Tottenham 2-0 West Ham: Son Heung-min proves point after being dropped to bench

If Son Heung-min wanted to make a point after losing his place in the Tottenham starting line-up, it took him only five minutes to do so.

He came on in the 67th minute, replacing Richarlison – the man who started instead of him – and in the 72nd minute it was business as normal.

Harry Kane and Son, statistically the most prolific partnership in Premier League history, linked up with the England captain’s through ball expertly finished by the South Korean as Spurs recorded a 2-0 win over West Ham to move above Newcastle and into the top four.

“Every player doesn’t want to sit on the bench, this is clear, but when I am sitting there I’m always thinking where I can help the team and that’s what I did when I came on,” said Son.

He is now only two goals away from reaching 100 in the Premier League and his total of 23 last season saw him share the Golden Boot, with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, for being the league’s top scorer.

But this campaign has been tougher for Son, with Sunday’s goal only his fifth in the league in 2022-23.

Indeed, four of those goals have come from his two substitute appearances after he also netted a 13-minute hat-trick in the 6-2 win over Leicester in September.

“With my performance, I know I can do much, much better and I want to improve,” said the 30-year-old.

“I still want to do better things that I haven’t done. I’m always positive after I play bad so I don’t want to celebrate too much after the victory.”

Son’s goal was his first in the league in six matches and team-mate Ben Davies, who set up the first goal for Emerson Royal, was not surprised to see Son back scoring.

“It’s what we’ve come to expect from him,” said Davies. “We see it every day on the training pitch. A few haven’t gone his way this season but we’re delighted for him.”

However, assistant boss Cristian Stellini, in charge while manager Antonio Conte recovers from gallbladder surgery, said Son’s goal would not guarantee him a starting place.

“At the moment he is not 100% so we have to manage him,” said Stellini. “With the space, Son is an amazing player and we try to use him in this way.

“It was a good idea. Son has a goal so we are happy for him. He has to stay calm and produce his best performance.”

Start Son or make him ‘more angry’?

Richarlison joined Tottenham from Everton in a £60m move last summer but is yet to score a Premier League goal for Spurs in his five starts and nine substitute appearances.

Former Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who scored 127 Premier League goals – winning the Golden Boot twice – believes Richarlison should get a run of games, even if that means keeping Son on the bench.

“Richarlison didn’t do enough but you have to give him a run otherwise it’ll kill him, you have to give him three or four matches,” said Hasselbaink on Sky Sports.

“You make Son more angry, he has done well, he scored, but you have to give [Richarlison] more matches.

“When the game is open, it is easier to get more balls, more space. I would still put Son on the bench.”

Son Heung-min scores for Tottenham against West Ham
Son Heung-min has scored 98 Premier League goals and registered 49 assists from 254 appearances

Former Brighton striker Glenn Murray, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, felt Son offered more to the Tottenham team than Richarlison did on Sunday.

“Son made such a difference, he is just that connection between the attack and the defence and it resulted in plenty of opportunities,” said Murray.

“Son back on the scoresheet is huge for them.”

Former Tottenham striker Robbie Keane believes Son provided the perfect response to not starting.

Speaking on Sky Sports, Keane said: “As a player you look in the mirror and know yourself. At times, when you’re not playing well, you have more desire when you get the opportunity.

“Some players sulk, some don’t accept it, but Sonny doesn’t, he always has an impact on the game.

“Last year Son was one of the best players in the Premier League, this year he is going through a [tough] run. Sometimes you need a kick up the backside and he responded in the right way.”

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