Monday, October 3, 2022

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‘Maybe we can repeat this experiment’: Antonio Conte jokes that Son Heung-min could be benched again

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte has joked Son Heung-min could be back on the bench after the successful ‘experiment’ gave him a 14-minute hat-trick against Leicester City.

The South Korean forward was benched for the game against the Foxes having failed to find a replacement all season before, but after coming on as a 59th-minute substitute he quickly proved he still had the quality to be a key player for Spurs this season.

The Italy manager then jokingly suggested he could stay in the role due to the impact he made in his post-match press conference.

Conte told Sky Sports: “I’m really happy for Sonny today, you know what I think of the player. I said to him that if you score three goals in 30 minutes, ‘maybe we can repeat this experiment’, but that was a joke.

“I think it’s important to understand that if you play a lot of games in a row, if you’re not mentally tired, you can be mentally tired and not be able to play every game.

“But I’ve been a player and I know you want to play massive games – playing the Champions League and Premier League are massive games – they’re starting to understand rotation.

“Having a player of Son’s level on the bench means I can change the game in a moment and also with the rotation at the back today and when Bissouma came on he gave us a lot of strength and energy and I think , this is the right path for us.”

The game against Leicester was the last for Tottenham due to the international break until October. Spurs are set to return to the Premier League in a crucial north London derby.

Both the Spurs and Gunners have started the season strongly, lining up alongside Manchester City at the top end of the table.

Conte has insisted that for the gameplay after the break, all players in his squad will be involved on the pitch as it is important to keep the team fresh and prioritize some players for other games.

He added: “After the international break there will be 12 games in a row and all the players will be involved.

“If the player is intelligent and a good player and person, it matters. Every decision I make is always for the best of the team.

“You have to understand that. Sometimes it’s important to start on the bench and come in because you might start the next game, but at the same time you’re recharging with new mental and physical energy.

“I’m lucky, I have a really good group of players, they’re really good people. We have to start thinking differently if we want to take the next step.

“When I decided to bring in Bissouma and play with three midfielders and bring Sonny closer to Kane to exploit the spaces, that was really good because it gave us more balance and we exploited the abilities of Kane and Son.”

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