Harry Kane and Son Heung-min’s partnership was the stuff of Premier League legend. The pair combined for a record number of goals, but with Kane no longer at Tottenham Hotspur Son is having to prove himself all over again. So far this season, though, the South Korean has looked revitalised.
This was certainly the case in Spurs’ impressive 5-2 away win over Burnley in which Son scored a hat-trick. After a difficult 2022/23 season, the 31-year-old looked more like his old self as he found the back of the net three times at Turf Moor. His performance hinted at how Ange Postecoglou wants to use Son.
Postecoglou has implemented a new approach since his appointment as Tottenham manager with the North London side now playing a brand of high-risk, attack-minded football. That has been clear in the way Spurs have operated in the first four games of the season – Tottenham have scored 11 goals in just four league fixtures.
The structure of Postecoglou’s Tottenham team is already clear with the full backs pushed into central midfield and Yves Bissouma and Pape Sarr deployed as a double pivot in the middle of the pitch. James Maddison is also thriving as Spurs’ new creator in-chief between the lines of midfield and attack.
In and out of possession, Tottenham look stronger with Postecoglou clearly keen for his team to play at a high tempo at all times. ‘We never stop’ became a catchphrase for the Australian during his time at Celtic and that ethos has already taken root at Spurs such is the energy they are currently playing with.
For Postecoglou’s system to truly work, though, he needs an attacker who can stretch the pitch and get in behind. At Celtic, Kyogo Furuhashi performed this role to great effect and Son has the skill set to play in a similar way, as demonstrated by his performance against Burnley – the South Korean consistently provided an outlet in behind the opposition defence.
With Kane now at Bayern Munich, the onus will be on Son to provide more attacking output this season. Tottenham signed Brennan Johnson from Nottingham Forest on transfer deadline to bolster their attacking ranks, but the 22-year-old isn’t a centre forward. Spurs never truly replaced Kane.
“It’s not exactly why, but it’s one of the reasons,” said Postecoglou when asked if Son would be asked to compensate for the goals loss through the sale of Kane. “I’ve got a picture in my head of what I want the team to look like and I keep saying that we’re still at the beginning. It’s about putting all the pieces together and, at the same time, not neglecting what’s right in front of you. Sonny, whether he’s playing central or wide, has got all the characteristics. He can play in any system, but the way we play, he’s ideal.”
Spurs under Postecoglou remain a work-in-progress. The Australian has been hired to overhaul the culture at the North London club with Tottenham already ahead of schedule after an encouraging start to the season. Postecoglou may feel he still needs an orthodox number nine to give his team a focal point – and Richarlison might not be that player.
But Son is once again being harnessed as one of the best quick transition attackers in the Premier League with Maddison the supply line behind the South Korean. Far from looking lost without Kane alongside him, the 31-year-old is enjoying a renaissance and could actually benefit from the departure of his former strike partner.