Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min Sorely Missed in First Leg Defeat
Tottenham Hotspur have fallen behind 1-0 in their UEFA Champions League semi-final tie against Ajax. It is certainly all to play for, with Spurs’ hopes bolstered in the second leg with the return of Son Heung-min from suspension. He offers a dynamism but also clinical striking ability that is simply missing without either his or Harry Kane‘s prowess.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min to Revive Champions League Hopes
Fernando Llorente a Placeholder
Fernando Llorente started up top against Ajax in the first leg and completed the 90 minutes. All in all, he was not greatly effective, mainly due to his lack of mobility. He is simply often too slow or sluggish to provide the multi-faceted outlet that Son can provide. In this modern game, it really helps to have a kind of player with the pace to burn past opponents.
Nevertheless, it is likely that Llorente will still be used and may start in the away leg in Amsterdam. His height and strength are useful in winning balls and holding the ball up the pitch. Some of his link-up play is decent once he has controlled the ball. However, he is often complacent or simply too slow in decision making. He will always remain a threat in the box, and yet he still did miss a free header (although admittedly at a stretch) in the box in the match, which still smacks of a confidence issue. Son is not as prolific in the air, but could definitely help by playing off the Spaniard. Whilst centre-backs jostle with Llorente, Son can make the runs in behind to help liven up the attack.
Llorente certainly played to the limited role he can provide in the first leg but Son can perform more than just a placeholder role, with the ability to go on runs and get away from opponents and with the confidence to try something special.
On Lucas Moura‘s Back
Despite running hard and trying to change the game with his efforts, Lucas Moura too didn’t provide the goods Spurs needed. He did provide a vital injection of pace at points in the match and without him the team could have struggled more. Pochettino could choose to field a front three with Moura, Llorente and Son. This way it would double the pace the team has up front and put more pressure on Ajax’s defence.
As part of Moura’s relentlessness, there was a scrappiness to his game. All in all, this was a match where few Spurs players really shone. But, in Moura’s haste to drive forward, the play often broke down as the likes of Moura would try to take on too many men. Son is similar too in that he will want to beat his man. But, sharing that burden together may allow both players to play with a little freedom. Moura has proved he is able to score goals becoming the first hat-trick hero at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It will be easier to replicate this kind of performance if he doesn’t feel the need to step up onto the pedestal left empty by Kane.
Son Heung-min to Shine on Spurs
Son will provide pace, creativity and clinical finishing for his club in the second leg. All three of these ingredients were lacking most of the time in the first. Indeed, he will allow other players like Moura to play with more freedom. Furthermore, it will be the combined efforts and threats of Moura and Son, whether at the same time on the pitch, or one of them coming off the bench, that will cause the Ajax defence more problems. Llorente may provide more of a physical and gangly presence than Son, but Son is a far harder player to deal with. That is not to say that Son always shines perfectly in all his matches. In the match against West Ham, his touches were heavy and he almost seems to overplay and get too caught up in the occasion as did Moura against Ajax. The key thing is that he is a player with the skillset to suddenly create a goal, often out of nothing. Spurs will desperately need goals in the second leg, especially considering Ajax’s home record; Son can help provide this.