Son Heung-Min: Strengths and weaknesses of new Spurs star

Son Heung-Min arrived at Spurs for a fee of £22 million, so we look at the strengths and weaknesses of our new South Korean star.

Energy, effort and intensity are just three characteristics instantly associated with Son Heung-Min.

Nicknamed ‘Sonaldo’ he lit up the Bundesliga with his hard working, two-footed, direct dribbling style. Two seasons on from first being linked with us, the 23-year old is finally here and ready to bring his attack-minded game to the Lane.

Direct runner

The first thing that strikes you about Son Heung-Min is just how direct his play is.

Everything is done with purpose in his game and the reason behind it is to get either himself or the ball forwards. This usually involves either using his pace to run in to attacking positions or dribbling with the ball at his feet.

In the Bundesliga, both Hamburg and Leverkusen used his direct running to their advantage, trying to get him in the open field where he can be devastating. They looked to get the ball to him on the move, as he is far better running on to it than having to receive it with his back to the opposition’s goal.

Take Bayer Leverkusen’s match with Wolfsburg last season. Son Heung-Min floats across the pitch from his starting position on the left, but also note just how many passes are played forward to him rather than square or sideways. These were often played over distance to set him free in to space.


Son Heung-Min passes received, Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg.

Another example was at home to champions Bayern Munich. Again Son is free to drift from his starting position on the left as he floats off centre forward Stefan Kiessling. He works really well off a centre forward so that he can dart in to the free spaces as the striker takes the attention of the centre backs.


Son Heung-Min passes received, Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich.

This movement then allows Son to set up the second part of his game, his ability to dribble-drive at opponents and leave them standing.


Son Heung-Min take-ons, Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich.

Dynamic dribbler

Son Heung-Min is a direct runner and his dribbling is full of purpose as well. Many players dribble the ball in order to shield it, spin out of trouble or avoid a challenge. Son is a player that drives at an opponent in order to commit and go past him with minimal fuss and maximum directness. This sees him go quickly past opponents with little time for them to recover or for teammates to get over and help.

Sharp shooter

Son is not afraid of shooting. With two equally good feet that are capable of unleashing a rasping shot at any time, why should he be? Attempting 2.5 shots per game for Leverkusen last season showed that he wasn’t shy and with 38% on target he is always a threat to trouble the keeper.

His preferred method is cutting inside from either flank and striking the ball looking for the far corner. An excellent, although extreme example of this, was Leverkusen’s Champions League win over Benfica where he continually cut inside looking to get his shot away across goal.


Son Heung-Min shots, Leverkusen vs Benfica.

Overall, there is one situation where Son is always liable to shoot. He is extremely effective at running and firing at goal when he gets in to the open field. He is highly likely to surge towards the penalty area and round the goalkeeper; one of his favourite was to finish off a sweeping counter attack.

Precision presser

Son’s direct running and dribbling will have drawn the attention of Paul Mitchell, Rob Mackenzie and Mauricio Pochettino, but so to will have his hard work in Leverkusen’s pressing game. The South Korean played in a very up-tempo gegenpressing Bayer Leverkusen side that liked to squeeze up and try to win the ball back as quickly as possible.


Bayer Leverkusen defence vs Wolfsburg.

As you can see from the activity in the Wolfsburg half, this often saw Leverkusen regain the ball whereby they could immediately get in to attacking positions. However, the aggressive nature of their counter-pressing also saw them foul, highlighted by the number of black triangles in the opposition half of the field.

Even against Bayern Munich, Leverkusen were not afraid to play their counter-pressing game. Again, they regained the ball in the opposition half, despite often fouling.


Leverkusen defence vs Bayern Munich.

Son Hueng-Min was a key part of Bayer Leverkusen’s pressing play and his hardworking, energetic style helped them achieve this. He is able to tackle and close down opponents, but like many on the Leverkusen side, he is susceptible to giving away free kicks.


Son Heung-Min is an exciting player but he does have areas that he needs to work on.

He is tall; at 184cms he has size that aids him playing as a wide forward against smaller full backs. However, he isn’t strong physically or in the air either and this could be a problem for him in the more strength-focussed Premier League.

Son is a direct runner and effective dribbler of the ball, but he is not an adept crosser, preferring to drive in to the box and shoot. In 30 appearances in the Bundesliga last season, he attempted just 28 crosses from open play and completed just 6. Mauricio Pochettino likes his wide forwards to be on the end of balls in to the box rather than providing them, so Son Heung-Min fits the bill of what we require. However, it does reinforce the point that we will be increasingly reliant on our full backs for service, something that has been lacking so far this season.

Son Heung-Min is very direct and his runs frequently end up with him shooting at goal, but this can mean he misses passes to others in better positions. Spotting teammates and finding them with chance generating passes is something he needs to work on and has to improve.

What Son Heung-Min brings to Spurs

Son Heung-Min is an exciting and electric talent full of potential.

His direct running, dribbling and two-footed style will capture the bulk of the attention, but he is a very hard-working and a team-orientated player too.

He does need to become more consistent. He is still very young at just 23 years of age and he can be a streaky player in terms of his goal and assist production. The hard-work and team focus is always part of his game, but the steady output of goals and assists needs to follow.

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17 Responses to Son Heung-Min: Strengths and weaknesses of new Spurs star

  1. Garry Rogers 3rd September 2015 at 3:07 pm #

    Sounds like Townsend with noodles

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 3rd September 2015 at 3:54 pm #

      He’s a big step up on Townsend

  2. Mads 3rd September 2015 at 3:41 pm #

    And goals :)

  3. Pablo 3rd September 2015 at 7:23 pm #

    Interesting that we’d throw £22m down for Son without any quibbling but played silly buggers all summer over the £25m West Brom wanted for Berahino. Crazy!

    Is Son capable of providing cover for Eriksen at 10? If not, who will?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th September 2015 at 12:35 am #

      Only newspaper talk, but reports were that West Brom wanted £30 million+ for Berahino.

      Son has played as number 10 for Leverkusen, but he is a running and shooting number 10 rather than a defence splitting creative passer. He plays well off a centre forward tho, so provides a different option.

  4. Reinert 3rd September 2015 at 7:56 pm #

    I guess comparing him to Townsend is a rather selective way of reading ;) Great read Mark. Especcially the weakness part. I think however, that Kane, Chadli, Son and Eriksen will be tremendous in front of whoever fights it out between Alli, Dier and Benta. Not to mention the passing of Mason – I think we have a healthy combination there: Chadli-Mason-Son.

    Also, I am so excited to see how the squad pans out this season, particularly after reading MP/Levy-letter to the fans.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th September 2015 at 12:37 am #

      Yep he’s a big upgrade on Townsend and more than a cut inside and shoot merchant. We certainly have options now and the headache for Pochettino will be working out who pairs well together.

      • Reinert 4th September 2015 at 11:46 am #

        After Pochettino’s striker/girlfriend remarks, I am not sure if having a headache is such a bad thing ;)


        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th September 2015 at 4:20 pm #

          haha hopefully he can still find ‘the one’ ;)

  5. Derek Herscman 4th September 2015 at 12:25 am #

    Mark….nice read….do you think, drier / Ali / Pritchard can help fill void of forward we didn’t get & defensive center half? Son looks class player: N’ ? Enough Surport for Kane? Better Ericsson return!
    best Derek

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th September 2015 at 12:43 am #

      Son’s runs may open up some lanes for Kane as will N’Jie and Chadli on the other side. Teams will have to respect their speed and dribbling so will create spaces.

      I think Pritchard should get some time as a number ten and Alli should be slowly integrated in to the team also. We have some promising talent here but shouldn’t rush or throw them in to the deep end so soon. We became too reliant on Mason/Bentaleb pairing last season and burnt them out, so should learn from this.

  6. anotherwisemonkey 4th September 2015 at 8:13 pm #

    Lovely post and great reading the comments as well. I feel optimistic about this season. I’m not bothered about top 4. It’s great to see us buying players to fit a system, and I’m looking forward to seeing the system develop.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th September 2015 at 11:48 pm #

      Although Pochettino didn’t get the player he talked about being ‘the one’ it’s good to see us not just buying anyone. Whether it works out or it doesn’t, there is direction and a strategy in place and that is a good thing.

  7. YouShubes 7th September 2015 at 9:57 am #

    Have Wimmer and Fazio double team him training set pieces. He will get stronger! Question Mark if you had to choose between Son and Berahino i.e we only had the cash for one of them, who would you have preferred?

    As a scoring #10, do you feel sonny is best in an interchanging 3 of him, Eriksen, and Kane in a 4-3-3?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 7th September 2015 at 11:27 pm #

      It depends what you want from the player at that position. If you want goals you go with Berahino. If you want work rate, closing down, runs from deeper and a goal every 3/4 games then you go with Son.

      I feel Son is an occasional number ten and more of a wide forward. In a 4-3-3 a number ten sits behind the front three, so I would have Eriksen behind a front three of Chadli-Kane-Son.

  8. SSoLL 7th September 2015 at 4:47 pm #

    So excited to see my compatriot who’s extremely popular at Korea playing for Spurs.
    Everyone’s talking about Tottenham here. And I still can’t believe how Tottenham became so popular in a day or two.

    Most of all, so excited to see Spurs players visit my country very soon I believe.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 7th September 2015 at 11:33 pm #

      Great news Spurs are getting popular in Korea SSoLL, you are ahead of the crowd in your long-term Tottenham support ;)