Our right wing was the focus for both managers trying to gain the upper hand as it ended Southampton 1-1 Tottenham in our Premier League clash.
The battle of the Mauricios ended Southampton 1-1 Tottenham as each sought to gain the upper hand on our right flank. Pellegrino kept Dusan Tadic high looking to cheat behind Serge Aurier. Pochettino wanted to release Aurier down the flank as Moussa Sissoko drew Ryan Bertrand infield. It made for a fascinating contest.
Battle of the right
The opening stanza of the match was fought on our right flank.
Mauricio Pellegrino was gambling on springing a player beyond our high line. To achieve this he kept Dusan Tadic high as he tried to cheat to get behind Serge Aurier. Any time Southampton won the ball, Tadic was off from a very high starting position looking to get down the flank and cross.
Tadic had good success at doing this to achieve Southampton’s crossing based attack. He was caught offside, but also fed some good early low crosses across the box, one that was whiffed on by Manolo Gabbiadini.
In direct response to this, as can be seen in the image above, Serge Aurier was looking to attack the other way. With Tadic having no defensive responsibilities, Aurier and Sissoko we left two versus one against Ryan Bertrand.
Moussa Sissoko drifted infield in order to drag Bertrand towards him. Aurier was therefore left to attack the space that appeared down the flank.
Aurier’s crossing has been the subject of much debate recently. Again, he failed to deliver any telling balls in to good areas. Harry Kane took down Aurier’s most dangerous ball in to the box. Kane then laid it off for Ben Davies whose cross was diverted wide of the post by Moussa Sissoko with the goal gaping.
Southampton wins the first battle
Southampton took the lead through their attack down our right being the more successful. A turnover in midfield was swiftly moved out to Tadic. Sissoko was caught in-field. Aurier now had a dilemma at being two versus one against Tadic and Bertrand.
Using the heavy surface, Tadic could over hit his pass knowing it would hold up for the streaking Bertrand on the overlap. Davinson Sanchez was caught on his heels. As he slid to cut out Bertrand’s cross, he was a fraction late. The ball was deflected in off the near post and Southampton had the lead.
Tottenham corners count
Whilst the final ball of Tottenham’s attacks down the right was poor, the corner count was not. Spurs won four corners prior to going behind. The fifth, won from attacking down our right, saw us back on level terms.
Southampton had struggled to defend corners. One of their issues had been bodies in front of goalkeeper Alex McCarthy that had prevented him from coming to punch clear. As Harry Kane bullied past his marker Jack Stephens, McCarthy was again faced with a mass of bodies, a number of which were his own teammates.
After fighting off Stephens, Kane had a running start and could tower over Manolo Gabbiadini’s standing jump to head home. So quick to respond the score was now Southampton 1-1 Tottenham and we were back on level terms.
Christian Eriksen buzzing between the lines usually transitions the ball from defensive to attacking midfield. Without the Dane through illness, Mousa Dembele was tasked with this job. Used to resisting pressure, spinning away and laying the ball off, Dembele was stretched with the amount of ground he now needed to cover. The result was a lack of transitioning the ball through midfield and a whole host of fouls as Dembele rushed to get back in to defensive shape.
The ploy didn’t really work and interestingly Pochettino changed shapes twice in the second half to try and solve this problem.
The formation gave Southampton a problem, as their full backs didn’t have a direct opponent to mark. As a result, they narrowed up and shifted to a 4-5-1 formation so as not to be overrun in the middle of the pitch.
Pochettino’s response was to introduce Erik Lamela for Son Heung-Min and change to a 4-3-2-1 formation. Lamela and Dele sat just behind Harry Kane as Pochettino tried to go all out to overpower in the centre of the pitch.
Big chances via formations
Each team then had great chances to win the game via their set up.
Southampton was able to spring Tadic in-behind from a turnover of possession to fire in a low cross. Newly introduced Michael Obafemi couldn’t handle the ball skidding off the slick surface to finish on his debut.
At the other end, Tottenham’s new formation was designed to punch through the inside channels with Lamela and Dele floating in these off Harry Kane.
Moussa Sissoko rumbled through the inside left channel to create the first great chance. Unfortunately, Erik Lamela took a touch and too much time when Sissoko’s short cut back arrived at his feet.
In the dying seconds the ultra-reliable Harry Kane had the chance he’d been waiting for. Dele Alli set him in through the inside right channel as the pair navigated the central congestion brilliantly.
However, Kane scuffed his left foot shot just past the post and the win went with it. The match ended Southampton 1-1 Tottenham with two valuable Premier League points dropped.
Southampton 1-1 Tottenham overall
With a flu virus in the camp accounting for the loss of Christian Eriksen we were lacking the usual shot in the arm that he brings. Our typical crisp passing combinations and fast ball movement were just not there. If his absence didn’t highlight once again the one type of player we need this transfer window, nothing will.
Mauricio Pochettino had tried to mitigate the loss of Eriksen through Mousa Dembele. However, as Pochettino sought to tinker with the formation to find the rhythm that Eriksen brings, he failed to find the answer. Substitutions were again an issue. Even more so given he was forced to burn one with Aurier’s injury.
Two points dropped on a weekend when we could have gained ground on fourth placed Liverpool. What’s more, we have three tricky Premier League fixtures upcoming against our rivals in the table that will make or break our season.
Final score: Southampton 1-1 Tottenham.
MOTM: Jan Vertonghen.