Opinion: A statistical analysis of Heung-min Son’s slow start to the season

Heung-min Son
(Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

It’s been a slow start for last season’s golden boot winner, Heung-min Son, with many Tottenham fans calling for the South Korean to be dropped in favour of summer signing Richarlison.

With just one assist and no goals in the opening six Premier League matches is there cause for concern for the Spurs faithful when it comes to Sonny?

First of all, this is by no means an attack on Son, rather a look into what’s going wrong and right at the start of this season. This weekend’s victory against Fulham was a far better performance from the wide man, who despite failing to find the net, showed signs of his old self and the statistics back that up.

Accumulating 0.6 xG (expected goals) and 0.5 xA (expected assists) is a far higher output than the previous five matches, in which Son registered 0.7 xG and 0.7 xA in 316 minutes of football.

Those who watched the match against Fulham will know how unlucky Son was not to get on the scoresheet, crashing the underside of the bar and looking far more like his old self than before.

It’s been notable in those five games prior to Fulham how uninvolved Son has found himself. On the ball, Son completed 34 carries and six progressive carries (carries that move the ball towards the opponent’s goal at least five yards), a much-improved performance to West Ham during the week where he only had 17 carries and managed just one progressive carry.

In terms of shot-creating actions, Fulham was again far and away his best to date, with a total of eight actions in the match. That’s double the amount he’s managed in any of the other matches so far, more than both Richarlison (7) and Kane (4) managed in the match too.

Perhaps most unfortunately for Son at the start of the season has been the impact of those around him. Richarlison has been impactful off the bench, with an infectious energy and charisma every time he steps onto the pitch.

Richarlison has also shown his quality, registering two assists in 171 minutes so far. Compare Richarlison’s xA of 1.0 in over 400 fewer minutes and it only magnifies the slow start Son has had in terms of creation, Kulusevski equally has registered 1.0 xA while scoring once and having two assists to his name.

The victory over Fulham was hopefully a better sign of things to come, one another day Son scores and assists in a game most fans would agree should have been more than 2-1.

With so many games in such a short space of time, it’s going to be interesting to see how Antonio Conte uses Son and where.

There aren’t many Spurs fans that doubt Son’s ability and Fulham was a great indicator that he’s on the right track, it’s hopefully only a matter of time before Son finds himself back in the goals and doing what he does best.

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