Son Heung-min experienced a relatively slow start to the current Premier League campaign. He scored four goals across Tottenham Hotspur’s first 11 matches of the season, which was good but not great.
By that stage, eight players had scored more goals than the Spurs forward, who wasn’t exactly profiting from playing as part of an attacking outfit, unlike some of his peers at the pinnacle of the division.
Nuno Espirito Santo was struggling to post consistent results, and Son played as part of a counter-attacking unit in the large majority of matches, with Spurs placing less of an emphasis on possession-based football under the Portuguese coach. As Son sat on four goals, Mohamed Salah led the way on 11 in the Premier League.
The Egyptian was on a hot streak before Christmas and now his total stands at 22 goals for Liverpool after he scored twice as Jurgen Klopp’s side beat rivals Manchester United 4-0 on Wednesday night.
The Reds’ talisman is the favourite to pick up the Golden Boot at the end of the campaign, but Son is beginning to mount a serious charge after picking up a hat-trick against Aston Villa on April 9. The 29 year-old now has 17 goals to his name, none of which have originated from the penalty spot unlike Salah, who has benefited from scoring five penalties this season.
Son has actually scored more non-penalty goals than all but four players across each of Europe’s top five leagues: Robert Lewandowski, Patrik Schick, Ciro Immobile and Kylian Mbappe.
Antonio Conte’s appointment in November has helped his cause. After an initial period of adjustment, the Italian coach has delivered a degree of consistency. Harry Kane’s natural tendency to feed Son in dangerous areas has improved of late but perhaps most of all, the finishing ability showcased by the South Korean continues to defy logic.
Across his whole career, Son has demonstrated remarkable composure in front of goal, scoring with both feet and regularly taking any chances that he’s presented with. Since 2014, he’s scored around 28 goals more than expected in the Premier League and Bundesliga based on Expected Goals (xG), which offers an insight into how his finishing has compared to the average player.
Even the best attackers tend to experience occasional dips below average when it comes to converting shots into goals. Salah is a perfect example right now, with his goals against United his first from open play since February 23rd, but Son is different, as shown below.
His ability to consistently overperform xG with his finishing is pictured above, dating back to 2014. Blue indicates overperformance above expectation, whereas red indicates underperformance.
It is common for players to be streaky in front of goal, but Son has largely refrained from dropping below average when attempting to find the net with shots. Ahead of the run-in, Salah has the lead but the clinical nature of his Spurs rival could wind up being enough to secure the gold.