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Tottenham Hotspur Season in Review 2018-19: Player of the Season

It’s a split decision between the masthead and the commentariat.

Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I

Tottenham Hotspur’s Premier League season is over, and it’s time to start evaluating how the players have done over the course of the year. This season we’ll be evaluating players by position instead of doing individual articles for each person.

But we’ll start today with two individual profiles: the Cartilage Free Captain Writers and Community Players of the Season.

Cartilage Free Captain Writers Player of the Season: Son Heung-Min

On Sunday after Tottenham drew 2-2 with Everton at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Sonny was announced as the club’s Player of the Season as voted on by the Official Supporters’ Groups. It was a good choice, and it is also our choice.

Harry Kane is still Spurs’ best striker and leading goal scorer, but after a year where he had two ankle injuries that kept him out for a good chunk of the season, Sonny ably stepped into the spotlight and shouldered the goal scoring and offensive load for the team. Son scored 20 goals in all competitions this season, the second highest goal tally of his Tottenham career, and dished out 10 assists. He had the second highest xG on the team behind Kane.

He single-handedly kept Spurs in the title race after Kane went down the first time in January, scoring eight goals in eight matches between Christmas and February 10. He was the first goal scorer in Spurs’ new stadium. And he thrived in Pochettino’s new “Air-Raid Offense,” looking direct and exciting with the ball and interchanging well with Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen in Spurs’ offensive scheme. His brace in the Champions League match at Manchester City might have been his most important goals for Spurs; his driving run and goal against Chelsea almost certainly his best.

The fact that he did all this after competing in three international tournaments — the World Cup, the Asian Games (with which he won a gold medal and a military service exemption) and the Asian Cup — made him not only one of Spurs’ best players but the club’s most important one. This was a Spurs side decimated by injury and exhaustion, and Sonny put the entire team on his back at times with a huge smile and an infectious joy.

Yes, he had some purple patches followed by periods of relatively fallow offensive output, but it’s not hyperbole to say that Spurs are not in the Champions League finals or the top four without Son Heung-Min. We talk often about players making “the leap” to the next level. He may not yet be recognized as such by the soccerati, but in our opinion Sonny has become one of world football’s best and most exciting forwards. We hope he stays at Spurs forever. Keep smiling, Sonny.

Rating: 5 Chirpys

Community Player of the Season: Moussa Sissoko

A couple of days ago, I asked members of the Cartilage Free Captain community to vote for who they thought should be Spurs’ Player of the Season. We expected a big response, and we got one — there were over 1700 responses to the poll. The community’s pick for Player of the Season was likewise overwhelming, with an even 50% of the vote, making him the runaway favorite — and it’s Moussa Sissoko.

For context, nearly 900 people voted for Sissoko as Player of the Season, compared to just over 500 for Sonny. Christian Eriksen came in third with 6% of the vote, with Toby Alderweireld at 4.6%.

Shout-out to the cheeky buggers who put write-in votes for VAR, Zac Efron, Tom Carroll, Bacon Sandwich, and several variations of “Fernando Llorente’s hip.”

Choosing Moussa Sissoko as the Community Player of the Season makes sense to me. In 2018-19, Sissoko engineered and completed a complete 180º turnaround of his Spurs career. Once a pariah to Spurs fans and a laughingstock to neutrals, considered a waste of his £30m transfer fee, nobody on the team has benefitted more from Mauricio Pochettino’s tweaked tactics than Sissoko, who seems to have finally found his position as a progressive central midfielder with a high work rate and ability take on defenders.

I don’t think anyone is saying that Sissoko is the best player on this Tottenham team — that would be patently untrue. But you can make very good argument that nobody has had a bigger and more important impact relative to his status before the season. He vaulted far over his expectations and carved out a role for himself in Poch’s revamped Air Raid offense that fully exploited all the things he does really well while minimizing the areas that are his weakest, which is exactly what you want to do with any player. Spurs struggled mightily in the center of midfield this season, and Sissoko stepped into that void, bursting through the midfield with the ball and putting in numerous yeoman-like defensive efforts. The only thing he didn’t do this season is score.

If you consider a Player of the Season to be the Most Valuable Player — as opposed to Best Player, and that’s a perfectly valid interpretation of the award — then Sissoko is certainly a very good option. And there’s no doubt that he’s been very, very important. He has earned his place in this Tottenham team going forward.