Giovani Lo Celso Has Earned the Hype, But Son Heung-min Remains Tottenham's Best Player

Lo Celso and Son have been Tottenham's two standout performers this season
Lo Celso and Son have been Tottenham's two standout performers this season | Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The affections of football fans can be hard to understand sometimes.

It feels like at every club there's a naff defensive midfielder who, simply because they do lots of running and love to steam into a tackle on derby day, is more popular with supporters than a clever striker or tidy full back.

But it's always the case that some players are just too good to be ignored, and forwards especially can bury most naysayers under an avalanche of goals, even if they don't appear to 'play for the badge'.

Spurs have called upon a range of attacking talents this season
Spurs have called upon a range of attacking talents this season | IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

So, with this in mind, let's talk about two attackers at an unspecified club - although the title and cover picture of this article have probably given away what we're doing here. For now, let's call them Player A and Player B.

Player A has just come to the club and, after some early fitness problems, has had a tidy season. His two goals and one assist might not seem like much, but they're testament to a fantastic turnaround in form.

Player B has 23 more goal contributions - 16 goals and ten assists - than Player A in all competitions.

Which of these do you think has been heralded as the club's biggest (and perhaps only) star?

Tottenham fans have been delighted with Lo Celso's start to life in North London
Tottenham fans have been delighted with Lo Celso's start to life in North London | JULIAN FINNEY/Getty Images

If you quite logically guessed Player B, which is Spurs' South Korean winger Son Heung-min, you are sadly mistaken. Instead, it is Player A, new signing Giovani Lo Celso, who has eclipsed Son in terms of plaudits, both in the media and among supporters this season.

After Spurs just about did the bare minimum required to put away a terrible West Ham side last Wednesday, Lo Celso was being hailed as the key distinguishing factor between the sides - the touch of class needed to unlock a deep defence, the man who let them play football.

Son, whose instinctive through pass to Harry Kane made it incredibly simple for the England striker to put the game to bed, might have been forgiven for feeling he'd been cheated out of some hype of his own.

Heung-Min Son
Son has nine league goals for Spurs this season | Julian Finney/Getty Images

To be clear, Lo Celso is deserving of enormous praise after how he handled the sacking of the manager who brought him in, Mauricio Pochettino, and how hard he worked to show an entirely different manager that he could be a crucial asset to the team.

The Argentine has escaped a more high-security complex than Alcatraz, one that has claimed Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne and lately Tanguy Ndombele - José Mourinho's bench.

It's also the case that it's pretty simple to take to Lo Celso, purely because any good creative player is like gold dust for Spurs at the moment in the aftermath of Christian Eriksen's departure. While GLC hasn't reached the levels of the Dane at his peak, he's been excellent in a deeper creative role, charging forward from midfield and making crisp, incisive passes to Spurs' overlapping wide players.

Lo Celso recorded nine goals and four assists for Betis last season
Lo Celso recorded nine goals and four assists for Betis last season | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Admittedly, Son has also made it quite difficult for himself by disappointing in one rather important department - the disciplinary one.

His tearful and contrite reaction to seriously damaging Andre Gomes' ankle was clearly heartfelt, but his rash tackle cost Spurs an important three points away from home - and possibly Pochettino's job. It became a case of fool me twice as Son's impulsive flick out at Antonio Rudiger in a must-win home game against Chelsea put a huge dent in Spurs' Champions League aspirations.

But it's no exaggeration to say that Son has been so good this year that he's completely paid back what he owes Spurs after those two moments of madness, with added interest.

Son Heung-min, Andre Gomes
Son's disciplinary record has been much criticised this season | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Simply put, a player with the opportunities Son is getting should be nowhere near 16 goals for the season. They shouldn't even have much more than seven. 'Expected Goals' (or xG for short), tells us that for the last few seasons, the positions that Son shoots from would get the average player around 25 league goals, whereas Son has 33.

Such sustained overperfomance means, in simple terms, Son is consistently (rather than luckily) popping in screamers that most players could only dream about. Think that sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo for people who've watched Moneyball one too many times? Just look at some of the goals that Son has scored this season.

His Maradona impression against Burnley notwithstanding, Son's second goal against Crystal Palace is a perfect example. An accurate volley at the far post, this has an xG value of 0.07 - in other words, 7% of the time you'd expect him to score it - but for Spurs fans who have watched him this season, that sort of finish is second nature for the former Bayer Leverkusen man.

FBL-ENG-PR-TOTTENHAM-CRYSTAL PALACE
Son scored a stunning goal against Crystal Palace | DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/Getty Images

Lo Celso, therefore, might be the guy who everyone backs to unlock a game in a split second of brilliance, but in actuality if a marginal chance to find the goal falls to one of your players, you'd want it to be Son, who is having one of the best shooting seasons of his life.

Stepping away from the calculators for a second, it's worth highlighting the fact if Lo Celso has shown that there are signs of life after Eriksen, Son has shown outstanding leadership in deputising for one of the greatest strikers in Spurs' history.

Harry Kane, as his celebration might have given away on Wednesday, has a lot going on at the moment, and after yet another injury lay-off at the start of January, Spurs were forced to turn to Son again in search of a central striker to replace their talisman.

Son Heung-min
Son terrorized Villa, and didn't use his injury as an excuse | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Son, a player who by his nature prefers to play wider, led the line like he was born to do it, scoring an incredible six goals in five games until he broke his arm against Aston Villa, dragging the team through season-defining encounters against Southampton and Manchester City.

In the Villa game in question, Son, playing most of the game with the fractured arm, was the scourge of Dean Smith's terrified centre-backs, and in true Kane fashion put some early misses behind him to score when it mattered in the game's dying seconds.

It was no surprise that the team (which had Lo Celso in it) completely fell apart after Son's injury, going from WDWWW to LLLLDL. So, with all things considered, could it be any clearer who out of the two men is more important to the team?

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Will Europe's elite take a fancy to Son? | GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

It's a wonder, and perhaps very fortunate for Spurs, that Son has not openly expressed a desire to test himself at an even higher level.

Perhaps the less aesthetically pleasing trait of goalscoring is simply perceived by armchair fans - and armchair journalists - as somehow lesser to the elevated artistic sphere of playmaking - if Eriksen's creativity was worth its weight in gold, Son's offensive skill in pressurised situations is priceless.

By all means, let's celebrate the much-welcome impact of Lo Celso on Spurs' season. But at the expense of the man performing miracle work in their front three? Try again, son.