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Spurs vs Southampton: how to scupper the Saints

Our last home Premier League match of the season is Spurs vs Southampton so we look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Saints.

Ronald Koeman has his side in the midst of another good season as they roll up at the Lane for Spurs vs Southampton on Sunday.

Sat in seventh they have been particularly hard to beat, especially in recent matches. So, we break down where they are strong and the places where they are vulnerable.

Where Southampton concedes chances

Southampton plays very much in Koeman’s Dutch mould. This includes his full backs that love to get forward and join the attack. They are a source for crossing the ball, but also to support Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic.

Whilst Koeman’s full backs are excellent going forward, their high positioning can be used against them. Teams that can win the ball back and break quickly in to their wide areas have success and score goals against what is otherwise a frugal defence.

Take our 2-0 win against Southampton down at St. Mary’s in December.

Harry Kane opened the scoring as we won the ball back in central midfield and sprung upon a vacant Saints defence. Dele Alli then added a second as Kyle Walker got in down the right, again in transition after a turnover.

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Walker gets in to the vacant LB zone to cross for Alli.

Our chances in the match saw a ton created from getting down the right, beyond Saints left back Ryan Bertrand.

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Pass leading to a shot (blue), goal (yellow).

In Southampton’s last match, they thumped a much-changed Man City side 4-2. However, Kelechi Iheanacho scored twice from the Citizens also getting in to the area patrolled by Bertrand.

On his first, Samir Nasri got in to this space to send a ball across the six-yard box. It deflected up in the air off Virgil van Dijk and Iheanacho nodded in.

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Nasri gets in to the LB zone to cross for Iheanacho.

After the break and it was Jesus Navas that also got in down this flank to pull the ball back for Iheanacho to curl a peach of a shot in to the corner of the net.

But it’s not just Bertrand’s side. On the other, Cedric Soares or Cuco Martina have also been vulnerable to teams that can get forward and expose the space that the right backs’ leave.

Leicester were the last side to defeat Southampton. Their goal came from Christian Fuchs getting forward to whip in a cross that Wes Morgan headed home.

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Pass that lead to a shot (blue), goal (yellow).

Leicester’s chances in that game came from getting the ball beyond the full backs and either crossing or pulling it back across the penalty area.

The goal also highlighted Southampton’s surprisingly high amount of shots conceded from headers this season. The Saints have allowed the fifth most headed shots on target, something that should give Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld food for thought.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Southampton should see us look to get in beyond their full backs as well. Kyle Walker and Ben Davies will be key to doing this, but also a player that likes to run in-behind like Heung Min-Son. We shouldn’t shy away from crossing situations either, with the great potential to unlock Southampton’s defence from these.

Press vs Press

Both sides like to put pressure on the ball. Southampton does it by forcing teams out towards the sideline and overloading with numbers there. We do it by playing with a high line and overrunning opponents in the centre.

Both strategies are effective and whichever team can gain the upper hand will have the best chance of walking away with the three points.

Stopping Saints quick forward balls

Whether Southampton plays with Graziano Pelle or Shane Long as their central striker, their aim is always to get the ball forward to them quickly.

Pelle wins the knockdowns and brings others in to play, then gets in to the box looking for a cross. Long is also very underrated on crosses, having one of the best leaps in the Premier League for a man of his size.  However, when he is the starting striker, Southampton looks to hit early balls forward for him to run after or on to. These will either be played down the channels or over the top.

If we look at Shane Long’s last Premier League match at home to Man City we can see just how directly, and over distance, the ball is played for him.

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Shane Long passes received, Soton 4-2 Man City.

These quick forward passes are either in to Long’s feet or in to space for him to race after. Once he has the ball, he is either in a position for a shooting opportunity or to bring others in to play. That includes Sadio Mane, who is excellent running off Graziano Pelle’s knockdowns, but also in the vacant channels that Shane Long’s movement creates. His hat trick against Man City last weekend typified this.

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Shane Long runs one channel, freeing the other for Sadio Mane.

Southampton crossing

Southampton are the highest crossing side in the Premier League with Graziano Pelle in the line-up. Even without Pelle, they still rank fourth, highlighting that they are not afraid to cross and use Shane Long’s surprisingly good leaping ability. Long’s headed goal against Aston Villa highlighted that.

The supply line often comes from the dangerous Dusan Tadic. The Serbian is such an effective player when he is on his game, as he can operate on either side and deliver crosses or well-weighted through balls. This saw him assist on three of Southampton’s four goals last weekend.

Although we need to be aware of the threat that Shane Long and Sadio Mane pose running on to quick balls forward, Tadic’s crossing ability needs to be curbed. Kyle Walker will be key in doing this and he will have his hands full.

Spurs vs Southampton outlook

The right words have been coming out of White Hart Lane this week about getting second place and automatic Champions League qualification. Focus, determination and discipline need to be the orders of the day against what is a very good Southampton side.

It won’t be easy. Dealing with not only the suspensions of the highly influential Mousa Dembele and Dele Alli, but also the injuries we’ve picked up will make this a difficult contest.

Our last match of the season at home will see the team look to go out on a high, but Southampton will have their own agenda. Against their old boss, and in a Europa League chase, the Saints will be up for this one as well.

Spurs vs Southampton prediction: Spurs 2-0 Southampton.



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