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Tactics Takes: Son Heung-Min’s Passing Can Be Underrated

We all know Sonny can score. Turns out he can pass, too.

Fulham v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth - Pool/Getty Images

After a lukewarm run of form through the holiday period and into the New Year - no doubt due to the sheer number of minutes played - Son Heung-Min is back to playing some quality football for Tottenham Hotspur. It’d be a tall order for him to reach the scintillating peaks that he hit in September and October, but while the fans are excited about Gareth Bale’s and Dele Alli’s redemption arcs (so to speak), Son has quietly developed an often frustrating part of his game - his passing.

Historically, his passing completion percentage has hovered around 80% during his time at Spurs. That’s about average for someone that plays his position (a defender, for example, would have a much higher passing completion rate due to the volume of safe passes.) But any Spurs fan that has seen Son play in Lilywhite for the last few years has seen him keep his head down, run at goal and take a shot regardless of the likelihood of a goal.

Although these can result in some nice finishes, for the most part fans, and teammates, are left frustrated because better options were left ignored.

Over the course of recent matches, however, he’s put this view to the test by pulling off some eye catching passes that should have been marked as assists, but lacked the proper finish.

Son of old would have dribbled the ball outside and taken a shot on from an acute angle. Here, however, he looks up and spots the run of Kane/Lamela. He plays a great pass that should have ended in a shot on goal at least, if not for Kane’s poor finish (I was surprised too.)

Against Fulham last night, he worked the angle neatly for Dele to get a shot on goal. Arguably, he should have had an assist before then though, as he lofted a beautiful cross to an open Kane who was, again, unable to put it away.

You can view highlights from last night here to see how Son made some great passes that should have ended in goals.

It might seem like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but the numbers have trended in the right direction for Son.

Last year, he averaged 3.49 Shot Creating Actions (SCA - dribble or pass that leads to a shot), this year he’s at 3.14 - with 12 more matches to play. Additionally, over the last three games he’s pulled off 14 key passes that have led to shots, two more than the amazing stretch of form he had in October as mentioned above.

Kane and Dele have been getting plaudits for chance creation, but recently Son has shown that he might deserve to be in the conversation by the time the season ends.

Additionally, it is encouraging to see individual players gain depth in skillsets as the season continues. No doubt there’s been times in which Spurs season drags into a slog, but individual performances such as these are always a constant positive factor to keep an eye out for. The fact that they can build up for an emphatic (Burnley) or dodgy (Fulham) 3 points makes it all the better.