Sona season is a disaster. Why does the Korean, who took the Golden Boot in the spring (shared with Salah), fail?
Today, Son Heung Min has a long-awaited meeting with Man City. For the Korean, this is one of his favorite clients in his career – only three clubs (Borussia, Leicester and Southampton) he scored more. In addition to just good statistics, there are also great memories – three goals from Son brought Spurs victory.
The meeting with City is also a good opportunity to get out of the crisis. He categorically dragged on at Sonaldo. By the end of the first round, the 30-year-old Korean has only 4 goals in the Premier League, three of which were scored in one game with Leicester. The statistic is embarrassing on its own, but especially because of last season’s history when Son shared the Premier League Golden Boot with Mo Salah, scoring 23 goals each.
What went wrong? Shock, but even in the summer the crisis was predicted by Son’s father: “He must work even harder and continue to progress. If he is satisfied with what he achieved last season, then a crisis is inevitable. Son should play a leading role in one of the best clubs in the world. Only then will he become a truly top player.”
Son hasn’t left Tottenham, but Spurs’ level has allowed him to score 40 goals in the last two seasons. Where did it all go? There are three theories.
The dream ceased to destroy at the expense of realization. Has he been caught up by a regression to the mean?
If you suddenly didn’t know or forgot, Son is a unique player. Its uniqueness lies in its incredible implementation. From season to season, Son manages to score more than expected goal patterns predict. Sometimes – much, much more.
The last campaign is a great example. Son scored 23 goals, seven more than Opta’s xG model. Then the Korean struck only 86 blows – the lowest figure for a player who took the Golden Boot in the last 10 years.
According to eyewitnesses, the matter is in the unusual technique of Son. Even under Mauricio Pochettino, the Korean regularly stayed after training for additional blows – the company was always Harry Kane. Classes were aimed at stability and impact power – the points changed only after the result was fixed.
David Webb, who worked at the club as a scout, noted another aspect of training:
“The goalkeeper can rarely be outplayed if you hit the center of the ball. Therefore, Son worked primarily on twisted shots. In training, he tried to figure out how to shoot from different positions – and what the goalkeeper would do at that moment. Choosing a position also helps him. He does not play a classic winger and does not fly to a couple of central defenders, but tries to go from a half-flank – between the central and the winger. So you are at an angle – from this position it is easier to spin the ball.
Another secret is Sona’s bipedality. In the spring we analyzed this nuance in a separate text . Recall the essence: Sleep is able to equally successfully break through both with a working right and with a seemingly weak left. It turns out so great that the partners cannot believe that the Korean is right-handed. Praise again to the father – in childhood he got his son, forcing him to beat with both legs.
The implementation of Son’s bipedalism also helps – often the defenders deliberately leave a corridor for passing under the weak leg (to close the strong one). With a Korean, such a trick does not work. Hostages are not only defenders, but also xG models. Often kicks from the non-working foot are assigned a lower coefficient of sharpness. Thanks to his father, Son deceives the analysts.
The combination of all factors resulted in a chic implementation. Since the 2017/18 season, Son has scored 20 goals more than the StatsBomb model suggested – only Lionel Messi and Ciro Immobile have more. The strength of Tottenham’s training is clearly visible in Harry Kane – in the spring the Spurs leader was sixth in this chart.
Some analysts explained Son’s uniqueness by the fact that he simply often falls into his comfort zone – he hits only from those positions that he worked on, and only in situations that are convenient for him. For example, during counterattacks (Son’s specialization), models can overestimate the obstacle – the defenders at such moments are either simply cut off or defending in space. Speed Son in this situation is easier to score than the average player.
Former StatsBomb editor-in-chief Mike Goodman acknowledged Son’s talent, but admitted that at some point he would be covered by the so-called regression to the average – when real goals start to fall to xG values: “The reality is that, based on pure statistics, it is very difficult to assume that he , who have converted great moments in the past, will continue to do so in the future. You can look at Son’s numbers and conclude that he’s a great finisher, but you have to be very careful with the numbers.”
This season, the regression seems to have finally caught up with Son. The Undertstat and Opta models give the Korean’s shots an estimated 4.8 goals. In his normal season, Son could have scored a few more goals than xG suggests – then talk of a crisis could have subsided. But here we come to the second problem – this season the Korean gets not as many chances as before.