difference against Newcastle. With Rafael Benitez’s men coming to London off the back of an upset win over Manchester City, the Magpies were once again well-drilled and looked to be on the cusp of earning an unlikely draw. That was until Tottenham’s new hero fired home a winner with just seven minutes remaining, a win that kept this lilywhite-coloured machine continuing in the right direction and hot on the heels of their two main title rivals.
The goalscoring was not done there, either, as Son wrapped up all three points in Tottenham’s third consecutive home league fixture. This time Leicester fell by the wayside by three goals to one, as the Son continued to shine at Wembley. And those talents are not only being utilised on a domestic front, either; a scintillating Champions League round of 16 first leg performance against Borussia Dortmund saw him open the scoring on the way to his side recording an improbable 3-0 home win.
Quite simply, Tottenham are grinding out victories in games that they almost have no right to be winning. If they can perform like this when they are not at full strength, it’s almost a scary prospect of what they can achieve when they are. With the return of their injured England international duo just around the corner, this will undoubtedly give Mauricio Pochettino and his players a huge shot in the arm and with the final third of the season upon us, it is almost perfect timing.
Having Harry Kane and Dele Alli back in the fold will mean that Tottenham can look to continue this positive momentum and even go all the way in the quest for winning silverware both home and abroad. Of course, one should not forget that there would not even be any momentum were it not for the talents of Hueng-min Son. He’s not just become a hero after recent displays; he’s almost become a saviour.