Heung-min Son rises to Danjuma challenge as Spurs strikers queue up for Conte

Ian Watson

Is Heung-min Son back? The smile and deftness of touch certainly was at Preston. If he can sustain this form and Spurs’ other forwards stay fit, Antonio Conte could be in business in time for the second half of the season…

Tottenham signed Arnaut Danjuma this week. And Son Heung-min took that personally…

That was the impression from the South Korean’s performance at Preston, who bore the brunt of Son’s frustration after a wretched half season marred by injury, poor form and Spurs’ inherent Spursiness.

Prior to the trip to Deepdale, there were calls for Antonio Conte to sit Son on the bench, especially with the increase in his attacking options. Danjuma arrived from Villarreal, via a brief trip to Merseyside to custard pie Everton, to offer Conte other options down the left side of Spurs’ attack or down the centre for those occasional matches the manager feels comfortbale to grant Harry Kane a breather.

This evening, against Championship opposition, was one of those occasions, with Kane primed on the bench if required. During a first-half that made anyone watching question their Saturday night choices, it looked as if the England striker would have to be summoned.

That wasn’t for a lack of effort on Son’s part. He was given the left flank with Ivan Perisic initially asked to serve as Kane’s stand-in, which didn’t work. Spurs probed as the hosts sat deep but North End kept the Premier League side at bay with worrying ease. Son stung the palms of Freddie Woodman in the home goal, and he looked as busy as we’ve seen him since the World Cup. Even that was encouraging given his recent fortunes, but it was all graft and no guile.

Son seemed to channel all that frustration five minutes after re-emerging from a dressing room that we have to assume was a lively place to be – certainly more so than the pitch in the first-half if Spurs’ intensity was any measure immediately after the break. Taking a pass from Japhet Tanganga, Son smashed a shot from 25 yards that was beyond Woodman before he moved. Not that the keeper was unsighted. Son somehow hit the shot with both maximum speed and swerve.

Of course Son needed that. The celebration, in front of 5,000 travelling Spurs fans, demonstrated as much and the forward immediately looked lighter having scored in a game for only the fourth time this season.

That was also evident in the turn that teed him up for his second goal. What seems to have deserted Son most this season has been his deftness of touch but it was back when Perisic’s flick found him in the box. His first touch, combined with a faint to his left, sent Liam Lindsay for a butter pie and by the time he’d returned, Son had taken two more touches to get faced up and teed up to lash home another unstoppable strike.

Son looked gutted to be taken off late on as he searched for his second-hat-trick of the season, the first coming against Leicester when he came off the bench to show the world he was back after a poor start to the season. That treble, though, only brought temporary relief. We’ll get a better idea next week when Spurs face Manchester City if this form is fleeting or whether Son really has risen again just as Conte begins to relish his attacking options.

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