Ange Postecoglou believes Son Heung-min will go down as one of the great strikers as he looked forward to unlocking the full potential of his attacking options at Tottenham.
The manager has seen his team concede 11 goals in four league matches, which have yielded a single point – the one in Sunday’s 3-3 draw at Manchester City. There has been criticism that Spurs have been too high and open, albeit Postecoglou has had to contend with a selection crisis that has robbed him of many key players.
Yet Postecoglou appears more concerned with the other end of the pitch. Spurs have scored 28 times in 14 league games, ahead of Thursday’s home derby against West Ham, with Son contributing nine of them.
There have been flickers from Dejan Kulusevski, who has played as a No 10 in the past two matches, and Brennan Johnson, while Giovani Lo Celso has scored twice from a midfield role in the injury-enforced absence of James Maddison. Postecoglou, who feels a responsibility to provide entertainment, is adamant that there is more to come.
“We are still well short in that area,” he said. “It’s still the area where we’ve got so much more upside to score more goals. We’re seeing some of it at the moment. Brennan and Deki Kulusevski are starting to get a bit more familiar with their roles and Gio is getting a couple of goals from midfield. But it’s an area we can certainly improve.”
Son is fundamental. He has thrived on the responsibility of the captaincy this season, after the demotion of Hugo Lloris and the departure of Harry Kane, and also his switch into the No 9 position from the wing.
“Sonny is elite in every sort of aspect,” Postecoglou said. “I’d be very surprised if by the time he’s finished – which is well down the track – he’s not up there as one of the outstanding strikers.
Because don’t forget a lot of his career he has played out wide, but he’s been a goal threat the whole time. Now I’m putting him inside and that’s why he’s got nine goals already. I think he’s leading goalscorer for offside goals as well!
“He’s been outstanding. Working with him every day … the example he sets as a person as much as a footballer. It’s inspiring for me when you see a person who has climbed a mountain many times in terms of his own football pedigree, but every day he loves what he does.”
It is possible to wonder whether Postecoglou might have ended up at West Ham over the summer if things had worked out differently. The club’s vice-chair, Karren Brady, praised him to the hilt in her column in the Sun on 5 May and it was at a time when it was not clear if the West Ham manager, David Moyes, was going to continue. “Let’s raise a glass to Celtic boss Postecoglou … don’t be surprised to see him make an impact in England,” ran the online headline. Was Brady testing the waters with the West Ham support over Postecoglou?
“I don’t know Karren but wouldn’t that make her fairly ahead of the game?” Postecoglou said, with a smile. “I reckon she’s a pretty smart operator!”
Postecoglou, who will welcome back the centre-back Cristian Romero from suspension, was more concerned with building on the positives from the City game. Spurs rode their luck but they played with the boldness that Postecoglou demands.
“As I said to the other coaches, it’s like when you’re panning for gold, there’s a lot of dirt there, but you’re just looking for that little speck,” Postecoglou said. “And we’ve got quite a few specks of gold that I can show the players after the game that say: ‘You know what, if we keep digging here, we’ll get some nuggets eventually.’ I can’t believe I just said that!”