Ange Postecoglou has acknowledged Tottenham captain Son Heung-min will be a “big loss” over the coming weeks but has called on other members of the squad to step up in his absence.
Spurs host Burnley in the FA Cup third round on Friday night and it is the first of potentially six matches where Son could be missing while away with South Korea at the Asian Cup.
Son has scored 12 times this season, but Postecoglou’s team will also miss his influence off the pitch with vice-captains Cristian Romero and James Maddison both still injured.
“Sonny, if you name a team of the year at the moment, he’s in it,” Postecoglou insisted.
“He’s been a hell of a player for us. It’s a big loss for us, another one and we’re going to have to really raise everyone’s levels to cover the absence of another significant contributor for us this season.
“Whoever wears the armband tomorrow is not really that significant to me.
“What’s more important is that Sonny has been an outstanding leader in deeds, actions and words and we’re going to need players to step up tomorrow irrespective of who’s wearing the armband.
“We need to try and fill that hole that he’s left because I think he’s been outstanding for us.
“I’m not putting too much thought into whoever it is that will be, but we’ll need a number of people to stand up in that area just in terms of experience on the day.”
Tottenham will bank on £60million forward Richarlison being able to continue his fine form and cover for Son over the next month.
Richarlison is one of the Premier League’s most in-form player with five goals in as many matches and looks revitalised after minor groin surgery in November.
Postecoglou added: “He’s just free of injury, he feels good physically and he’s just able to perform at the levels that he wants to.
“He couldn’t do that at the start of the season. Even though he was playing for us, he was feeling restricted in his movements.
“It’s no magic cure, he got some treatment for what he needed to get treatment for and he feels good now.
“His body feels good and then he’s scoring goals, which makes him feel a little bit more confident in himself.
“Aside from that, he’s working really hard for the team which has been really important for us, especially the last two, three weeks. He’s going well and hopefully there’s more to come.”
While Spurs lose Son as well as Pape Sarr and Yves Bissouma to international commitments this month, Micky van de Ven has returned to full training and could be involved against Burnley.
James Maddison is still “weeks” away though with an ankle injury and Alejo Veliz has a “significant” knee injury, which will sideline him for a couple of months, according to Postecoglou.
He said: “Micky van de Ven has trained with us this week, he’s got through three sessions. We’re not sure about tomorrow whether he’ll be involved or not.”