Antonio Conte says Son Heung-min is ‘never a problem’ despite anger at goal drought

·4 min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte has acknowledged Son Heung-min is “angry” and lacking confidence, but backed him to do what top players do and overcome his goal drought.

The Spurs forward saw his poor start to the new season continue in midweek after he produced another blank in the 2-0 loss away to Sporting Lisbon.

It means Son has now gone eight games without a goal, having finished the previous campaign as the joint Golden Boot winner in the Premier League alongside Mohamed Salah.

Boss Conte appears to have a decision to make over whether he keeps the 30-year-old in the starting line-up against an out-of-form opponent in the shape of Saturday’s visitors Leicester or give him a well-overdue rest.

He said: “I think Sonny, for sure, is not happy because he’s not scoring.

“It’s normal and I like that he’s a bit angry with this situation because it means that he wants to try to change it, also because we need (him).

“We are talking about Sonny and he’s a really important player for us. At the same time, it can happen, especially when you play massive games, you can be a bit tired mentally, also your body, so it can happen.

“But I repeat Sonny for me would be never, never a problem. We are talking about one of the best two players that we have in our team.

“For sure it can happen that in some games he can’t play from the start, like Harry (Kane) also. But only to protect him, to give the possibility to rest, to take care of his energy and to bring us to win.

“We are talking about players that during the game, they are decisive and we need to have these players always to be at the top.”

You have to go back to the summer of 2020 – away at Bournemouth – for the last time Son started a Premier League match on the bench when fully fit.

Since then the South Korean has played almost every minute when available for Tottenham and hit the 20-goal mark in each of the last two campaigns.

“When you score a lot of goals, the following season is more difficult because you are not an underdog, but are starting like you are the first top scorer up there with Mohamed Salah,” Conte explained.

“But when you don’t (score), for sure the confidence goes a bit down. At the same time, I think a strong player copes with this situation, faces this situation… and overcomes this situation.

“And again I repeat – Sonny has a lot of credit with me, with his team-mates, with the fans and with the whole environment. For this reason, Sonny for me will never be a problem.”

While Conte is still deciding what to do with Son, his mind does seem set on making changes for the clash with the Foxes.

Clement Lenglet, Ryan Sessegnon and Dejan Kulusevski are all in line for recalls.

I think Sonny, for sure, he is not happy because he’s not scoring. It’s normal and I like that he’s a bit angry for this situation because it means that he wants to try to change it.

Antonio Conte

Conte conceded his recent decision to drop Kulusevski for three matches in a row forced him to change his usual policy when leaving players on the bench.

He added: “Saturday we need energy, we need energy. We finished the game against Sporting with not a lot of energy and for this reason I am a bit upset, because despite the big effort we did in the game, at the end we lost the game.

“For sure I will make rotation on Saturday. We will see (who) but I repeat. I try to make the best decision in every moment for the team, not for myself.

“To drop Deki for three games in a row, honestly for me it was difficult. I don’t like to give explanations to my players because otherwise in every game I have to speak to one, to another one and another.

“I think the most important thing is to have respect about the role. But at the same time, I spoke with Deki because after three times in a row that you go on the bench, I think that he deserved to feel that my trust, my confidence, was like always. It was only a tactical decision.”