Opinion: Spurs must take advantage of the Son-Kane era while they still can

Heung-min Son
Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Only a few years ago, Tottenham had arguably the most formidable defence in the Premier League.

With the Belgian defensive wall of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen flanked by the tireless Danny Rose and the electric Kyle Walker, and the reliable Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier providing cover, many of the country’s top teams tried and failed to break down this Spurs backline.

No team conceded fewer goals than Spurs in either the 2015/16 or the 2016/17 season, with the 16/17 side letting in just 26, 7 fewer than Antonio Conte’s infamously resolute Chelsea side.

From 2015 to 2018, all four members of this starting backline featured in the Premier League team of the season at least once.

And yet, if you look at the honours won during this time, none of them have anything to show for it. A window for Spurs to win serious silverware was allowed to pass by.

Having endured two years of hit-and-miss defending, to put it generously, it now feels like the club took that defence for granted, given the lack of investment in the team during this period compared to the exceptional results on the pitch.

It may not feel like it after consecutive seasons outside the top five, but another one of these windows for success could be approaching its end sooner than expected.

Aside from all the troubles of the last two seasons, there is a fact that is not acknowledged enough about this Spurs team; they have two of the best, if not the best, attackers in the league.

Even with the summer arrivals of Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane has been the best striker in the Premier League for some time now and it would not be a surprise if he continues this form in 21/22.

Similarly, it is hard to think of a team in Europe that Son Heung-min wouldn’t start for, with perhaps only PSG consigning the South Korean to the bench.

It is extremely rare for Spurs to be in the position where they have an attacking partnership to rival the best of Europe. So why are expectations still so low for this team?

There are flaws with other aspects of the team as Nuno’s rejigged defence and midfield will take time to properly gel, but the short-lived nature of that prime defence under Pochettino should act as a warning that Spurs do not have time on their side.

It is feasible that Kane is not a Spurs player this time next year, while Son turns 30 in 2022 and even though he shows no sign of slowing down Eden Hazard is the perfect example that you never know how long a forward’s prime will last.

In two or three years’ time, Spurs attack could quite easily consist of neither Son nor Kane and be levels below what it once was, similar to how the defence is now.

It is too easy to get sucked into the talk around the need for a rebuild; Spurs need to get back to something resembling the top now or it will be too late.

Despite what Daniel Levy may think, the club does not have the pull to sign ready-made attacking talent, as seen by a number of high-profile snubs in the last few windows.

So unless another gem can be unearthed either by the scouting department or the youth academy, it is hard to see how Spurs will be able to find adequate replacements.

That’s why, although it may seem unnecessarily urgent, Tottenham need to take advantage of their world-class players while they still have the chance.

Whether Nuno is able to achieve this is yet to be seen, but if Spurs fall short of the top four once more it is not because they don’t have the ability to outscore their opponents.

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