According to reports from Mirror Football, Tottenham are set to lose Heung-min Son for the first four games of the new season as he takes part in the Asian Games.
Spurs are under no obligation to let him leave for international duty, but if South Korea win the tournament it will excuse the winger-forward from national service – so it could prove a bit of a masterstroke in the long run.
But how much will it affect the Lilywhites at the start of the campaign, not to mention Son’s career with the north London club? We look at the potential consequences – some positive, some negative – of the 26-year-old’s four-game absence…
Dele Alli always seems to be at his best for Spurs when peeling in from the left, but Mauricio Pochettino’s preference for Heung-min Son in that role last season – at least, after reverting back to 4-2-3-1 – saw the England international line up more centrally, one of the key causes behind what many perceived to be a worrying downturn in form from the young midfielder.
But Son’s absence opens up that opportunity once again and while Alli’s ultimate position obviously isn’t left attacking midfield, a return to the role could bring that level of roaring form out of him once again – for just long enough to really regain his confidence. And if the 22-year-old can start next term with a fine flurry of goals, he could end up carrying that potency throughout the rest of the campaign.
Lucas Moura didn’t really get much of a chance after arriving in north London midway through last season, but he’s the strongest candidate to replace the speed Son’s absence will take out of the starting XI and Alli drifting over to the left will in turn open up a gap for the Brazil international on his favoured right-hand side.
And should the former PSG star bring the level of form we all know he’s capable of, that will suddenly make it his shirt to lose, as Son’s tasked with wrestling it back off Moura upon his return. Extra competition within the squad can do little harm, especially when it involves two talents like Son and Moura, but it will leave Son in something of a precarious position upon his return.
For all the talk of the Wembley move curtaining Tottenham’s season, only three Premier League clubs picked up more points than the Lilywhites at home last term while just one – champions Manchester City – lost fewer games at their own venue.
But a crucial part of that was Son’s stunning home form, which was responsible for nine of his twelve Premier League goals and five of his six assists. More than any other Spurs player, the South Korean seemed to embrace the vast space of the Wembley pitch.
But Tottenham now won’t have that luxury for their one game back at Wembley this season before returning to the newly built White Hart Lane, and although Fulham don’t exactly represent the most challenging of opposition its nonetheless a weapon proven to work at Wembley that’s being taken away from Pochettino’s armoury.
And considering how slow starts to the season have affected Tottenham’s last three campaigns, a draw or even a defeat to the Cottagers early on could prove to be incredibly costly come the end of May.