Southampton vs Spurs is next up in the Premier League, so we look at 5 keys to taking on Ronald Koeman’s side.
Southampton were supposed to be battling relegation rather than fighting for a Europa League place when the season kicked off. Having their successful squad picked apart at the start of the campaign was meant to spell doom and gloom on the south coast. Instead, Ronald Koeman has come in and done a remarkable job navigating the Saints further up the Premier League table.
So, what can we expect from his side and what are the keys to beating them in Southampton vs Spurs this time?
1. Conceding from wide areas
Ronald Koeman plays an attacking version of 4-3-3 that sees his wide forwards combine with their full backs to create over and under laps. This has seen both Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand earn praise, and England call-ups, for their play under his tutelage.
Both full backs are extremely quick and able to get up in support of the attack. They press high, aiding the wide forward in front of them, but this leaves them vulnerable to quick attacks in transition.
Southampton don’t lose that often at home, but their last Premier League defeat came at the hands of Liverpool two months ago, who did exactly this.
The Reds didn’t see much of the ball, but they broke swiftly and moved it forward with speed when they did. With Raheem Sterling, Jordan Ibe, Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic, Liverpool didn’t have a target or hold-up man, but plenty of pace and guile to strike on the break.
They did this by getting at Southampton in the wide areas beyond the spaces where the full backs were to drag the centre backs out in to areas they didn’t want to be.
This saw Liverpool give Southampton problems despite having just 40% possession and being out shot by 13 to 6.
Southampton have gone undefeated at home since then, seeing off Hull 2-0 in their last Premier League match at St. Mary’s. Before the Tigers went there, Burnley visited the south coast. Despite also losing 2-0, they too gave Southampton something to worry about by getting in to the areas beyond the full backs. This saw them create chances from crosses, knockdowns and pull backs inside the area.
Burnley’s best chance saw Danny Ings denied after Ashley Barnes got in to the left back zone to swing in a cross. It was headed down perfectly for Ings, who blasted straight at the keeper.
The Tottenham tactics for Southampton vs Spurs must focus on exploiting this area of weakness in what is a strong Saints side. In Spurs 1 Southampton 0 at White Hart Lane, the only goal of the game from us getting in to the left back zone. Play was moved forward at pace, as it needs to be, and the ball was squared for Christian Eriksen to guide it home just inside the near post.
2. Counter attack
Breaking out quickly, which is what happened on Eriksen’s strike at the Lane, is also key to beating Southampton. At St. Mary’s, the Saints are extremely strong and press high to recover the ball. Teams that have done well there have invited them on and swiftly broke on counter attacks.
Liverpool were the last team to win at St. Mary’s in the Premier League despite having just 40% possession. They engaged Southampton at the middle third to recover the ball and looked to counter from there.
Prior to Liverpool, Swansea also tasted success at the home of the Saints. The Swans are renowned for their possession based style, but they too had top be content with just 37% of the ball. They came away with the points after Jonjo Shelvey’s long-range strike on a counter attack, despite being out shot by 15 to 6.
If to highlight this point even further, another winner at St. Mary’s, Man Utd, were thoroughly outplayed and out shot by 15-3. They still emerged with the three points thanks to counter attacking play, and an error on a back pass by Jose Fonte.
Under Mauricio Pochettino we’ve seen him flirt with his fabled high pressing system at various times throughout the season. Currently he is shying away from it and a counter attack would be the best approach here. That doesn’t mean parking the bus. A counter attacking game plan, such as we saw in our 1-1 draw at the Emirates, can be an attacking tactic. This is opposed to using a high line and pressing which would create a game of Russian roulette with our vulnerable backline exposed.
3. Sideline traps
One thing to avoid when playing Southampton are their sideline traps. The Saints look to work the opposition in to wide areas where they can use numbers and the sideline to win the ball back. This might not seem like much, but if you can move the ball quickly over or around them, then you have a good chance of opening Southampton up.
We saw some good examples of this in the game at White Hart Lane. Here the ball goes quickly in to Erik Lamela who flicks it first time round the corner for Christian Eriksen to run on to and shoot.
Later, our goal came from Danny Rose quickly getting the ball forward to Emmanuel Adebayor, who had got himself out in the full back zone. His pass in to Nacer Chadli was laid off first time by the Belgian to beat the numbers Southampton had and Eriksen swept home.
In Southampton’s last home loss, Liverpool also beat a 3v1 sideline trap as Lazar Markovic quickly laid the ball inside to Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian took one touch and fired an unstoppable strike in to the top corner.
Dealing with Southampton’s sideline traps will be something that might not leap out at first viewing, but is vitally important if we are to take home the three points.
4. Containing Southampton’s crossing
Southampton are a side set up to cross, but these aren’t always balls slung in to the box. Sure they have a big target to aim for in Graziano Pelle who is adept in the air and a focal point. But in using wide forwards and full backs, Koeman prefers his side create from shorter chipped crosses and cut backs often played across the ground.
To create like this sees them dribble and play one-twos between the wide forward and full back to get in to the penalty area. From there, they are closer to their target and this should increase the accuracy of the delivery, whilst reducing the defence’s reaction time.
Koeman uses players with speed and a high technical dribbling ability in the wide forward slots. Mane, Tadic, Long and Djuricic all have pace and can pick out team mate. What’s more, when play is on the other side, they all have the ability to drift in to the box and become a target for the delivery from the opposite flank. An example I’m sure we all remember was Sadio Mane’s goal line miss from Ryan Bertrand’s ball across the box that preserved our 1-0 victory at the Lane.
The Tottenham tactics for Southampton vs Spurs will need to see us slow down the supply line. Forcing the Saints back towards the middle of the park is one way of doing it. Interestingly, both Liverpool and Man Utd played with a back three and wingbacks, which is another.
5. Profiting from foul play
Both sides foul a lot. In fact, the Saints and us are third and fourth respectively in the fouls committed table. This means that free kicks and set pieces will come in to play in this game and whichever side can benefit from one will take the advantage.
Surprisingly, despite having committed the third most fouls in the Premier League, Southampton are yet to concede a penalty. On the other hand we have given away 7 spot kicks, the most of any side.
Southampton vs Spurs outlook
After getting back on track against Newcastle, this will be an extremely tough away trip. Ronald Koeman has his side playing well and they are particularly difficult to beat at home.
Victor Wanyama is missing the game, which will affect their midfield. We also need to test 38-year old keeper Kelvin Davis who doesn’t have great mobility.
Southampton vs Spurs prediction: Southampton 1-1 Spurs.
Southampton vs Spurs betting
I’m expecting an extremely tight game here, but Nacer Chadli should get some chances in this one with the way that Southampton set-up to play at home.