When Harry Kane’s ankle buckled under a challenge from Asmir Begović, the whole of England winced. The 24-year-old striker has been in scintillating form again this season, and this has resulted admiring glances and transfer rumours from the continent, rarely directed towards Englishmen.
The problem for England is that he’s their only standout striker this season, and the options below him would either lead to a big drop in quality or involve moving a wide player into the middle.
Tottenham Hotspur, meanwhile, will be disappointed that their star man is out as they push for the FA Cup and look to secure their status in the top four, but the form of another of their attacking players will mean Mauricio Pochettino will be sweating a little less than Gareth Southgate.
Son Heung-min has been something of a revelation this season, and has gone from an under-appreciated attacker who fit perfectly into the Argentine manager’s system, to one of the most highly rated underrated players in the history of the Premier League.
The 25-year-old has notched up 18 goals and nine assists in all competitions this season, including 12 goals in the Premier League and four in seven Champions League appearances.
He’s been a big part of Spurs’ FA Cup run, playing some minutes in all five matches, starting three, and was visibly upset after his side’s Champions League exit at the hands of Juventus, such has been the extent of his involvement in this squad’s exploits this season.
One of the true signs that a forward is in good form and high in confidence is that they score the type of chance where they are given an age to think about the finish.
Carrying the ball half the length of the pitch with Erik Lamela alongside him, not only did he have a decision to make on the type of finish he should execute, but he also had the option of making a square pass to his team-mate.
Many players would wilt and buckle under the pressure, having had too long to ponder their options, just as Raheem Sterling did with an identical chance in Manchester City’s recent fixture at Stoke City.
But Son rounded Begović, and tucked the ball into the net with his left foot, showing another one of his strengths — his two-footedness. The goalkeeper bashed the floor in frustration, but there was nothing he could do about the situation. The best strikers leave goalkeepers feeling helpless, and that’s what the South Korean was able to do here.
Son has seven goals in his last four games, but only one of these — in the aforementioned game against Bournemouth — came from the centre forward position.
So far this season he has three goals from six games as an out-and-out centre forward, but if you include the games where he’s operated in a central attacking position behind or alongside Kane, he has six goals in 13 games from central roles.
In terms of the games he’s played in which Kane hasn’t, he has five goals and four assists from eight games.
Some of these have seen appearances from backup striker Fernando Llorente, and the Spaniard is another player Pochettino could turn to while the main man is on the sidelines. But even when Llorente is present, it’s often up to Son to provide the cutting edge in the final third usually offered by Kane.
However, slotting into the position every now and again, and becoming the main man up front are two different things entirely, and if he is chosen to lead the line then more pressure will be on him. But at the same time, if he continues to do well, even more plaudits will come his way.
Spurs have had problems finding a backup player to Kane, as the player needs to be one who doesn’t mind sitting on the bench for the majority of his team’s games, but also needs the quality to perform when called upon.
This type of player is difficult to find and Llorente, and Vincent Janssen before him have struggled to put a run of games together, but in Son they have a forward who is already integrated into the side, already scoring goals, and knows what his manager requires in the role.