2019-2020 Korean Players Abroad Preview: Premier League

The Premier League has just officially started. With 38 matches in a grueling nine-month season, it’s difficult to predict which players will step up and succeed and which players won’t. Right now, Korea Republic boasts two players in the most popular football league in the world: Ki Sung-yueng of Newcastle United and Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur. In this article, Joon previews their upcoming seasons and predicts how well both players will do within the context of their respective clubs. Have a read!

Ki Sung-yueng

Since joining Newcastle United last season on a free transfer from then-relegated Swansea City, Ki Sung-yueng has seen minimal opportunities to adjust to his new environment. Last season, KSY made a mere 19 appearances in all competitions, playing a mere average of exactly every other fixture in the Premier League season. Despite having decent support from manager Rafa Benitez, the Premier League veteran was forced off the pitch by multiple injuries. This includes a hamstring injury he suffered against the Philippines at the Asian Cup. 

KSY spoke out about mental health struggles in his attempt to return to the Newcastle squad after his injury last January. “I was depressed and disappointed,” he recalled while recovering for an eventual return the following month. After a few more appearances, KSY would pick up a knee injury in a thriller of a loss against Liverpool that would sideline him for the remainder of the season. Nonetheless, he remained hopeful for his future at Newcastle, believing the club’s success would rely heavily on the decisions of manager Rafa Benitez.

However, Benitez made a shock move for Chinese Super League club Dalian Yifang this summer, taking striker Salomon Rondon with him. Instead, KSY will have to impress newly appointed gaffer Steve Bruce for a regular spot in the club’s midfield rotation. For the first time since 2015, he has had a full preseason, appearing in both of Newcastle’s slated matches in the Premier League Asia Trophy tournament. In addition, he was also used as a substitute for club friendlies against the Championship’s Preston North End and the Scottish Premiership’s Hibernian.

For many Newcastle fans, KSY will continue playing a key role as a valuable substitute and challenger for a central midfield starting spot. Unfortunately for them, the club has been dealing with a “Mike Ashley problem” for some time now and is likely in for a fight to stay afloat this season. Many experts, including those at the Guardian, expect the Magpies to finish in the relegation zone this season. Citing the club’s lack of notable signings, BBC football writer Phil McNulty even had the club finishing dead last in his prediction for this season’s final PL table. 

At the age of thirty, KSY has seen a downfall from the prime of his career with Swansea. It’s reached the point to where KNT fans are starting to contemplate the end of his footballing career abroad. It’s suggested that he will ultimately end up taking a charitable offer in one of Asia’s wealthier leagues, perhaps in China or Qatar. KSY’s contract ends in June 2020, however, so regardless of how well his club performs, it’s likely that his European club career is coming to an end.

KSY had already made the most out of opportunities last season, especially having covered for his old Swansea teammate Jonjo Shelvey while he was injured. He can do the same this season, especially now that Newcastle has a new young starting attack with new signees Joelinton and Allan Saint-Maximin. Carrying much of the same creative vision he had when he first came into the Premier League, KSY has the opportunity to leave England with a bang.

Imagine this. Newcastle is one win away from a great escape, while their final opponents Liverpool are one win away from winning the Premier League for the first time. After a chippy battle at St. James Park that sees each team with a man sent off, the game is tied 2-all at the final minute of added time. Ki Sung-yueng sends a cross from a free kick down the center that zooms above the heads of Virgil Van Dijk and Roberto Firmino. Joelinton’s head meets the effort, only for the ball to approach the top left corner of Liverpool’s goal. The thing somehow flies just out of Alisson’s gaping reach.

You know the rest of the story. 

Newcastle will receive its first PL action against Arsenal on Sunday, August 11th at 9:00 AM ET. It’s uncertain whether KSY will start, but if he doesn’t, he may make a key appearance late in the match. I’d tune in.

Son Heung-min

For someone who played 78 matches last season, Son Heung-min doesn’t seem to display any signs of slowing down at this point in his career. With club trophies and World Cup qualification matches on the line, he’ll have some more work to do this season to ensure more domestic and international success. I would go on a tangent about how great SHM was last season, but his remarkable recent performances speak for themselves. 

With Spurs having laid a goose egg in signing fees last summer, the North Londoners found themselves with a daunting lack of depth in their roster throughout last season. Spurs also saw its English and Belgian nationals derailed by fatigue from their deep run into the World Cup semi-finals. Despite traveling 110,000 kilometers over a year-long span, SHM stepped up and found ways to drive his team to victory in crucial parts of their domestic and continental campaigns. He scored an impressive 20 goals and supplied 10 assists over the course of 48 games in all competitions for Spurs. 

Now aided with new midfield support from Spurs summer signees Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso, SMH may be expecting more attacking opportunities starting within the next few weeks. Currently serving a three-game match ban from a red card he received last May, he will be missing the first two matches of the season. Unfortunately, Son will miss a possible defining moment in the Premier League season in Tottenham’s match against Manchester City on August 17th. 

Still, SHM has been active for Tottenham through the entirety of the preseason. Appearing in all matches for slated preseason tournaments, he has received the preparation needed to perform exceptionally next season. Skilled with both feet and possessing quick pace, SHM has a tendency to come alive in crucial matches and game situations. If he stays fit, he could easily score a minimum of 15 goals in the Premier League and perhaps 25 in all competitions including the Champions League.

Entering the prime of his career, SHM really has what it takes to become a legendary figure in the historical catalog of Tottenham Hotspur FC. It’s pretty dramatic, but true: there’s yet to have been a single KNT player as consequential as SHM in English Premier League history. Others would say that Park Ji-sung takes that spot as a major trophy winner with Manchester United, but he never had the impactful presence that SHM has now. (That’s another debate, but that’s my stance for now as far as the designation of “Best Asian Player in Premier League History” is concerned.)

SHM may forever lament Tottenham’s loss to Liverpool in the UCL Final two months ago, but he knows that he can still improve and continue achieving new heights with his club. In fact, he claims that the loss has made him “more hungry,” understanding the potential he and his team possesses. With all of this recent success, it’s just a matter of time before he brings a major trophy back to North London. Then we’ll see what happens from there. 

Son is likely to receive his first league action against Newcastle on August 25th at 11:30 AM ET. Keep your calendars open for this one. You won’t want to miss it.

How do you think Son Heung-min and Ki Sung-yueng will fare in the Premier League this season? Will they exceed expectations? Falter under pressure? Leave us your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below.


  1. Ki in my eyes has been a serviceable player, but consistently has been on woeful teams. I remember one year where there was buzz about him because Swansea was punching above their weight, but it seems he’s consistently on teams that are hovering around the relegation zone, which isn’t great & one of the reasons why I had trouble with him being captain of the KMNT. I’m not sure if Newcastle will be in last place like the BBC pundit said, but they are definitely a contender for the relegation zone. Hopefully for Ki’s sake, that isn’t the case. But to be honest, I don’t care much about Newcastle or KSY.

    As for Sonny, I really hope he doesn’t put the wear/tear on his body like last season. Yes he’s still young, but putting mileage on your body as he did 2018-19 has a way of catching up to you later down the road. I’m glad Spurs made some good signings & hope Harry Kane can stay healthy, because that will hopefully decrease his “load management”, and thankfully there is no international cup competition for him. As for that comment comparing him to PJS, I don’t think it’s even close. He is far and away a much better player than Park ever was. Park was a hard working role player who filled a need, Son is a focal point and is there to deliver goals & create chances under pressure, and man did he deliver.

    Hopefully Spurs have another good season, can maintain a CL spot, and Son plays a less demanding schedule.

    • Come on Glen, dream bigger! Spurs will hoist a trophy this season and Sonny will get the rest he needs while they’re at it. I bet he enjoyed having the day off and watching that 3-1 comeback victory from the stands or at home!

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