We return to Premier League action on Sunday and a tough trip to St. Mary’s for Southampton vs Spurs.
The Saints are having an excellent season, but have struggled recently with injuries and a tough schedule. This has seen them win one and draw three of their last six in the Premier League.
So, what can we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Southampton on Sunday?
Southampton set up and style
Mauricio Pochettino usually lines his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but has also experimented with 4-3-3.
The back four are solid, but if either Jose Fonte or the excellent Dejan Lovren are missing, then they can be prone to errors. A prime example of this was Jos Hooiveld’s gaff on Newcastle’s opening goal last weekend.
Pochettino likes his full backs like to get forward and they do a good job in supporting the attack, especially through crossing, as we’ll look at later. Conversely, this also leaves them vulnerable to giving up chances through these zones when they’re caught up field.
Two screening players protect the back four. Victor Wanyama usually commands this zone with the more attack-minded Morgan Schneiderlin. However, without the Kenyan due to injury recently, the Frenchman has been paired with Jack Cork.
Ahead of them, Pochettino usually opts for three advanced midfielders from Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez, Steven Davis and James Ward-Prowse. His use of the number ten position is by far the most interesting point of the team. Adam Lallana provides a dribbling and passing player in this role. Jay Rodriguez is more of a direct running support striker who is a threat to burst past the number nine. Ricky Lambert and Dani Osvaldo provide a hold-up style player. They both have the ability to come short, and then play a pass in-behind for Rodriguez or Lallana to run on to.
When in possession, the Saints are keyed up to play through balls for runners such as Rodriguez, but they also are a team keen on crossing. Both Lambert and Osvaldo are good in the air, with the England international doing an excellent job of pulling on to smaller full backs in order to win headers.
Without the ball, Southampton’s pressing has been well documented. This allows them frequently to regain the ball in the opposition’s half, whilst also gaining the lion’s share of possession, even against the likes of Man City.
Only Swansea sees more of the ball in the Premier League than Mauricio Pochettino’s men.
Sharp shooter Jay Rodriguez
Jay Rodriguez is Southampton’s form player in front of goal and has a couple of different roles on the team.
Firstly, he can play wide as part of the three advanced midfielders. When given this role, he starts out on the left when play is in the midfield zone. As the ball moves up the pitch towards the final third, he then comes inside more like a wide forward, as he looks to get shots away.
Secondly, Mauricio Pochettino can play him in the number ten role. Here he provides more of a direct running and shooting support striker. He is a threat to run off his centre forward, looking to get a pass in behind. He played well in this role in Southampton’s previous home game with Aston Villa, which included scoring from a cross.
Where Jay Rodriguez lines up will be key to the Tottenham tactics for Southampton vs Spurs. Out on the left could see him give trouble to Kyle Walker who has struggled in the past with players that drift off the flank and in to central areas. If he operates off the centre forward, then Etienne Capoue will need to guard his runs in-behind.
The Englishman is excellent with the ball at his feet, can dribble past opponents at will, whilst also being able to pick out a pass.
He can be deployed in one of the wider advanced midfield roles, but is arguably at his best when allowed to roam from central areas.
Often when he comes short for the ball in the midfield zone it is in the inside right channel. However, when he gets further forward he does tend to drift out more to the left. This can include bursting past Ricky Lambert on to a through ball – as he did against Hull to win a penalty. Or it could be off one of his dribbles – which he did in scoring a sensational individual goal in the same match.
Against Aston Villa, he was also active in these zones, receiving it deeper in the inside right channel and higher up out on the left. This allows him to attempt through balls from the left-hand side of the penalty area. If he can dribble in-behind the full back, then he is also a threat to cut the ball back.
Adam Lallana is a real danger, especially when floating from a central starting position. The Tottenham tactics for Southampton vs Spurs will see Etienne Capoue having his hands full if he starts for us. If Tim Sherwood opts for a midfield four, as he did against West Ham, then they could get overrun.
The movement of Ricky Lambert
Ricky Lambert is a big and strong centre forward with a canon for a shot, but his intelligent movement and eye for a pass are also underestimated.
This season, Pochettino has used him to drop deeper, allowing others to run past him so that he can play through balls to them.
If possession is out wide, then he is a real danger to get on the end of a cross as he attempts to isolate himself onto smaller full backs looking for diagonal crosses.
In his last home start against Aston Villa he did just that, as he was the focal point for passes in the final third outside the box. Then he got himself inside the area to get on the end of crosses from the right flank.
When he had the ball, he was looking to play passes in to others in the penalty area or to knock the ball down from crosses, as he did to set up Dani Osvaldo.
Ricky Lambert is a real handful and the Tottenham tactics for Southampton vs Spurs need to guard against his movement, especially pulling on to full backs.
Last season Andre Villas-Boas used Jan Vertonghen at left back in order to effectively get three centre backs on the field. Lambert is not a threat to run in-behind, so bigger full backs such as Vertonghen make it harder for him to use his height and strength against them.
With Jan Vertonghen injured and our current shortage of defenders, it’ll be interesting to see who Tim Sherwood puts on the opposite flank to Kyle Walker. Danny Rose is a real danger going forward, but Lambert trying to isolate himself against him will give us problems defensively.
How Southampton create chances
As alluded to already, the Saints create chances through crossing, whilst they also hit through balls for deeper runners, which can lead to shots or short pullbacks.
In their last home Premier League match with Man City, Dani Osvaldo scored after running in-behind from a lofted Steven Davis pass over the top. They also created several chances from their full backs crossing.
In their previous home match with Aston Villa, they scored two goals from crosses. The first was a header by Jay Rodriguez. The second was also a header from Dani Osvaldo after Ricky Lambert got on the end of a ball in to the box to nod it back across.
The Tottenham tactics for Southampton vs Spurs needs to see us guard against the Saints crossing. No one in the Premier League has completed more balls in to the box than them this season and if they are going to score it will come from this method.
Saints conceding chances
Southampton do like to get their full backs forward and this is where they can be exposed.
Both Chelsea and Manchester City were able to hit them from wide areas in their games with the Saints. The Blues ruthlessly so after their introduction of a second striker in Demba Ba after the interval.
Man City and Chelsea (in the second half) played with two front men, which caused Southampton trouble. Interestingly, Aston Villa, who went to St. Mary’s prior to Man City, went 5-3-2, so there could well be something in the twin attack.
Pressuring the goalkeeper
Southampton does like to play out from the back and their goalkeeper can be pressured in to either bad distribution decisions or errors.
Olivier Giroud caught Artur Boruc on the ball at the Emirates, whilst pressure on his passes out allowed Hull to score at St. Mary’s.
With Boruc out injured, Paulo Gazzaniga has come in to the line-up. But under pressure last week against Newcastle, his attempted clearance went straight to Loic Remy who should have scored.
The Tottenham tactics for Southampton vs Spurs would see us do well to pressure the keeper.
Southampton vs Spurs outlook
Southampton are a very good team, especially at home, but they have been struggling with injuries recently.
The team news that Michael Dawson is back will be back good for our patched up defence. Andros Townsend’s hamstring injury could hamper us creating crossing situations down the left though.
Tim Sherwood’s first selection was very ‘back to basics’ against West Ham, but two strikers here would seem a good way to go. Not only for pressuring the goalkeeper’s distribution, but also to get on the end of crosses from their full back zones.
Lambert, Lallana and Rodriguez will be the main dangers, but this game could well be made for Roberto Soldado if we are quick in transition.
Southampton vs Spurs prediction: Southampton 1 Spurs 1.