To start this off you’ll need to cast your minds back to Sunday, March 11 in 2018 around 4:30pm and for those who don’t have a photographic memory allow me to remind you this was roughly 30 minutes into Bournemouth vs Spurs at the Vitality stadium and more specifically 4:30pm signifies when Kane was subbed off after going down with an ankle injury.
What followed in the next hour of football could not have been predicted by any Spurs fan, two goals from Son sandwiched in the middle of an equaliser from Dele Alli and a fourth from Serge Aurier capped off a brilliant 4-1 away win for Mauricio Pochettino and his players.
But the most amazing takeaway from the victory was that Spurs looked a threat every single time they went forward and that was heavily down to the individual brilliance of Son. Having no recognised striker on the pitch meant Spurs had to adapt and spearheaded by Son that was exactly what they did. Playing as an interchangeable front four made up of: Erik Lamela, who had replaced Kane, Christian Eriksen, Alli and of course Son. It was simply impossible for Bournemouth to track off the ball diagonal runs and man mark any Spurs attackers.
And this was undoubtedly the first time where I believed that Son was at least on the same importance level as Kane and from here it just became more evident.
Son’s pivotal performances during the absence of Kane
In the following two seasons, Kane went on to get injured on three sperate occasions in all missing 32 games (hyperlink) and Son, at some point during each injury, stepped up and delivered where Kane normally would. Starting with a torn ankle ligament which Kane suffered right at the end of a game against Manchester United, leaving him out of the squad for just over a month.
In his absence Son scored in four out of the five games Kane missed, including a decisive late winner against Newcastle and the opening goal of Spurs’ 3-0 win in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 game against Borussia Dortmund.
Despite Kane returning and scoring in the second leg in Germany, injury struck for the Englishman again, this time in the next round of the Champions League when Kane landed awkwardly on the same ankle after a rough tackle on Manchester City’s Fabian Delph. But up stepped Son again.
This scenario was much different to that of the previous year when Kane was subbed off and rather than becoming a dynamic four, Son ventured out to the right-wing position to try his luck against Delph who’d only recently began playing left-back and it paid dividends as his determination gave Spurs a crucial lead they could take to the Etihad.
By the time the second leg came around it had been confirmed that Kane was due to miss the remainder of the season, which meant the weight on the shoulders of Son in particular only increased. Instead of caving under the pressure, Son seemed to thrive in it scoring two wonderful goals in the second leg helping Spurs reach the last four of the Champions League. Unfortunately, a suspension meant Spurs were without Son for the first leg of the semi-final against Ajax and the team looked completely lost without either of their two most influential attackers.
This was the first indication that against top class opposition without Kane or Son Spurs seemed like they had no real identity, and it happened again towards the end of this season where Kane was out with a torn hamstring and Son was missing due to a fractured arm. This time round it was games against Wolves, Chelsea and the Champions League knockout tie against RB Leipzig where Spurs looked like they had no backbone, no desire to win and no real goalscoring threat, something which was exploited as they lost all of those four games.
Before Son suffered his injury that ruled him out of those games, he scored twice in a 3-2 win over Aston Villa despite the injury happening in the opening minute. Even with the understandable pain and discomfort he was in he completed the 90, scoring his second with the last kick of the game, an unreal testament to his character.
Not to mention, Son has only missed seven Premier League games through injury in four and a half seasons at Spurs, four when he first signed and three after fracturing his arm, and nearly every time Kane is injured Son steps up to the plate. I’m not saying that he is a better player or striker or goal-scorer than Kane but when it comes to who’s more important to Tottenham Hotspur you have to give Son the edge.
Feature Image Credit – Jonathan Brady | Credit: PA Wire/PA Images