Harry Kane scored, Son Heung-min did not and that made the difference in Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw with Fulham.
Jose Mourinho’s classic game plan is to confront, minimise risk and capitalise on opponents’ mistakes that have catapulted Spurs into the title race, but he relies on his dynamic duo more than anything else to maintain top-flight form. And it looks like everything is going according to plan against the Cottagers. Kane scored in the 25th minute. Tottenham almost deserved to take the lead in the second minute, before the visitors took the lead again.
As has been Spurs’ habit this season, it was time to kill off the opposition. As the game entered the final 20 minutes, Tanguy Ndombele, who was having a good time, missed a pass for Son who ran towards goal. His left-footed shot was not very quick, but Fulham goalkeeper Alfonso Areola could only watch. The ball hit the inside post and fell directly into his hands.
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Two minutes later, Ivan Cavallero expertly put substitute Ademola Lockman in front to give Fulham a deserved second-half point.
Statistics collected at the beginning of the week show how Son compares to his expected goals (xG), which attempt to determine the quality of luck to more accurately determine the effectiveness of goaltending. Since August 2016, Sohn’s 61 goals are 44% higher than his xG. Such a statistic is not significant, but the degree of superiority itself is a clear indication of striking consistency.
In fact, he is better than any player in the world. The second best is Kane, who outperformed his xG by 21.33% in the same period. The two men have scored 23 of Spurs’ 30 Premier League goals this season, and that percentage will surely be unbearable as Tottenham push their opponents to the limit.
Under Mourinho, Spurs won games by huge margins and when they couldn’t take their chances, they put pressure on the defence which collapsed more often than they would have liked. The Spurs have already lost 10 points from winning positions this season, the most among the Big Six. Instead of the result against Fulham and effective wins over Leeds United, Arsenal and Manchester City, it is Wolverhampton Wanderers, Crystal Palace, West Ham United and Newcastle United who are missed opportunities.
I understand that in the first half we had some chances to decide the game, Mourinho said after the game. It is partly the responsibility of the Areola. In the second half we had the best chance to turn the game around, but if you don’t, you can’t score goals like we did. It’s been the same story all season.
It’s not as if Mourinho has no other attacking options. When he substituted Eric Lamela for Harry Winks after Fulham’s equaliser, a final frantic period ensued in which Spurs suddenly rediscovered their willingness to take risks, but the initiative had long since been rejected. Carlos Vinicius had nine minutes to score the winning goal, but was not served. The two main makers remained unused as replacements: Dele Alli and Gareth Bale.
Error! The file name is not specified. Harry Kane scored and Son Heung-Min didn’t, and that’s the difference for Tottenham. Rob Newell – CameraSport via Getty Images
Alli has shown signs of resurgence, but needs games to turn this into something more tangible, while Bale’s spectacular comeback for Real Madrid has all but stalled. It will definitely come back as an option on the bench if the team needs at least one winning goal. Injuries have slowed his progress, but the second half of Bale’s season should be more important than the first.
Mourinho was in a mischievous mood on the eve of the match, suggesting Fulham should apologise to the Premier League if they field a full squad after Scott Parker called the reshuffle a scandal with just over 48 hours’ notice.
No one really understands what we’ve been through. We’ve had players having a training day, Parker explained afterwards, referring to the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in his own team. The transfer of the Spurs game to Aston Villa means that the game will be played there.
To be fair, Mourinho is perhaps the only one who should have stopped to think after orchestrating another patently passive second half, although he attributed the responsibility to his defenders.
I think you can do something with the characteristics of the players, he said. Some things are hard to do. Some things have to do with the organization of the team, but others have to do with individual skills and abilities, and it’s as simple as that.
We can’t always rely on the individual skills of Kane and Sons to find the answer.