Son Heung-min (£8.6m) solidified his place on the Fantasy Premier League radar as he scored the winning goal in Double Gameweek 25’s opening match.
Spurs left it late once again, but in beating Newcastle they continued their attempts to stay relevant in the top flight title race – and are still yet to draw a league match this season.
The exploits of their South Korean star is the focus of this latest Scout Notes article.
Spurs 1-0 Newcastle
Goals: Son Heung-min (£8.6m)
Assists: Fernando Llorente (£5.7m)
Son continued his excellent run of form on Saturday lunch-time although was somewhat fortunate to get a second goal since his return from the Asian Cup. The South Korean is now averaging 8.9 points per appearance in his last 12 Premier League outings, a truly staggering level of consistency, but came close to blanking against Newcastle. His manager Mauricio Pochettino had no complaints about Son though, as his chances of starting matches, amid questions over his energy levels, strengthen with each passing Gameweek.
“It’s about him, it’s because of him. He works so hard, always pushing, never gives up. He try, try, try. He’s like in his effort with and without the ball, he’s very regular and consistent and that is most important. Sonny is like when you have a battery, you work work work and then the battery is gone. He is like this, he gives you everything and when he’s exhausted he says ‘I need to change’ or needs to rest. He’s like this. Always on the pitch, he’s 100 per cent in every action without or without the ball. That is the most important thing, it’s a very good example for everyone, watching him play. Of course, after the first season, he understood what we expected of him. He’s now if you see him, he’s one of the players who is always moving on the pitch, trying to get the best position in defensive and offensive situations. Always giving options to team-mates, running forward, dropping and then arriving from the second line. He is a very complete player today and we are so happy with his performance.” – Mauricio Pochettino
Mauricio Pochettino made the surprise decision of using neither Son nor Fernando Llorente (£5.7m) in a centre-forward role at Wembley Stadium, with Lucas Moura (£6.8m) asked to lead the line instead. It took a series of bad misses in the first half from the Brazilian to convince Pochettino to shift Son into a more central role, but across the course of the afternoon, only one of his five efforts on goal was on target. That was the one that found the net, which only did so because of a catastrophic error from Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka (£5.0m).
Son was substituted in the 88th minute, with the result looking fairly secure by that point. The South Korean seems likely to start every week now that he has settled back into a Premier League routine, his owners encouraged by the fact he came through a period of supposed fatigue with two starts.
“No, no (it was not a risk to play Son). When we assess him, when I asked this guy [points to his assistant manager Jesus Perez] if he’s fully recovered or not and the medical staff, the sports science team and all the data and assessment was very positive, a full recovery yesterday and that’s why he played. Another player maybe didn’t start or was on the bench.” – Mauricio Pochettino
It was a mixed afternoon for the 2.7% of Fantasy managers in possession of Llorente. It was indeed strange that he did not start the match, even in light of his bad misses against Watford. Spurs’ plan for much of the game was to play high balls into the box, but Moura and Erik Lamela (£6.1m), playing on the right of attacking midfield, were simply not good enough in the air, their efforts regularly off-target. It begged the question why Llorente was on the bench with the added height he could have offered.
Coming into Gameweek 24, Newcastle ranked 17th in the league for headed attempts conceded, also bottom for shots allowed in set-piece situations. Spurs clearly targeted this weakness in the Magpies’ play but did so using probably the wrong players. Across the 90 minutes, Pochettino’s men had 16 shots in the box and six big chances but were accurate with just two efforts.
Once Llorente did take to the field, as a 60th-minute replacement for Moura, Spurs had a bit more about them in the air. In fact, the former Swansea City man ended the lunch-time encounter with more shots in the box than any other player despite playing just half an hour. He got his assist for laying off to Son in the 82nd minute.
Whether Llorente starts against Leicester in Gameweek 26 is very much still uncertain at this point. As already explained, a home match against Newcastle seemed custom-made for a player of Llorente’s abilities, and yet he still had to settle for just a substitute’s appearance.
Christian Eriksen (£9.3m) had a much better game on Saturday than he did against Watford midweek. He came out of the Newcastle match as the top creator, playing six key passes in the course of the game. Had his colleagues been more accurate with their shooting, the Danish international might have scored more than his three points.
Pochettino went with a back-four for the game initially, surprisingly naming Jan Vertonghen (£5.9m) at left-back and leaving Danny Rose (£5.8m) on the bench. It was thought that with an injury to Ben Davies (£5.6m) that the England international would get a second start of the week, but he was used just in the last 12 minutes. From that point, Spurs set up with a back three and lined up in the 3-5-2 formation used against Watford, with Son and Llorente a front pairing.
Newcastle offered little in the way of a genuine goal threat, with just three shots in the penalty box all afternoon, but that was clearly never a priority for Rafa Benitez. He set his Magpies side up in the 5-4-1 formation he has favoured recently, making no changes from the XI that beat Manchester City midweek. While Spurs were able to create plenty of chances against them, Newcastle were well organised and will consider themselves unlucky not to come away with a point, especially as the only goal they conceded came from a goalkeeper error. Either way, their performance, coupled with Tuesday night’s win, proves that Newcastle are exactly the sort of team that can cause problems to big clubs with their patient defensive capabilities.
“We did well for a while in the first half. We had chances in the second half and after that, they were pushing and pushing and then you have to be a bit better on the ball to ensure that you go through. They were pushing us really hard and we were defending well. The problem for us is conceding this kind of goal. It is one we could have avoided.” – Rafa Benitez
There was a debut for new defender Antonio Barreca (£4.5m), as he came on for Matt Ritchie (£5.8m) in the 86th minute. His arrival may allow the Scottish winger to play higher up the pitch and return to his creative role for the side, having operated as a left wing-back in recent matches.
Midfielder Miguel Almirón (£6.0m) was unable to play any part with his visa yet to be sorted but Benitez is confident that will be concluded this week in time for him to face Wolves.
“He can help. Barreca too. We have different kind of players with pace and when you have competition it is always good for the team.” – Rafa Benitez
Tottenham Hotspur XI (4-2-3-1): Lloris, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Sánchez, Trippier; Winks, Sissoko; Son (Dier 88′), Eriksen, Lamela (Rose 78′); Moura (Llorente 60′).
Newcastle United XI (5-4-1): Dubravka; Ritchie (Barreca 86′), Lejeune, Lascelles, Schär, Yedlin; Atsu (Kenedy 82′), Hayden, Longstaff, Pérez; Rondón.