Tottenham Hotspur head into Saturday afternoon’s Premier League meeting against Leicester City off the back of their first defeat of the 2022/23 campaign, with Sporting Lisbon having emerged 2-0 winners over Spurs in the Champions League on Tuesday.
While Tottenham’s performance in Portugal was far from disastrous – with two late Sporting goals being enough to steal all three points – it represented yet another game in which Son Heung-min struggled to find form.
Indeed, having drawn a blank in all eight of his appearances so far this season – with his only goal contribution coming in the form of an assist against Southampton on the Premier League’s opening day – the winger has looked far from his best in 2022/23.
This has led some to question whether the £67.5m-rated forward should be dropped from Antonio Conte’s starting XI this weekend, something that the 52-year-old addressed in his pre-match press conference ahead of the Leicester game.
The Spurs manager said: “No players are undroppable. This has to be clear. If I say this it’s only to help my players and to avoid injuries, to try to have players in a good performance. You know you can play one game well, another so-so and another not. My job is to protect my players and find the right way to get a good result.
“If you don’t start with some players then you have the possibility to use them in the game. If we want to play these four competitions, in the Europa Conference League it can give you the possibility to make rotations in the group stage and if you drop a bit of the quality you can maybe still win. In the Champions League it is different.”
Considering the fact that Dejan Kulusevski has begun each of Spurs’ last three games on the bench, it would appear something of a must for Conte to finally unleash the Swedish sensation in place of the misfiring Son this evening.
Indeed, over his 18 Premier League appearances in 2021/22, the £45m-rated forward was in remarkable form, scoring five goals, providing eight assists and creating six big chances, along with taking 1.4 shots, making 1.4 key passes and completing 1.4 dribbles per game.
These returns saw the £110k-per-week attacker average a simply sensational SofaScore match rating of 7.21, not only ranking him as Spurs’ fourth-best performer in the league but also as the 25th-best player in the entire top flight last term.
It has been a similar story for the player who Raj Chohan dubbed “unreal” in the current campaign, having already scored one goal, registered two assists and created one big chance over his six league outings, in addition to taking 1.3 shots, making 1.8 key passes and completing one dribble per game.
As such, while Son is undoubtedly an extremely talented player who will eventually return to form, it is clear to see that Conte simply must unleash Kulusevski in the South Korean’s place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this evening, as the 22-year-old could well be a game-changer in Spurs’ attack.