Spurs 5 Stoke City 1
(Shawcross OG, Son, Kane 2, Eriksen)
Son Heung-min signed for Spurs 2 ½ years ago. For most of that time he’s been seen primarily as a bench option; a high quality squad player who doesn’t quite fit into our first team when everybody’s fit. Whatever version of 3-4-2-1 we’re playing, it’s usually Kane, Alli, Eriksen who take the front three spots. When we mostly played 4-2-3-1 it was Lamela who took the 4th spot and led the press. Son’s role has been to provide depth (in particular as a ‘false 9’ option when Kane was injured), impact from the bench, pace and goals. Oh, and his smile and abundant enthusiasm as well.
Against Stoke yesterday, injuries and suspensions made a 4-2-3-1 formation the best choice and that gave Son another starting place, with Lamela and Llorente on the bench. For much of the first 20 minutes, Spurs continued to look as out of sorts as we have since October, with our passes going astray and the mood uninspired.
Step forward, Heung-min, who whirled up and down our left flank like a dervish, terrorizing Stoke’s young defender, Tom Edwards. He created our first goal with a run and wicked cross that deflected off both Zouma and Shawcross into the Stoke net.
It would be an exaggeration to say that belief flooded through our team from that moment. We went in 1-0 at half-time, having had the best of it, but with the game still in the balance. Step forward again, Heung-min, who added our second with a crisp near post finish, effectively putting the game to bed. He then assisted our fourth (Kane) and fifth (Eriksen) goals. Son finished the game with 1 goal and 3 assists, a well deserved man of the match display.
Under-rated by the media as a whole, and also many Spurs fans, it’s fair to say that Son is now pushing Alli for that front-3 starting position in a 3-4-2-1. More importantly, with Lamela back (if not yet 100% fit), we have five top players vying for 3-4 positions. As other options, both Alli and Eriksen can both line up deeper and Kane can drop into ‘the hole’ behind Llorente, if we’re chasing a game.
Signed from Bayer Leverkusen for £22m, Son is starting to look excellent value. After his first season, there was talk of him returning to Germany, but Poch and the player (and Levy) decided otherwise, and last season’s stats were the result. However, this season he’s looking even better. Take a bow, my son.
For the record, Spurs became the first English ‘top flight team’ (including old First Division as well as PL) to beat the same team by 4 goals or more in 4 consecutive league games. The sequence began with our 4-0 away win during the title run-in of the ‘Leicester season’. We trounced them 4-0 home and away last season as well. This time it looked for 10 minutes like we’d repeat the same 4-0 score line but our fifth (and Stoke’s consolation) meant we have to settle for the ‘score difference’ record instead.
Kane’s double were his 89th and 90th PL goals in his 131st appearance. Alan Shearer is the only PL player to have reached 90 in fewer matches (113).
After Match Day 16, we’re still 6th (28 points) but have closed the gap on Arsenal (29) and Liverpool (30) who both drew and Chelsea (32) and Man United (35) who both lost. Man City who won 2-1 at Old Trafford are out of sight (46). However, the PL runners up spot is again possible if we hit the same form as we did last season. But I’d take Top 4, the FA Cup, and a CL Glory-run.
In the Champions League, we’ve drawn Juventus on 13th Feb (Turin) and 7th March (at Wembley). Thoughts to follow.