Tottenham tactics: Spurs vs Southampton preview

After a draw last time out at the DW we start a massive week in the Premier League, beginning with Spurs vs Southampton at White Hart Lane.

We may have beaten the Saints earlier this season at St. Mary’s but a lot has changed since then, most notably the Southampton manager. Mauricio Pochettino has replaced Nigel Adkins and brought his own style of play.

So what can we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Southampton this time?

Southampton set up and style

Mauricio Pochettino usually lines his Saints side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but we have seen him experiment with a loose 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3.

His back four are probably the weakest part of the team and they can be got at through the full back zones, as we’ll look at in a minute.

The centre back pairing of Jos Hooiveld and Maya Yoshida isn’t the strongest, with both often making questionable decisions. However, the excellent Morgan Schneiderlin and Jack Cork offer them significant protection. Both midfielders in the pivot are very good at breaking up the play and then distributing the ball to the attackers. This often covers up the play of the centre backs and makes Southampton very difficult to break down through the middle.

Schneiderlin does have more licence to get forward, often supporting the attack, with three of his five Premier League goals this season coming since Pochettino took over.

Ahead of them, Steven Davis is a neat and tidy player on the ball who can pick a pass to the attacking trio of Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and Ricky Lambert. These three all have different qualities, which we’ll look at in a minute.

Without the ball Southampton press high up the park in order to win it back quickly and create chances in transition. They are very active when it comes to pressuring the opposition as we can see from their last away trip to Swansea.


Saints interceptions and Michel Vorm distribution, Swansea vs Southampton.

The Saints not only were very busy in the passing lanes, intercepting the ball a massive 36 times, but they were also forcing Michel Vorm to kick long. Swansea love to build from the back with short passing starting from their goalkeeper. Although Southampton didn’t win the game, they certainly broke up the Swans’ rhythm by forcing Vorm to kick clear often.

Sharp shooter Jay Rodriguez

Southampton’s three most dangerous players are Adam Lallana, Ricky Lambert and Jay Rodriguez, who all have varying roles and bring different qualities to the team.

Rodriguez has really established himself since Mauricio Pochettino arrived and he often sets up on the left in the Argentine’s 4-2-3-1 formation. He has also featured as a number ten, operating in a very similar way to our own Gareth Bale i.e. a driving and shooting number ten, rather than a passing, string-pulling trequartista.

He brings a pace and drive to the side, as he likes to take opponents on, then firing shots from in and around the box.

When he is on the left, he very much operates as a wide forward. His game last weekend with West Brom was a very typical Rodriguez performance in this position. He starts out on the left when the ball is in the midfield zone to provide width. Then further up towards the box he comes centrally looking to get shots away from any distance and any angle.


Jay Rodriguez passes received and shots, Southampton vs West Brom.

Rodriguez has formed a real one-two punch with Ricky Lambert who often creates his chances.

If Jay Rodriguez does line up on the left and come inside, Kyle Walker may have a torrid time tracking him. Walker has been suspect against wide players that move inside this season and the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Southampton here need to see him get some cover from Scott Parker.

The movement of Rickie Lambert

Rickie Lambert is a big and strong centre forward with a canon for a shot, but he also has very intelligent movement and an eye for a pass.

He is very much the target man up top when the Saints go long, but he does drop off all over the park in order to isolate himself against smaller full backs.

Against Reading, we can see how Lambert is the focus for long balls played forward from the defensive zone, but also how he moves out to both flanks. This allows him to play through balls down the channels towards and in to the area (looking for Rodriguez), whilst also providing crosses.


Rickie Lambery passes received and played, Reading vs Southampton.

He does get in to the box himself, looking to get on the end of a cross and use his excellent ability in the air. Lambert will quite often try and pull on to a smaller full back looking for a chipped diagonal ball.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Southampton here may see Andre Villas-Boas move Jan Vertonghen to left back once again. This is something we’ve seen him regularly do when the opposition has a major aerial power that likes to pull on to full backs e.g. Andy Carroll. That would allow him to effectively have three centre backs against Lambert, reducing his threat.

The tricky Adam Lallana

Adam Lallana is a danger with his ability to dribble and pick out a pass. The Englishman has oft been injured this season, but when healthy can unlock a defence with his neat footwork.

Often lining up on the right when he looks more like a natural number ten, Lallana is a threat to ghost in and create with short cut back passes to Lambert and Rodriguez.

Against West Brom last week he showed just that, pulling back and squaring several passes from deep in the West Brom area.


Adam Lallana passes played, Southampton vs West Brom.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Southampton may focus on the more obvious dangers of Lambert and Rodriquez, but Adam Lallana also needs to be watched.

Where Southampton create chances

Since Mauricio Pochettino has taken over, Southampton create chances by crossing the ball and sliding in through passes.

In the time the Argentine has been at the helm, the Saints sit fourth in the Premier League for crosses attempted – only West Ham, Newcastle and Arsenal try more. They also complete 7 through balls per match, the most of any Premier League side.

Against Reading we can see how they create from crosses and through passes, particularly through their inside right channel. Rickie Lambert chipped a ball through for Jay Rodriguez to open the scoring. Adam Lallana then received a through pass to make it 2-0.

In their previous trip to Norwich we can also see a similar blend of crosses and through passes, with the inside right channel again being a key area of activity.


Southampton chances created against Reading and Norwich.

The fact that the Saints create chances in these ways can make them a difficult opposition to face. The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Southampton here needs to see us guarding against this activity in their inside right channel. Jan Vertonghen usually plays on the left of our two centre halves, but deploying him at left back may aid in this area, as well as matching up with Lambert when he pulls on to the full back.

Spurs vs Southampton conceding chances

Southampton are conceding fewer chances than they were with Nigel Adkins in charge, but opportunities still come in the same area; the left back zone.

Southampton 1 Spurs 2 at St. Mary’s saw us attack left back Danny Fox and score twice through here. In the absence of Fox through suspension this weekend, Luke Shaw should get the nod and Spurs need to expose this area.

Swansea did an excellent job of fashioning opportunities through this zone in their last away trip. At home last weekend, West Brom created through the Saints left side with passes either coming from, or finishing up, in this area.


Swansea and West Brom chances created against Southampton.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Southampton here will see Aaron Lennon a key figure if he is healthy enough to start the game. His pace and dribbling ability will make him a major weapon in unlocking the Saints’ defence.

Spurs vs Southampton outlook

This could be an open game with two sides that like to press high up the park, whilst having plenty of options in attack. Southampton have kept clean sheets in their last three Premier League away games though, so we could be in for a nervy and tense ride.

The team news that Spurs could have Moussa Dembele back is massive. His ability to drive forward with his surging dribbles could unhinge the strong partnership of Cork and Schneiderlin in the middle. These two may make space very congested for Gareth Bale and a switch out to a wider position may be on the cards if Aaron Lennon is not 100% or cannot complete 90 minutes.

Spurs went at Southampton and scored early at St. Mary’s and the same tactic could well be on the cards for Andre Villas-Boas here.

Playing down our right to attack the Saints’ left will be key to taking all three points.

Spurs vs Southampton prediction: Spurs 2 Southampton 1.

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