Read David Hytner’s match report:
Anyway, that’s us - you can nip over here to follow Manchester City v Liverpool with Simon Burnton. Bye.
Spurs did just enough to get the points there; they’ve scored a bunch of goals lately, but this was one was all about their defenders, who strong-stood when things got hairy. Southampton, meanwhile, will be annoyed with how they conceded, but probably satisfied with how they responded.
So, Spurs’ tenth home win in a row takes them to within 10 [ten] points of Chelsea; Southampton stay ninth.
Full-time: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Southamton
And there it is.
90+5 min Spurs win a free-kick down the right in a dangerous position, but keep it by the corner. Seconds later, Janssen, who looks a little trimmer these days, wins another one on the left. Alli taps to Dembele, he makes for the corner, and that shall probably be that.
90+4 min Romeu is booked for a foul - on whom, I did not see.
90+3 min For all that Southampton have competed hard, they’ve found it more or less impossible to create a chance since drawing to within a goal. That says a lot more about how Spurs defend than it does about how they attack.
90+1 min Ward-Prowse finds himself on the ball, just outside the box, dead centre, and spreads wide for Boufal. Cedric punishes himself to get around the outside, but Boufal opts to wander inside, whamming a low shot just wide of the near post.
90+1 min There shall be five additional minutes.
90 min Southampton are pressing so hard that one touch is all it takes for Janssen to send himself through their defensive line. He could cross for Alli, but instead opts to leather a shot, which flies into the near post side-netting.
87 min Southampton are having a serious go at this, storming forward at every opportunity - and there’s Boufal, running the ball into play. Their problem is that Spurs’ three at the back are so strong, and there’s Alderweireld, pacing in to rob Rodriguez, just as an excellent first touch looked to have earned him a yard inside the box.
86 min Final change for Spurs: Janssen replaces Eriksen. I’m saying nothing <irony>.
85 min Winks barrels forward with the ball, and when he loses it flies after it - he looks as though he’s still vex with Boufal, desperate to impart a revenge reducer. Headline: Winks Murder.
84 min “I’m not enjoying Shane Long’s impression of Filippo Inzaghi,” emails JR. “Stay onside, man. One time at least. Jeez.”
In his defence, he’s playing on the edge for the one time things work out right, and this is not an easy defence to nail.
83 min Nice from Spurs, working the ball to Alli just outside the box. He duly finds Trippier outside him, and with the whole ground warming up for one of his deadly crosses, he opts for a pull-back instead, easily cut out by Ward-Prowse.
81 min Winks collects a bouncing ball deep inside his own half and nips down the line, around Boufal - who hacks him down. It’s playground stuff, but Winks is exceedingly displeased, so Trippier simultaneously incites and intervenes. Boufal is booked.
80 min Redmond, who’s had a quiet one, departs; Rodriguez arrives.
79 min Perhaps Winks will give Spurs that extra attacking impetus next season - the ability to beat men in the middle of the pitch is both useful and rare.
78 min Another change for Spurs: Trippier, who somehow looks as though he has a ponytail without having a ponytail - is that the worst possible kind of haircut? - replaces Walker.
76 min Lovely from Winks, bursting past two challenges, then orchestrating a one-touch exchange - eventually, Davis barges him over, close to the left touchline. Eriksen then swings in the free-kick, but it’s slightly overhit and drifts past the far post.
75 min Winks does come on, but for Son. I imagine Pochettino wants his team to take a firmer hold of things in midfield, and nab a third goal in the process.
74 min Spurs are sitting deep in two lines now - they look like a team who practice defending. Can anyone think of a counterpoint? And shonuff, when the attempted killer ball arrives, Long is caught offside.
73 min Though Winks has a little saunter, Dier is fine and back on.
71 min Fine challenge from Dier, sliding around the side of Davis to avert a counter. But he stays down to contemplate the king’s gambit, as the physio arrives to treat him.
70 min Jeremy Dressner is nervous. “The way Son is playing this half, being outmuscled and giving away possession, you have to ask where is the newly emboldened Vincent Janssen Spurs need the hold-up play right now as it is getting a bit too frantic for the Lillywhites.”
And they might get another penalty...
69 min Change for Southampton: off goes Tadic, on comes Boufal. By more or less all accounts, he is a player - hopefully he can stay free of injury, and show us.
67 min Sunday Supplement’s Jack Pitt-Brooke says of Eriksen: “Streaky, one good month one bad month. Poch has never played with wingers, though.”
I think that means we’re all right.
66 min It’s vaguely depressing wondering which of this Southampton team will leave in the summer, but perhaps they’re at the optimum level for them: they have something excellent and which works, but no obvious stars.
64 min Son cuts in from the right, just inside the box, and shoots ... the ball is blocked back out to Wanyama. The crowd holler for him to have a go, but a heavy touch moves things on to Dembele, whose effort is blocked.
63 min Bertrand has been excellent this afternoon, and he dances forward before finding Redmond; the return ball doesn’t quite have the necessary, and Walker manages to avert the danger.
61 min Sticking Dusan Tadic at the point of the diamond was such a smart move, and he surges forward waiting for something to happen outside him. But before it can, Wanyama introduces studs to calf, for which he’s booked. Free-kick Southamton, 40 or so yards out, and Ward-Prowse chips it towards the far post, the ball bouncing away from Stephens - but only just.
60 min “The key words in your half-time thought were ‘no player Spurs could sign’” emails Thopmas Bishop. “There are probably thirty or forty forwards in the game right now who would be an upgrade on one player or another in Spurs’ attacking lineup, but how many would sign for the club where it is now? And of those few, which ones wouldn’t upset the finely-tuned squad harmony? For the record, I completely agree that Eriksen isn’t an elite level player, despite his obvious talents and excellent stats, but he does a decent job and seems to fit in with the group reasonably well: who would you try to sign to replace him?”
I wish I got to watch enough football to know the answer to this, but my advice would be to follow the Dortmund scouts about.
57 min Southampton are into this now - Spurs look slightly uncomfortable for the first time in weeks.
55 min “I’m finding your analysis of how Spurs can get to the next level really interesting,” says Matt Longman, sarcastically. “Could you explain a bit more about how a bigger pitch wouldn’t suit three at the back?”
It leaves a lot of space in the corners - less of an issue when the pitch is narrower and everyone’s close together. On the other hand, when the game’s stretched on a big pitch, overloads help to get to the line and to work the ball into the middle, and wingers are often the out-ball. Basically, play spends more time in wide areas, and good though Walker and Rose are, they’re not as good at wingers at doing what wingers do.
54 min This is a really good game now.
53 min Spurs almost hit back immediately, but when the ball arrives at Son, he takes to long to extract it from his feet, allowing Stephens to comes across and relieve him of it.
GOAL! Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Southampton (Ward-Prowse, 52)
Well, you don’t see many of these. Bertrand nashes down the left and crosses, whereupon Alderweireld shows it his buttocks at the near post, missing his kick entirely. But there’s still work to be done at the back, where Ward-Prowse takes a touch and drills home low, a finish not unlike Marc Albrighton’s the other night.
50 min “Spurs’ strength is their team balance,” emails Cian O’Mahony. “That is why it will be very difficult to improve their first team selection. They could find individually better players. Virgil van Dijk for Dier, for instance. An even better 12th man for Son. But the understanding which Pocchetino has developed in their team play is going to evolve ever further with the present incumbents.”
I agree with this, though often think that they look pretty similar whoever plays - testament to how well-drilled they are. Perhaps I’m swayed by the Monaco and Leverkusen games, but I think they need a winger.
47 min Davies goes down the left and swings over a cross, but it’s overhit and Southampton work the ball away. They’ve played much better than the last three visitors to White Hart Lane, but might still slink away with a four-goal thumping for company. And here Spurs come again, Son working wide to Walker - he squares, and Eriksen sweep a right-footer over the top.
46 min Anyway, we’ve started again.
“Spurs is one of the top attacking and controlling sides in Europe,” reckons Gustav Bjorklund. “The only thing they need to improve is match mentality/psychology (so they don’t crash out against mid table Belgian sides), and that is not something you can fix by replacing one player with one slightly more technically gifted player.”
Not sure I can agree with the first point, I’m afraid. Good team, but no trophies and nothing even half-decent in Europe. I wasn’t suggesting replacing Eriksen with “one slightly more technically gifted player”, but a different kind of player. I might still be wrong.
Email: “Well right now Spurs have yet to lose a game playing three at the back,” says Alex Perring, “and we have only seen it once at Wembley and in Europe. I don’t see why one should assume a bigger pitch doesn’t suit 3 at the back.”
On wider pitches, it helps to have overloads because the middle, and therefore the goal, is further away; and also, the game gets stretched, so specialist wingers are more important. In Europe, the defences are better than in the Premier League.
Half-time thought: if Eriksen is so good that no player Spurs could sign would do more for the team than he, are we saying that once Kane comes back in for Son, Spurs cannot be improved as an attacking force?
Half-time: Tottenham Hotspurs 2-0 Southampton
A pretty fair reflection of things, but Southampton remain a live dog - until Spurs score again.
45+2 min Southampton skank a free-kick down the left, by the side of the Spurs box. It’s rolled back to the edge, where the ball is steamed by various defenders, well before it reaches Bertrand. It then squirts loose to Cedric, who wellies a swerver which Lloris pushes out, and as Tadic arrives on the scene, Davies looks to clear, booting yerman a right sair yin instead. Somehow, the three officials avoid fathoming a penalty.
45 min There shall be three added minutes.
45 min “Saints fan from Winnipeg here,” emails Edward Gohl. “Always frustrating playing Liverpool and to a lesser extent Spurs. I wonder what it’s like cheering for a team who can retain players?
Ex-Southampton Starting XI, last three seasons: Maarten Stekelenburg, Luke Shaw, Toby Alderweireld, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne, Morgan Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama, Adam Lallana, Jason Puncheon, Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
Assistant: Ronald Koeman
Once we sell another midfielder that’s a pretty strong squad.”
Trudat, though how many of those players have been unparalleled successes? How many would get into the current side?
44 min First little flash of Southampton as Tadic tiptoes around a couple of tackles before sliding a pass in towards Davis at inside-right. He can’t make anything of it, but that was a little better from the visitors.
41 min Southampton need to rouse themselves here, else they’re going to get absolutely clattered. Dembele finds Eriksen just outside the D, and he comes inside onto his right foot, then curves a tremendous low pass towards Son, sneaking in at the far post. It’s just too long, but that was a splendid effort and a little like this:
39 min People are exercised about Eriksen. Here’s Morten Bo Johansen: “If Eriksen is not an elite player, then what about De Bruyne, Hazard, Özil etc? Eriksen’s stats are better than any of those players: More goals, more assists, more chances created. I think your perception of him is emblematic of how underrated he is.”
My perception is emblematic of what I’ve seen watching him, both in the flesh and not. Stats aren’t the only way to measure a player - Rick Holden was pretty nifty in Fantasy League - and I can’t see how anyone would have him in the same category as Hazard and De Bruyne.
38 min Bertrand tries to clear his lines and has his toes tattooed by Walker, who’s booked.
36 min A lull.
34 min “If Pochettino plans on playing this formation in the long-term, then surely the pace and width is provided by the marauding wing-backs?” asks Matt Loten rhetorically. “And if he reverts to a more traditional 4-2-3-1, then I would argue that as long as there is pace on one wing, then you can play someone of Eriksen’s talent on the other, ala Juan Mata or Mesut Ozil. The more pressing concern is that Spurs find replacements for Moussa Sissoko, possibly the most bafflingly overrated midfielder in the Premiership, and the perennially injured Lamela.”
I wonder about the 3-5-2 on a wider pitch than White Hart Lane, and against better sides especially. I thought in Europe, it was an obvious problem. In improving an already excellent team, sometimes very good players lose their spot in the first XI.
GOAL! Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Southampton (Alli pen, 33)
That, you feel, has rapidly morphed into that. Forster dives left, Alli drives slightly right, and without Gabbiadini, you’d reckon Saints are sunk.
PENALTY FOR SPURS!
32 min An absurd collection of stumbles and bumbles inside the box from various of the Southampton back-four allows Alli to nip onto the ball just as Davis commits to challenge for it. Naturally, he wastes no time guaranteeing contact, and that’s a penalty.
30 min Or they were. Gabbiadini has hurt himself performing that earlier shot, and will be replaced by Long.
29 min Long ball from right to left finds Redmon on the by-line. He taps back, AND TADIC BLAZES OVER FROM IN FRONT OF THE GOAL! The flag then goes up - apparently the initial ball went out - but replays later show to the contrary. Either way, Southampton are coming.
28 min Tadic hustles down the left, and when the ball arrives, he clips back a low cross towards the near post. Naturally, Gabbiadini is onto it in a trice, snapping a snap-shot into the near-post side-netting.
26 min “Re Eriksen, surely you’re trolling?” says Sahil Khan. “Overwhelming statistical case aside, pivotal cog in the Poch system.”
As I said, I think he’s a good player. But I also think that to get to the next level, Spurs need a) at least one winger, and b) at least one elite player. Good though he is, I don’t think Eriksen is either of those things.
26 min Redmond pulls back Wanyama and is booked.
23 min Long , er, diag from Dier, and Stephens allows himself to be bullied by Alli, who is exceptional in the air for someone of his build. He knocks the ball down, and eventually Spurs settle for a corner down the left - it’s clipped towards the near post, and Alderweireld runs across the face of the goalmouth, heading down ... only for Foster to wave a giant paw, scooping clear. Excellent save.
21 min Lovely ball over the top from Forster, if indeed he meant it, picking out Redmond. But he opts to wait for the bounce, rather than gamble and predict it, allowing Dier time to come across and mop up.
19 min What Spurs have done brilliantly in recent weeks is score early against potentially tricky opponents. It’s true that Stoke and Everton didn’t turn up, but Southampton have been fine so far - them already being behind is the mark of a fine opponent.
17 min Davies and Davies contest a high ball close to the Spurs box, and the ricochet arrives at Romeu. He smashes a shot on or perhaps just after the half-volley, which flies just wide of the far post, though Lloris probably had it covered.
16 min This is not a clever time to ask this question, but here we go: if Spurs are looking to contest the title and improve in Europe, do they need to improve on Christian Eriksen? He’s a good player, yes, but they need some pace out wide - all the more so given next season they’ll be at Wembley - and something, or someone will have to give.
GOAL! Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Southampton (Eriksen, 14)
This is a lovely finish. But first, Dembele takes possession in midfield, flows into a turn, and rolls into Eriksen’s pass. He gathers the ball on the run, and from 20 yards, drives hard and low into the near corner. Though he ought to have been closed down, there looked nothing especial on - that was just superbly done.
13 min Walker skirts around the outside of Bertrand, hits the line, and forces Yoshida to block behind. Eventually, Southampton get the ball away.
12 min Decent couple of minutes from Southampton, and Betrand wins a corner by the by-line. Alli then heads Ward-Prowse’s kick away, and when the ball’s returned, Lloris rises to hold.
10 min Redmond robs Eriksen and hurtles by Wanyama, so Dier dhalsims into a tackle that crumples him. Booking.
9 min Davies flits infield and again Southampton’s defence opens up. he looks for Eriksen, sliding a pass through the middle, but overhits it when really he ought to have handled things.
7 min David Hunter has more linguistic reflection for us: “‘Puel goes on to elegise Marco Gabbiadini, and it’ll be interesting to see which of Spurs’ three centre-backs picks him up - especially given the excellence of his movement’.
It would indeed be interesting to see who picks up Gabbiadini if he were, in fact, dead. Perhaps you could use this trope for other players during the game. The shade of Dembele slots a perfect through ball to deliquescent Dele. His toe-dripping pass to the declining Son is taken rib high and the subsequent shot unsights Forster. GOAL.”
Given that we’re sustaining ourselves with linguistic fascination, I don’t think an elegy necessarily has to describe the departed.
6 min Tadic finds himself the pressed beef in a Dier-Wanyama sandwich. There’s a pause while he recovers.
4 min “ Interesting to think what would have happened, had Gabbiadini been given and taken the opportunity to join Spurs in January rather than Southampton,” emails Patrick Cullen. “He would fit in well with Spurs’ style of play, and surely benefit from Pochettino’s methods. And with Kane injured...”
That’s true, but he was leaving a Champions League side for regular starts - I’m not sure Spurs would’ve appealed.
3 min First chance of the game for Spurs, Eriksen appearing on the right touchline and arcing a delectable low pass behind Stephens. And Son latches onto it sharply, lashing a shot against the humungous Forster; should have done better, Southampton’s defence likewise.
2 min Spurs have started like they mean it, Son and Alli combining nicely at inside-right before running out of position.
1 min Here’s Kevin Porter: “Guess who jumped the shark? Guess by whom the shark was jumped? No need to thank me. It’s probably wrong. After all the shark was clearly jumped over not jumped on.
But by who(m)?”
Right, that’s that one cleared up then.
1 min We’re away!
Sky reckon Southampton are playing a 4-2-3-1, not a diamond; is nothing sacred?
Here come the teams!
Of only the vaguest, most tangential relevance, but a cheap laugh nonetheless:
I seem to recall that post-match, the current England manager noted that “we’d all like to do that”.
The MBM is nothing if not fashion-conscious, so is intrigued by what persuades people that a three-piece syoot, or a two-piece plus cardigan, is necessary attire for talking about football on the telly.
Puel goes on to elegise Manolo Gabbiadini, and it’ll be interesting to see which of Spurs’ three centre-backs picks him up - especially given the excellence of his movement. I imagine it’ll be Alderweireld.
Pochettino is looking forward to seeing how Son and Alli interchange; Puel is hoping Southampton play well.
Kyle Walker doesn’t use shower gel. Apparently this is a thing, the implication therefore that he doesn’t use soap either.
Incidentally, this is the beauty of Guess Whom with people you know: the opportunity to ask insulting questions, in particular the final one, once you are certain who it is. I know this, I am ashamed to say, because I used to play it with mates when we were bored - without the board - and we would move on to people we knew once we got even more bored.
They’re now playing Spurs Guess Who. More news as I get it.
Also, should the game in fact be called Guess Whom? I posit that it should.
Breaking news: Vertonghen and Dier play backgammon and chess together.
So, how will the game go? I’d expect not many goals, and wonder if Spurs have the pace to exploit the diamond’s principal weakness: too many men ahead of the ball.
On the other hand, Spurs are masters at finding space on a tight pitch, and defend very well too.
Social media has done much for football coverage, but perhaps no development has been a revolutionary as film of players getting off coaches in syoots and walking out of tunnels in training tops.
Laudable sentiment, but is Fraser Forster capable of looking unfocused?
For the sake of the completists among you: Victor Wanyama once played for Southampton. On which point – and though I wonder if he’s needed in every game – Mauricio Pochettino must be relieved that he’s been such a success, given those who arrived with him.
Amazingly, Mauricio Pochettino can’t find room for Vincent Janssen in his starting XI (insert unkind joke here); Son is Spurs’ nominal centre-forward. Southampton, meanwhile, are unchanged.
T-Birds and Pink Ladies
Tottenham Hotspur (an aesthetic 3-4-2-1): Lloris; Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen; Walker, Wanyama, Dembele, Davies; Dele, Eriksen; Son.
Subs: Vorm, Trippier, Wimmer, Onomah, Sissoko, Winks, Janssen.
Southampton (a pleasant 4-4-2 diamond): Forster; Cédric, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand; Romeu, Davis, Ward-Prowse, Tadić; Redmond, Gabbiadini.
Subs: Hassen, McQueen, Caceres, Hojbjerg, Long, Boufal, Rodriguez.
Referee with most unreferee’s name ever: Andre Marriner.
Apparently Mauricio Pochettino was once manager of Southampton, and now, he’s manager of Tottenham. I know! Uncanny isn’t it!
Anyway, that’s it with your revelations; now onto what should be an excellent game between two of the Premier League’s more likeable teams. Spurs play fast, intense football punctuated by plenty of invigorating snide, while Southampton are settled, enterprising, and nasty where necessary.
But today’s game brings with it specific circumstances: Southampton might improve their finish by a place or two, but more or less, their season is over. Spurs, meanwhile, are looking to finish in the top-four, above Arsenal and higher than last season’s third-place – without Harry Kane.
Though he was absent when they tore Manchester City apart earlier in the season – as good a Premier League performance as we’ve seen these last few years – in general they are far less effective without him. He is a focal point, a finisher and a symbol, and on top of that, was in spectacular form.
As such, Southampton will smell an opportunity. Just last month they terrorised Manchester United throughout the League Cup final, still found a way to win their next game, and in Nathan Redmond have a roving, attacking force capable of disquieting any defence in the division.
So, eyes down: we’re in for a treat.
Kick-off: 2.15pm GMT