Why Son Heung-Min is Misfiring for Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur's South Korean striker Son Heung-Min (L) and Tottenham Hotspur's Portuguese head coach Jose Mourinho react at the final whistle during the English FA Cup fifth round football match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on February 10, 2021 (Photo by CLIVE BRUNSKILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Tottenham Hotspur's South Korean striker Son Heung-Min (L) and Tottenham Hotspur's Portuguese head coach Jose Mourinho react at the final whistle during the English FA Cup fifth round football match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on February 10, 2021 (Photo by CLIVE BRUNSKILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Recently HotspurHQ explored the reasons behind the Tottenham Hotspur slump in form. One of the three main reasons identified was Heung-Min Son and his scoring drought. There is no doubting that the South Korean has not been scoring over the last 12 matches the way he did over the first 13 but that alone does not explain his form. So what is going on with Son Heung-Min and his form and what can Tottenham do about it.

Son, Spurs Started on Fire

As we know over the first third of the season, Tottenham Hotspur were running wild on offense and a big part of that work was Heung-Min Son. Over the first 12 matches of the season Son contributed on 15 goals in the league for Tottenham. With 11 goals and 4 assists, in just 12 games we knew the pace could not be continued.

What made the run even more remarkable was just how deadly Son was during this time. Heung-Min Son was nearly 7 goals above his expected goal total during this time, which was only 4.34, compared to the11 he had scored.

This outstanding production was mostly down to the unbelievable accuracy Son was firing with. During those first 12 matches, Son took only 23 shots, 1.8 per match. Yet managed to score 11 times on those 23 shots. That is a 48% success rate, which is simply unheard of.

Just for a point of comparison over those same first 13 matches of the season Harry Kane also had 11 goals, however, he had those 11 goals on 47 shots, more than twice as many as the South Korean attempted. Kane’s finish rate at over 23% was remarkable as well, but at a 48% conversation rate on his shots, Heung-Min Son was simply hotter than could be maintained.

No one expected Son to continue to score on basically every-other shot but he has fallen far. Over the last 12 matches Heung-Min Son has taken 24 shots, which is actually 1 more than he took over those first 13 matches. However, of those 24 shots only 2 have found the back of the net. Son went from a 48% true conversation rate to an 8% rate.

Again, no one expected Son to score on every-other shot all season. However, for a players as talented as he is, scoring only 1 every 12 shots is just such an extreme. Son went from nearly +7 over his expected goal output over those first 12 matches, to actually slightly more than 2 goals under his expected production in the last 13 matches.

Like everyone even Heung-Min Son regresses to the mean

Combined over the course of 25 matches, Son’s totals are very much in line with career marks. Son’s expected goals over these 25 games totals 8.42, whereas his expected goals over the previous 25 games in league before that was 8.63.

Son’s expected production was supposed to be marginally down over the last 25 matches, but we know in reality it has been up. With 13 goals compared to 9 over those previous 25 matches, Sonny is scoring more than ever. Further his 4.58 more goals than expected over those 25 matches is fractionally better than his 4.68 more through most of 2019.

The point is, in terms of goals, despite the barren run over the last couple of months, Son is performing above his career average and is still firing at an incredible rate overall. With 13 goals on just 47 shots his finishing rate of 27% is very much comparable to Harry Kane one of the best finishers in the world.

The real problem is Son does not get enough shots

Heung-Min Son has 47 shots on the season, representing a career low 1.94 shots per 90 minutes. The lowest total in his career over a season was 2.46 shots per match back in 21014-15 with Bayer Leverkusen. In other words, the opportunities for Son to score have been much fewer this season.

Despite the limited opportunities, Son is currently only 1 goal off his career league high of 14 from back in 2016-17 for Spurs.

By comparison Harry Kane has 93 shots this season, 1 shot short of twice as many attempts as Son. With 17 goals from those 93 shots, Kane scores on 18% of his shots, lower than Sonny. This is not to say Kane is shooting too much. At 3.91 shots per 90 minutes, this season does not even reflect the second most shots per 90 minutes during a season for Kane.

Rather the problem is Son is simply not getting enough looks. Part of this may have to do with Son’s growing willingness and ability to share the ball. Son is at a career high 2.07 key passes per 90 minutes, which is .20 higher than his previous high of 1.87 back in 2016-17.

Passing a bit more than he has traditionally it has led to both more expected assists and more assists. Son has 8 assists and should have 6.24 based on expectations. Even over the last 12 matches as Tottenham have struggled, Son is over his projected assist total. The 8 total assists in league this season has Son just two shy of his personal record set last season of 10.

The difference for Tottenham has been Kane

Ultimately, Harry Kane really has been the difference between Son’s tremendous start and his recent slump. It is not about the number of shots Kane is taking, it is about those early season assists drying up. During those first 13 matches Kane assisted on 10 Tottenham goals, Over the last 12 matches Kane has had just one assist.

The truth of the matter is that many of the assists Kane was getting were out of almost nothing as he was only expected to have 4.42 assists over that time, yet had 10. Some of that was outstanding vision by Kane and some was that outstanding finishing of Son.

That one assist is not because of a bunch of missed opportunities as Kane’s expected assists is only at 1.48. The reality is, Kane is simply not finding the space and getting the opportunities to make the kind of passes he could earlier in the season when Spurs were clicking.

Healthy fellow Spurs is good news for Son and Kane

The good news for Tottenham Hotspur, Heung-Min Son, and Harry Kane is that the team is getting healthy and that means more players will be on the pitch opposing defenses have to account for. That accounting for players like Gareth Bale, Lucas Moura, Dele Alli, or Erik Lamela means just that bit of more space for Kane and that bit of more space for Son.

Ultimately, that is all Heung-Min Son needs is just a bit more space and a few more opportunities. If Tottenham could manage to get Son just even up to 2.5 shots per match that could mean 2 more goals over the next 13 games, based on the season conversation rate of 28%. Against Fulham that one more look might have made the difference.

In the last Liverpool match Sonny did not even get one shot. For a man that is scoring at a rate better than once every four shots on the season, that just will not do. If Sonny gets his shots, the goals will come again and more wins will follow.

Next. Observations from Win Over Burnley. dark