Heung-Min Son’s starting spot at Tottenham must be under serious threat after another shaky performance from the South Korean and another fiery cameo from Richarlison in Tottenham’s 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest.
Richarlison proved to be the difference maker from the substitutes’ bench on more than one occasions already for Tottenham this season.
Conte was asked about his Brazilian frontman during his pre-match press conference for the game against West Ham. He said: “Every time he’s playing, for 20 to 30 minutes, he’s playing very well. For sure in the next games you will see him in the starting XI.
“I think about Richy we are really happy. We are talking about a player who can help us a lot, we are talking about a player who is really good addition especially up front. In the past at Tottenham didn’t have player of this level behind Harry, behind Sonny. Now we have a really good player and in the best moment in career to stay at Tottenham and show his talent.”
Conte did, however, stop short of confirming Richarlison would start against the Hammers. He added: “No I didn’t say this. I said probably in the future you can see in the starting XI Richarlison. Then if the game against West Ham, Fulham or Marseille. Then I have to decide.”
Time to unleash Richarlison?
Antonio Conte faces big decision to make ahead of the trip to the London Stadium.
The simple facts are that Son was way off his best for the fourth game running this season against Nottingham Forest on Sunday, while his replacement Richarlison came on and helped settle the game with a sumptuous assist.
Naturally, Son is frustrated — and you could see his irritation when he took his place on the bench after being substituted in the 74th minute. Son pointed angrily at something and was clearly upset with the situation.
Conte is certainly not worried, backing his player before the Forest game when asked on a few occasions about Son’s form. The Italian pointed to the fact Son won the Premier League Golden Boot with 23 goals last season as evidence of his unquestionable class. Thus far this season, Son has registered no goals and just the one assist, already equalling his longest goalless run from the previous campaign.
‘There is no problem with Sonny, with his performances, because the effort and commitment is always very high,” Conte said. “I’m happy with his performance and I don’t see any problems with him.
“Sonny is enjoying his football every day. To think he is enjoying it more or less just because of one goal, it is ridiculous. We are trying to create a problem when the problem is not there. I am not worried, and if anybody is going to be worried, it is going to be the coach. It’s you lot who are worried.”
That all said, Conte’s tone had slightly changed by Sunday and he did accept after the Forest game that Son is disappointed at his current lack of goals.
“In this moment, maybe he’s suffering a lot that he’s not scoring,” Conte said. “But he has to continue in this way and trust himself because in every game he has the opportunity, the chance to score and then he has to be calm. We trust him and the team-mates. You know very well the importance of this player with Harry Kane and for sure he’s a bit disappointed that he’s not scoring but no problem. For me, Sonny will always be a nut in my team, in my ambition of football.”
Conte added through laughter that: “He’s really sensible and a top man, a really good guy. If I am to make an example, (if) I have to find a husband for my daughter I’d like (it) to be a person like him.”
He wouldn’t be drawn on whether Richarlison would start on Wednesday, but he’s certainly put himself in the picture — especially as Conte said last week that even key players like Kane would be rested during Spurs’ brutal upcoming run of games.
And if Son is benched, it should primarily be viewed as a demonstration of Spurs’ long sought-after strength in depth.
Son will start scoring again, of course he will, and droughts have not been uncommon in his career, but this is precisely why you say it’s a squad and not just a team game.
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