Remember how good a season Son Heung-Min had for Tottenham Hotspur in 2021-22, and how disappointing this past season was by comparison? It didn’t end up as bad as what we all thought while we were going through it — Sonny had 14 goals and six assists in all competitions last season and seemed to regain some of his missing form under Ryan Mason near the end — but it’s a far cry from 23 league goals and a shared Golden Boot the year prior.
But maybe, just maybe, we may have part of an answer as to why. The Korea Herald, South Korea’s largest English-language newspaper, published a report today that says Sonny underwent surgery two weeks ago to correct a sports hernia and that he’s questionable for the upcoming international break with the national team. The Korean football federation (KFA) announced that Sonny had the surgery on May 30.
Now, I’m not saying that Sonny carrying an injury was the sole reason for his drop-off this season. Notably, we don’t know when he sustained the injury or for how long he’s been playing through it. Son was also asked to play a more back-to-goal kind of role under Antonio Conte, something that seemed to hinder his production this past season and he only started to snap out of it when Ryan Mason took over as interim manager. And he’s also a year older now with a lot of miles on the legs. There are a lot of factors that could come into play here.
But carrying an injury for a portion of the season could also explain it, much as it might have explained the erratic performances of Eric Dier (who also underwent surgery near the end of the season). The symptoms of a sports hernia in a soccer context include “inability to perform basic football actions” (trapping ball, dribbiling ball, passing, etc.), and pain when twisting or kicking. Dr. Google also tells me that it’s the kind of injury where the symptoms also can reduce with rest but come back when you start to play again unless permanently corrected.
We know Spurs were super unlucky with injuries this past season. Maybe we were more unlucky than we realized. If you’re the optimistic kind of person (choose hope), then this is maybe a means by which Sonny can get back to his best football in the coming season. He’ll be playing under a new manager in a system that hopefully plays to his strengths, and if he hits the ground running and healthy then maybe we’ll look back at last season as a blip.