Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte got the response he could only have dreamed of when Son Heung-min reacted to being made to start on the bench with a stunning hat-trick to seal a 6-2 win over Leicester City on Saturday.
After going eight games in all competitions without a goal, Conte left South Korean forward Son out of the starting line-up for Saturday’s Premier League clash.
Coming on around the hour mark to replace summer signing Richarlison, Son scored three times in 14 minutes as Tottenham moved joint top of the table.
Son was the joint-highest scorer in the Premier League last season with 23 goals but has lacked his usual sharpness this season and Conte stood by his decision to leave him out of the starters.
“I am really happy for Sonny today, you know what I think of the player,” Conte told Sky Sports.
“I said to him if you’re going to score three goals in 30 minutes maybe we can repeat this experiment, but I was joking. I’m lucky, I have a really good group of players that are really good people. We have to start thinking in a different way if we are going to make the next step.”
Explaining his decision in more detail, Conte added: “I was a player. Every player wants to play every game but you lose physical energy and mental energy.
“Sometimes you don’t understand this and think you can play but the performance goes down. Rotation is good for the team and for player welfare. If you give energy and you play in the way Son played, everyone is happy.”
With Son back in form, Harry Kane scoring his sixth Premier League goal of the season, Richarlison already making an impact, Dejan Kulusevski continuing to impress and Lucas Moura still to come back from injury, Conte now has a formidable array of attacking options.
He believes such competition for places is the only way Tottenham can maintain a title challenge.
“At some points I have to take important decisions. I want to bring this team to think with a superior level, not to stay in the middle,” Conte told reporters.
“Not to think I will stay at Tottenham because I will play every game. If you think like this you will not win something important. We’ve just started this path with the club.
“Sonny will never be a problem. He’s an amazing player, one of the two best players in my team with Harry.”