Antonio Conte has explained why Son Heung-min needed to begin the Tottenham vs Leicester match on the bench, while the forward has given an honest assessment of his season so far.
After notching an impressive 23 league goals last term and sharing the Golden Boot award with Mo Salah, Son has struggled during the new campaign. He failed to score in his first six Prem appearances.
Son came off the bench midway through the second half, with Spurs 3-2 up after an eventful 60 minutes. The South Korean then silenced his doubters and bagged a brilliant hat-trick, which also took the game away from Leicester.
Son sent a powerful strike into the top corner for his first, then curled a left-footed effort past Foxes goalkeeper Danny Ward for his second. Spurs then caught Leicester on the break and Son fired past Ward at his near post to make it a hat-trick.
Spurs won the match 6-2 to make it 17 points from seven outings. They are in second place but level on points with Manchester City, who top the table.
During a post-match interview with BBC Sport, Conte said: “The most important thing is to get three points after a defeat. It was not easy for us because of how we started. We played well but conceded a penalty and went 1-0 down.
“We struggled in the first half [and] lost a bit of confidence. The subs were really important. Son came in a fantastic way and scored three goals.
“It’s strange. From the start he scored zero goals and then today in 30 minutes he scored a hat-trick. A lot of positive things. For sure we have to continue to improve and understand why the first half we lost a bit of confidence with the ball. We need to improve.”
Conte then explained why Son had to begin the clash on the bench, and why it ended up helping the star.
Antonio Conte justifies Son decision
“We have had a lot of games in a row, every three days,” the Italian added. “He played every game. We started with Richarlison on the bench for many games. Then Kulusevski was on the bench. Then today Son.
“I was a player. Every player wants to play every game but you lose physical energy and mental energy. Sometimes you don’t understand this and think you can play but the performance goes down.
“This season especially up top we have players. We have Moura and Gil. Rotation is good for the team and for player welfare. If you give energy and you play in the way Son played, everyone is happy.”
Antonio Conte was then asked about Spurs challenging the Prem’s top teams for the league title. He replied: “We have to try to do our best. The Premier League is very difficult. In my opinion I think we have just started a path to fight for something important. We have just started.
“City, Liverpool and Chelsea have been very competitive and won a lot. Every season they fight to win competitions. In our mind and heart the ambition has to be to grow.
“When you have a massive game every three days you need a good squad. Sometimes you can rest or start on the bench and the next game you will play.”
Player reveals ‘frustration’ at goal drought
During a post-match interview with Sky Sports (via BBC Sport), Son spoke openly about his tough start to the campaign. He thanked everyone for their ‘amazing support’, while also getting emotional.
“It was a top performance and I was really frustrated as well,” the attacker admitted. “The way I play I can do much better than I have been. I have been disappointed, the team has been doing really, really good but I was disappointed with my performance.
“It was a tough game at 3-2 and you never know in the Premier League. I wanted to do my best for the team. I’ll always try to do that when I play. I tried to help the team on the bench. I’m glad we won the game before the international break.
“My finishing has been poor this season. I’ve also been a little bit unlucky with an own goal, two offside goals and hitting the crossbar. I knew goals were coming and I wasn’t worried. I’ve always had great supporters, team-mates and coaches behind me.
“I like to shoot from outside the box – I’ve practiced that since I was a kid. Even now after training, if I have time, I try to practice from that position and hitting the top corner. I’m really glad the ball finally went in!
“I was pretty sure I was onside for the hat-trick! I’m glad I’ve been able to help the team, that is really important and I can go to national duty with renewed energy.
“I’m getting emotional [about the support] to be honest. There has been amazing support and I’ve always felt like I’ve disappointed my team-mates and fans with my performances. They have always been supporting me.”
Antonio Conte wasn’t the only person to heap praise on Son, as pundits Andy Hinchcliffe and Jamie Redknapp also did this while covering the game on TV.