“I love watching the team,” wrote Antonio Conte in his pre-match notes. It would have been somewhat surprising if the Tottenham manager felt the same after 40 minutes of this encounter.
Despite dominating the opening rally against a disciplined Newcastle side, Spurs found themselves trailing Fabian Schär’s opportunistic free-kick and with a mountain to climb to keep their hopes of a top-four finish alive this season. season. On the touchline, a furious Conte could barely contain his frustration as he stamped his foot.
Luckily for the Italian, Son Heung-min was in a bad mood. After needlessly fouling Joe Willock on the spot at the edge of the penalty area in the build-up to Newcastle’s goal, for the next 15 minutes either side of half-time he set about making amends to clinical manner. A perfect cross that was happily headed in by Ben Davies for the equalizer saw Son equal Aaron Lennon with 45 Premier League assists for Tottenham before Dejan Kulusevski returned the compliment just after the break for the South -Korean scores his third goal. This time, Conte couldn’t contain his excitement as he threw himself into his assistant’s arms.
When Son trailed an effort away from the target seconds after Emerson Royal made it 4-1 against the hosts with over 25 minutes to play, it was hard to believe it was the same side that had struggled to create meaningful chances before falling. behind so obediently. At this point, it seemed obvious that, despite prompting from elegant Uruguayan midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur, Tottenham desperately needed a player who could open up organized defences. Someone like Christian Eriksen maybe?
It’s been just over two years since he left north London, having joined in 2013 as part of the player craze after Gareth Bale’s world-record transfer to Real Madrid, but sometimes this season, it must have felt like a lifetime for Spurs fans. The Danish midfielder was directly involved in 113 Premier League goals during his seven years at Spurs and still ranks in the league’s all-time top 20 for assists in 63, one ahead of the former Peruvian pillar of Newcastle Nolberto Solano but still five behind Darren Anderton.
Eriksen’s performance in Brentford’s 4-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday was a reminder of why Mauricio Pochettino once described him as ‘the complete player’, with his goal capping an emotional week after also scoring in successive matches for Denmark. His exploits for Brentford have certainly not gone unnoticed in this part of north London, with former Spurs manager Tim Sherwood urging chairman Daniel Levy to bring him back for next season.
“This guy shouldn’t be in Brentford. He shouldn’t be there,” Sherwood said dismissively of the club handing Eriksen a short-term deal until the end of the season after his contract with Internazionale terminated in October. “He should be at Tottenham.”
When asked if this could be a possibility a few weeks ago, Conte was polite but non-committal, although he hinted that a meeting with the player he had signed for the Inter could be considered. “Coming back here would be a good opportunity for him, for me, for the club, but now he’s signed for Brentford, just six months old, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.
A big question would be how Eriksen would fit into this system, which is designed to get the most out of Kulusevski and Son. Along with Bentancur, the Swedish international’s versatility has been a major addition to the Spurs squad since joining Juventus in January, having already netted two goals and five assists.
Harry Kane has also been forced to adapt his game since Eriksen’s departure and it was his combination with Kulusevski that gave the spark to Son’s decisive goal. Kane can do just about anything these days, although tackling remains a major weakness in evidence of his wild hack at Allan Saint-Maximin mid-air that earned the England captain a serenade of ‘You’re only ‘Shit Alan Shearer’ from the visiting supporters.
A searing half-volley from Kane was aimed for the top corner until it hit the hapless Emerson in the face. While Kulusevski and Bentancur received standing ovations when they were substituted late to allow Steven Bergwijn to wrap up the victory in style, the loudest applause at the final whistle was reserved for Son. More than seven years after joining Bayer Leverkusen and with his contract extended last summer until 2025, the test for Tottenham and Conte is whether they can give him and Kane the stage again. their talents deserve.