‘Difficult’ – Conte opens up on his decision to drop Son Heung-min

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Heung-min Son
(Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

Antonio Conte has admitted that the decision to drop Son Heung-min for the clash against Leicester was a difficult one for him to make.

Until the clash on Saturday, Son had looked extremely lacklustre this season, having not scored a single goal and provided just one assist in the eight games that he had played until that point.

The South Korean could not have had too many complaints when Conte decided to start with a front three of Harry Kane, Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski, who were all deserving of their place on the side.

When Son came on for Richarlison just before the hour mark, the 30-year-old appeared determined to prove a point, and he did that in spectacular fashion, netting a 13-minute hat-trick to help the Lilywhites thrash the Foxes 6-2.

Conte expressed his delight at the forward’s brilliant cameo, admitting that he needed to find the back of the net to regain his confidence.

When asked about Son’s hat-trick, the Italian told Football.London: “I am pleased for Sonny, for sure, because we can speak, we can try to give an explanation if a player doesn’t score especially when he is a striker, but at the end, the striker has to score because if the striker doesn’t score, the confidence goes down.

“For sure, in the last seven games, he had a lot of chances to score, but he was unlucky. For him to score three today in only 13 minutes, I think it was a record for me, the first time to score three as a substitute in this time.

“I am happy for him to change the game as a substitute in this way, but I am especially happy for the team because we needed this. We have three points, and we are 17 points after seven games.”

Conte opened up on the difficulty of the decision he had on his hands to leave last season’s Golden Boot winner on the bench, revealing that he was honest with the player on his reason behind the selection decision.

When asked about the decision to drop Son from the starting eleven, the Italian said: “The people do not understand for the coach to manage this type of situation is not easy.

“It’s not easy because sometimes you prefer to play with 13 players, but in some moments I have to take important decisions.

“First of all, you have to try to be honest in the decision because if you are honest, you don’t lose the respect of your players. I think in my career, every decision that I am going to take is always for the best of the team.

“The players know very well that I want to win and every decision is for the best of the team, also for the best of the player, to protect the players, because if we have an injury, Harry Kane an injury, Sonny an injury, to only talk about Dejan or Richy is difficult.

“To have Lucas Moura out for one month, it is difficult to manage the situation.”

Conte reiterated that he never had any issues with Son, despite his struggles in front of goal, and remarked that Spurs needed him back at his best.

The Tottenham head coach added: “I always say to you, especially since I remember many press conferences this season before many games, you ask me why you don’t drop Sonny for not scoring. I remember this.

“For me, Sonny will never be a problem, never, never, never. Because we are talking about a really good guy, an amazing, outstanding player, one of the two best players in my team with Harry.

“For sure, to see Sonny with the ball after the hat-trick, then also the trophy for the best player of the game was great.

“It was amazing for me, for my teammates because we needed this. We, not only Sonny, we needed this. I am happy, but I repeat, this is not a problem.”

Spurs Web Opinion

While some Spurs fans had been calling for Son to be dropped for several weeks, Conte really did face a very difficult decision on his hands as leaving out the South Korean could have further dented his confidence.

While dropping the 30-year-old looks like a master stroke in hindsight, had Son not scored on Saturday, his struggles would have dominated the headlines during the international break.

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