Tottenham tactics: Spurs vs Southampton preview (h)

It’s back to Premier League action for Spurs vs Southampton as Ronald Koeman brings his new-look side to the Lane.

The Dutchman has dealt with a major change in personnel, but has also implemented some large changes in their tactical style. So, What can we expect and what should we be looking for in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Southampton this time?

New-look 4-3-3

The biggest change Koeman has overseen is a switch to a 4-3-3 system. When in charge of the Saints, Mauricio Pochettino deployed the formation against certain opponents, but Koeman is a full-on advocate of the set-up.

This has seen him completely rebuild the Saints front line. He has bought in high energy wide forwards, who are very adept at pressing and can close on opponents quickly. But they are also very technical, able to dribble and can deliver an end product.

Koeman originally brought in Shane Long, renowned in the Premier League for his energy and dogged harassment of defenders when his side were not in possession. On the ball he is quick, able to dribble and has surprisingly good leaping ability for his height.

On the other side, Koeman has installed Dusan Tadic. The Serbian is a fast and tricky player, who is excellent at getting in to situations where he can deliver crosses.

The pair have been added to by the recent addition of Sadio Mane, another rapid player across the ground, who can dribble, shoot and provide a pass.

Tadic and Mane look to be Koeman’s preferred choices in the wide forward slots and they offer slightly different propositions.

Tadic is a supply line that they look to get the ball out to very quickly from central midfield, which we can see from the length of the passing lines to him against QPR.


Dusan Tadic passes received against QPR.

He plays high up the pitch and from receiving the ball in or towards the final third, Tadic is a threat to dribble and then more than likely cross.


Dusan Tadic passes played against Southampton.

Over on the other side, Sadio Mane is looking to get the ball where he can either run at defenders or burst past them and on to a through pass.

We can see this against QPR, as the passes to him are not only often over distance, but are also straighter, as they are fed up the line or through to him on the run.


Sadio Mane passes received against QPR.

Whilst he does play wide, he often drifts more infield than Tadic, making Koeman’s set-up the more classic 4-3-3. This combines a natural winger and an inverted forward either side of the centre forward.

Whilst they are a threat to run on to through balls, the pair are in the business of supplying Graziano Pelle with crosses. These can be either low or high balls in to the box or short cutbacks, pull backs or lay offs once inside the penalty area. The theme they have in common isthat they are delivered by first getting in to the wide areas.

Spurs vs Southampton crossing

Southampton have attempted the most crosses in the Premier League this season and Graziano Pelle is the reason why. He is big, physical, strong, excellent in the air, but also has a surprisingly good touch for a big man.

The Saints use him to move the ball forward and hold play up, as we can see below against QPR. But once the ball goes wide to Mane, Tadic and the overlapping Southampton full backs, his is job is to get on the end of the crosses, knockdowns and pull backs.


Graziano Pelle passes received against QPR.


His goal arrived like that last weekend, as he spectacularly volleyed home a cushioned knockdown from Dusan Tadic after a Shane Long cross.

Against Newcastle his first arrived from a Ryan Bertrand cross. Koeman loves his full backs to get forward and under or overlap their wide forwards. Here the former Chelsea man under lapped Dusan Tadic as Southampton overloaded the left side to deliver the cross.


Bertrand under laps to cross for Pelle.

His second arrived after a short cutback from Tadic as Southampton broke forward quickly from a Newcastle corner. The key was in the speed of the ball from back to front to get Saints out on the run.


Tadic cuts back for Pelle.

Tadic already has 3 assists in the Premier League, Mane has one in his sole appearance, a neat back heel in to the path of the under lapping Bertrand.

Working the ball in to wide areas for the outside forwards and full backs to create opportunities is their main source of chance creation. This cannot be underestimated in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Southampton this Sunday.

Sideline pressing

To back up their chance creation from wide, Southampton also look to recover the ball often in these areas too.

They do look to press high, but this isn’t a constant pressure all game. They will often drop off, but many of their triggers of when to go involve the ball being moved by the opposition to wider areas.

Southampton are more of a tackling side than interceptors of the ball and they lead the Premier League in tackles made per game. They are aggressive and have also committed the second most fouls in the league too.

Against Newcastle we can see this pressure in wide areas, but how the ball was often recovered just inside their own half. Pressure doesn’t always have to be applied high up the pitch.


Southampton tackles against Newcastle.

In winning 3-1 away at West Ham, Southampton were much more aggressive at recovering the ball in their opponents half of the field, but again out wide.


Southampton tackles against West Ham.

Being pressed when the ball goes out to our full backs and wide players is something to watch for in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Southampton this weekend.

Where Saints concede

Southampton have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League this season, as well as allowing the fewest shots on goal per game. They are a tough defence to crack, but they do have their weaknesses.

When teams do create chances, these often come from their pressure in wide areas, which allows opponents to do two things.

The first is to look for runners of their own past the Saints’ centre backs. Koeman does like his central defenders to squeeze up and they can be caught, just as Jordan Henderson does here to find Raheem Sterling.


Henderson pings a pass for Sterling to run on to.

Henderson is being pressed by two Saints players with him being in a wider area, but his quick thinking allows him to spot Sterling’s run in-behind.

The second is to get behind their high playing full backs. Both Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand push on to under or overlap their respective wide forwards and so can be got at before they recover their positions.

QPR did that last weekend as they scored a goal, but also created several other chances from getting beyond the full backs.


QPR chances created against Southampton.

Liverpool also scored their second goal of the game against Southampton, which was the winner, after a cross from Bertrand’s left back zone was only partially cleared.

Getting at Saints’ full backs, especially Bertrand, will be key to Spurs vs Southampton on Sunday.

Spurs vs Southampton outlook

Around all the coverage of Mauricio Pochettino facing his old side, this will be one of our hardest tests of the season so far. Southampton have impressed and sit second in the table having quickly picked up Ronald Koeman’s ideas of how he wants them to play.

The forward line of Mane, Tadic and Pelle is dangerous, with the power, strength and aerial ability of the latter likely to cause problems. Federico Fazio could be a wise choice against him to match size and strength, as Pelle, like Fazio, doesn’t have great speed.

Breaking Saints down will be one of the hardest things to do, but we have the quick runners that can get in-behind like Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela. Attacking their full back zones will also be key.

Spurs vs Southampton prediction: Spurs 1 Southampton 1.

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6 Responses to Tottenham tactics: Spurs vs Southampton preview (h)

  1. Ashley 5th October 2014 at 4:00 am #

    A little too much on them, not on what we need to do, (Mark)…but solid tactical discussion.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th October 2014 at 11:43 am #

      Thanks for reading Ashley. I think the last section on where they concede is what we need to do. Look for the runners in-behind their centre backs when they trap on the sidelines. Get beyond their full backs when they are upfield attacking. Would be looking at guys like Lamela and Chadli to be pivotal here.

      • Ashley Collie 6th October 2014 at 3:31 am #

        Mark, as you put it “we have the quick runners that can get in-behind like Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela. Attacking their full back zones will also be key” — Ade was part of attacks down their right side, one ended up with Chadli hitting post and the other with Eriksen scoring. Nice call! Those front four need to press, attack and score as a group. Chadli’s on song, Eriksen is hopefully off to the races now, but Ade and Erik (breaking his PL duck will help) need to get going. Cheers, keep up the good work!

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th October 2014 at 11:22 am #

          Thanks Ashley. I thought Adebayor had a good game linking the play, he was making a concerted effort to get out in to the wide areas and find those running off him. His effort was definitely a lot better. Chadli seems to be instructed to get out and lead the break. Several times he was running directly forward to be the first man out on any counter attacks. He hit the post, but also had another chance saved when put through by Eriksen and was the furthest forward when he laid the ball off on Eriksen’s goal.

  2. Jerry 6th October 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    Just to say thanks Mark for this most interesting column. Always a treat to read your stuff.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th October 2014 at 2:39 pm #

      Thanks for reading and the kind words Jerry.