Southampton vs Tottenham: Five things we learned as Spurs held by dogged Saints in scrappy contest

Southampton 1 Tottenham 1: Spurs were held to a 1-1 draw in a scrappy match at St Mary’s

Luke Brown
St Mary's Stadium
Sunday 21 January 2018 19:14
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Southampton took a shock lead against Spurs and fully deserved their point
Southampton took a shock lead against Spurs and fully deserved their point

Southampton held Tottenham to a 1-1 draw in a scrappy match at St Mary’s on Sunday afternoon, denting the north London club’s hopes of finishing in the top four this season.

Despite their long run without a win in the Premier League, Southampton started well and deservedly took the lead. Ryan Bertrand whipped a low cross into the box which Spurs defender Davinson Sanchez haplessly turned into his own net.

It took Tottenham just three minutes to level. Harry Kane met Ben Davies’ corner and powerfully headed home.

Both sides had chances in an end-to-end second-half — and Michael Obafemi could have won it for the hosts in the last few moments — but in the end a point was arguably the fairest result.

Here are five things we learned.

Pellegrino may have done enough to survive — for now

Things did not look good for Mauricio Pellegrino ahead of this fixture. Southampton are without a win since 26 November — picking up just five Premier League points over the past two months — and their 10-game winless run is the longest such sequence in any of England’s top four divisions. And to make matters worse for Pellegrino, Watford decided to sack Marco Silva in the hours before this fixture, a manager previously linked with the Southampton managerial position.

Pellegrino will be happier with the point

Against Spurs that winless run extended to 11 games, but Southampton were much improved and more than deserved their point.

Considering Southampton lost the last match between these two teams 5-2, a draw is a good result, especially considering the fine run of form Spurs were on heading into this fixture. Ultimately Pellegrino’s position continues to look vulnerable, but this result may just have bought him some more time.

Spurs pay the price for their trip away

Ahead of this match, Tottenham travelled to Barcelona for a brief warm weather training camp to recharge their batteries ahead of the business end of the season. But a sickness travelled round the squad, almost ruling out Harry Kane for this match and costing both Hugo Lloris and Christian Eriksen their places in the team. So much for rest and relaxation.

Sissoko struggled

Spurs desperately missed Eriksen. Without him they lacked control in the middle of the park, with the ball repeatedly fizzing around as if the game was being played on a pinball machine rather than a football pitch. Moussa Sissoko too often moved away from the ball rather than to it, and with no Eriksen to control the tempo Son Heung-min spent long periods of the match in complete isolation down the left.

At least Lloris was not missed as much: Michel Vorm did well on his return to the starting XI, saving well from Manolo Gabbiadini in the very first minute, and not to blame for Southampton’s goal.

Aurier not yet the finished product

In Tottenham’s recent 4-0 win over Everton, Serge Aurier was one of the best players on the pitch. Athletic, aggressive and responsible for Tottenham’s first goal — whipping a low cross into the box for Son to turn home — Aurier shone and staked his claim for why he should be Tottenham’s first choice right-back ahead of Kieran Trippier.

Dusan Tadic and Serge Aurier fight for possession

But he struggled against Southampton, particularly when caught on the back foot. The hosts repeatedly exploited the acres of space behind him whenever he attempted to push further upfield, and his right-sided partnership with Moussa Sissoko was by far Tottenham’s weaker flank.

He was as dangerous as ever when bursting forward, even if he could work on moving the ball quicker, but this was a performance which reminded those watching that he is still a raw talent; Pochettino cannot completely trust him just yet.

Ward-Prowse stands out

The atrocious weather conditions meant there were precious few phases of attractive play in this entertainingly scrappy affair. The two defences looked brittle throughout, while there was no decisive winner of the midfield battle as the both teams struggled to adjust to the game’s staccato rhythm.

Ward-Prowse was one of Southampton's better players

James Ward-Prowse, who played alongside Oriol Romeu and Mario Lemina, however stood tall with a performance to be proud of. His dead-ball deliveries were as dangerous as ever and he also kept Vorm on his toes with a couple of crisp shots.

His defensive contribution was also key. Repeatedly drifting out onto the right, Ward-Prowse kept a close eye on Son throughout the game and helped ensure the South Korean was kept more quiet than in recent games. In a difficult game where few shone, the 23-year-old excelled.

Kane maintains his scoring streak

Earlier this season Pochettino bristled when a mischievous Pep Guardiola referred to Tottenham as ‘the Harry Kane team’, but that description wasn’t far off them mark today. The three forwards behind Kane struggled to create many opportunities, with the star man forced to do all of the hard work himself.

Harry Kane celebrates his goal

That included their goal. For a player who can score every different type of goal, his first-half equaliser was refreshingly simple. Kane bulldozed his way through Southampton’s penalty area to get on the end of Ben Davies’ pinpoint cross, nodding the ball confidently past Alex McCarthy.

This was far from an easy game for Kane — Tottenham’s lack of control in the middle of the pitch meant that in the second-half he had to repeatedly drop deep in search of the ball — but he was lively throughout and found himself at the heart of the vast majority of their good work. To say he is vital to this team is an understatement.

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