Tottenham Hotspur may have won their Premier League match today over Everton, but all anyone wants to talk about is what happened between Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris and fan-favorite forward Son Heung-Min. The two were involved in an on-pitch altercation after the halftime whistle as they walked towards the tunnel, with Hugo apparently upset at something Sonny did or said just before the break.
There were heated words exchanged. There was some mild shoving. Mommy, why are Hugo and Sonny fighting?
First, let’s take a look at what happened at halftime. Time to Zapruder this sucker.
The camera is on Gio Lo Celso, probably the match’s best player, walking to the tunnel when Hugo barges into the frame, clearly unhappy. He starts yelling at Sonny, who starts yelling back. Gio, who is now literally in the middle, realizes what’s happening and tries to separate them. Hugo then shoves Sonny one-handed, and Son says something back to Hugo.
Pretty quickly, other players get involved. Gio shoves Sonny forward to get him out of the way, as does Moussa Sissoko, who charges into the scene. Harry Winks almost puts Hugo in a headlock trying to defuse the situation, and he, SIssoko, and Lucas Moura attend to Hugo while Gio and Eric Dier continue to push Sonny further away from an obviously irate Lloris.
So what the heck happened? The whole kerfluffle stemmed from the final play of the half, which ended with a diagonal shot from Everton forward Richarlison that forced Hugo to make a dive to make sure it stayed out of the bottom corner. NBC’s Two Robbies — Earle and Mustoe — and host Rebecca Lowe do a pretty good job of breaking it down from wide footage.
Apparently, Hugo was LIVID at Sonny for what he felt was not tracking back on Everton’s midfielders, something that he felt led to Richarlison’s shot. You can see in the footage that Son does appear to be lackadaisical in the final part of the play, not immediately tracking back to mark the run of Yerry Mina, who advances with the ball pursued by Harry Kane. Mina finds Richarlison in space between the lines, and Richarlison puts a nice shot that thankfully goes just wide.
So is Sonny at fault here? Welllllllllll... maybe a little. Yes, he maybe could’ve pressed a little higher on Tom Davies at the beginning of the play or used his pace to try and catch up to him instead of leaving it for Kane. He leaves Davies to push up the field and then declines to run back to help with Mina. Maybe this had been an issue with Son earlier in the match as well; I’d have to go back and watch again, keeping a close eye on Sonny’s runs to say one way or the other.
But on the other hand, you could just as easily be upset with Sissoko or Winks, both of whom failed to stay close to Richarlison and let him get free between the lines for the open shot. Sonny may have given up on the play, but I’m still struggling to figure out why he got the bulk of Hugo’s wrath and not anyone else involved.
There are two ways that you can look at an intra-Spur altercation like this. It’s either a sign that the players are cracking under the strain of having to play under a tyrannical dictator like Jose Mourinho (kidding... or am I?), or you can point to this as an example of Hugo using his leadership skills as team captain to confront one of the best and most popular players on the team when he thinks that guy hung him out to dry.
We don’t know what happened in the changing room at halftime, but Hugo obviously didn’t stuff Sonny into a garbage bin, and the two seemed to make up after the final whistle.
Hug it out, boys. You’re brothers.
Naturally, Mourinho was asked about what happened in his post-match press conference. Here’s what he said about it:
“It was beautiful. It has probably come as a consequence of our meeting [after the Sheffield United game]. If you want to blame somebody for that, it’s me.
“I was critical of my boys because they are not critical enough of themselves, with each other. I asked them to be more demanding, I asked them to demand more from others, I asked them to put first the colleagues and the pressure of that team spirit that you have to give everything for everybody.
“It was a situation at the end of the first half where an amazing kid that everybody loves like Sonny, a team boy... in that situation the captain [Lloris] thought in the last minute of the first half ‘you need to do more for the team, you have to give a different effort than you gave’.
“I think it is something very important for the team to grow up because for a team to grow up, you need to demand from each other and be strong personalities, and I was really pleased. At half-time I told them ‘when you have this reaction I have no doubts in the second half you are going to stick together’.”
Hugo, for what it’s worth, declined to disclose any details, but did say that what happens in the changing room stays in the changing room, and that the incident is finished, as far as he’s concerned.
“It just belongs to the changing room. Outside you can say whatever you want. There is a lot of respect between all the players. What happened between me and Son is just something that is part of football sometimes, but there is no problem at all.
“You can see at the end of the game we are more than happy to be part of the team and to have the three points. To concede a chance six seconds before half time because we don’t press properly. It annoyed me but it’s part of football, no problem, we move on.”
However you feel about the incident, it was probably the most exciting moment in what was a pretty turgid and dull affair. Leave it to Spurs — if they don’t create fireworks on the pitch, they’ll make some off it.