Spurs 3 Southampton 2: attack the left back

A wonderful low drive from Gylfi Sigurdsson saw us earn three vital Premier League points, with it finishing Spurs 2 Southampton 3 at the Lane.

Once again we saw defensive errors and an inability to play a well-structured high line, but the key to the game was getting in-behind left back Luke Shaw.

High line hijinks

The first half revolved around our decision to once again go with a high defensive line. We’ve seen this creeping ever so more in to our tactics under Tim Sherwood. However, it’s not been as well structured or organised as it was in keeping seven clean sheets in our first ten Premier League games of the season.

The reason it was so effective was that AVB went with three powerful players in midfield, such as Capoue or Sandro, Dembele and Paulinho. Whilst going forward it was slow and laboured, putting pressure on the ball and regaining it was not a problem.

Without any pressure on the ball in midfield here, Southampton were able to get runners in-behind our high line time and again. We can only suppose that the tactic was to counter Ricky Lambert’s lack of pace. With him coming towards the ball and looking to send it to runners firing past, it defeated the purpose of it though. Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana have much better speed and were the main benefactors.

Southampton were frequently caught offside, but were also effective at breaking through.


Southampton offisdes.

After chances for Lallana and Rodriguez, the latter opened the scoring as he raced on to Artur Boruc’s bouncing goal kick. An error by Kyle Naughton saw him misjudge the flight of the ball and get caught underneath it. Rodriguez raced in to the wide-open space and made easy work of the finish.

Errors, errors, errors

Naughton misjudging the flight of the ball not only highlighted the problems we were having with the high line, but also the other major factor in the first half, errors.

After some high profile gaffs recently, the first four goals in this one were all scored off defensive mistakes.

Our high line was responsible for Southampton going in to a 2-0 lead.

Naughton compounded his first mistake with a second to gift the ball to Ricky Lambert. The passage of play started with us getting in trouble, as our line was caught up the field. Danny Rose conceded a free kick for a high boot, as he sought to recover a ball that had been played over his head.

The resulting set piece was curled in and cleared, but as we raced out to squeeze up once again, Naughton miscued the ball as it came down. Lambert had been looking for runners bursting past him all day, both successfully and unsuccessfully.


Ricky Lambert passes, Spurs 3 Southampton 2.

It was apt that he would find Lallana moving past him here to make it 2-0.

With our high line causing our errors, Southampton’s two miscues came in the full back areas.

Attack the left back

As looked at in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Southampton, the Saints like to get their full backs forward to help with their attack. This does leave space in-behind them though, which if the ball is moved quickly enough forwards after regaining possession, can pull their centre backs around.

That is precisely what happened here, as we got beyond left back Luke Shaw and pulled centre back Dejan Lovren out of position.

We got two goals back from Clyne’s miscontrol and Lovren being forced off the ball too easily, but both were created, as were other chances, from the left back zone.

Our first saw the ball worked out quickly to Aaron Lennon, who then played the ball up the line, behind Luke Shaw to Nacer Chadli. This pulled Dejan Lovren out of the middle, leaving Soldado and Eriksen 2v2 in the centre.


Spurs get behind Shaw and Lovren is pulled out from CB.

Nathaniel Clyne miscued Chadli’s cross and Christian Eriksen hoovered up the loose ball, but minutes later we worked the same position again.

Aaron Lennon moved the ball to Chadli who was in-behind Luke Shaw once more and Lovren had a decision to make.


Chadli draws Lovren out again.

This time the Belgian’s cross was beautifully killed by Roberto Soldado, straight in to the path of Christian Eriksen. The Dane skipped in-between two sliding Southampton defenders, but was unable to nudge it past Boruc.

Forty seconds after the interval, 1-2 quickly became 2-2 as we got beyond Shaw once more.

Lennon had again brought him short, but this time Soldado chased the ball up the line as Lovren was again pulled out from the middle.


Soldado gets in-behind this time.

After a light push, Soldado took the ball and squared it for Eriksen to prod home at the far post.

The chances from here kept coming, as Gylfi Sigurdsson this time got behind Shaw, pulling Lovren out once more. The Icelander fed Christian Eriksen through the channel vacated by Lovren, but the Dane saw his near-post shot saved.


Sigurdsson finds Eriksen in the space vacated by Lovren.

Route one gets the job done

Despite exposing Southampton’s left back area to get back in the game, the winner came from some good old-fashioned route one football.

With 92 minutes on the clock and after a foul on Nabil Bentaleb, Hugo Lloris sent a long kick downfield that wasn’t cleared by Jose Fonte.

When the team sheets came out, an area of potential weakness looked to be the two players in front of the back four. Usually Mauricio Pochettino has two excellent defensive players in Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama, but the duo of Jack Cork and James Ward-Prowse seemed to be a weak spot.

The pair played well however and Spurs really didn’t take advantage. That was until now and we were able to get four players around them.


Spurs get four around Cork and Ward-Prowse.

It was no surprise that Christian Eriksen was first to the loose ball, prodding it to Gylfi Sigurdsson who drove an exquisite shot low and in to the corner.

Spurs 3 Southampton 2 overall

One of the better comebacks we’ve seen this season after two errors caused by our high line got us in to a hole.

We got back into the game by attacking the space behind left back Luke Shaw, but Gylfi Sigurdsson’s goal came from getting in and around Cork and Ward-Prowse. These two had looked the weak link on Southampton’s team sheet, but were only exposed right at the end, just in the nick of time.

Roberto Soldado was excellent here with several deft touches to create for team mates, as he linked well with Eriksen and Chadli all afternoon. Goal scoring chances for him were still thin on the ground, but had Chadli been able to square at the end, he would have had the strike his performance merited. If his finishing gets on par with his build-up play, we may still have quite a player on our hands.

Christian Eriksen was equally brilliant and was unlucky not to score his first hat trick. He’s the most settled of our seven signings and his movement and passing was exceptional here. He seems to have developed some real chemistry with Soldado.

Final score: Spurs 3 Southampton 2.

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7 Responses to Spurs 3 Southampton 2: attack the left back

  1. Iqa 24th March 2014 at 6:19 pm #

    Good analysis. As you quite rightly point out a ‘slight push’ not spotted by the referee gifted Spurs their equalise but overall a very entertaining game.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th March 2014 at 2:54 pm #

      Thanks Iqa. It was one of those ones that if the defender goes over then it gets called as a foul. It’s disappointing when it goes against you, but good work when it goes for you. Fortunately it went for us this time.

  2. Jack 24th March 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    A very good analysis of this game and pretty typical of the shortcomings of the last few games. However these wins paper over the cracks and the Liverpool strike force would have been four or five up by half time if they were Southampton. It is not only Sherwood’s fault as he has had a series of injuries and a strange reluctance of Levy not to replace BAE at left back with a recognised left back of experience or a back up to Walker when it became so apparent that for all his ‘play me or I leave’ bluster, Naughton is patently not up to the level required and will probably join Livermore and Thud at Hull in the summer. But I will say it is Sherwood’s responsibility to have some sort of recognised system of playing other than the Championship style, ‘roll up yer sleeves lads and get stuck in!’ I watched the Southampton v Spurs game and then the Stoke v Villa and Madrid v Barcelona. Sherwood’s football is almost identical to Stoke v Villa and a million miles away from Real v Barca… And that is the reality and current level of the mighty Spurs! However as a confirmed optimist, I firmly believe in Ossie Ardilles’ analysis of UK footballers when he took over at Swindon many years ago. He was adamant footballers have all the skills it is just the system played that makes or breaks a team. This leads to Sherwood and his lack of experience. Bring on van Gaal in my opinion, he is experienced at every level. does not like egos and is successful wherever he goes (or so he says!).

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th March 2014 at 2:57 pm #

      Agree that if we play like we did in the first half against Liverpool this weekend, they’ll be out of sight by half time. Liverpool look to break very quickly on the counter and they’ll abuse a high line with no pressure on the ball.

  3. Kalamona 24th March 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    I beg to disagree. Van Gaal would be a catastrophe. Sure he doesn’t like egos in his players, he prefers his own. He’s as arrogant as Mourinho, without the latter’s results.

    • Jack 24th March 2014 at 10:00 pm #

      Kalamona, I hear what you are saying, but in my opinion, the only proper exciting manager we have had in many years has been Redknapp. He knew what he wanted and built a good team spirit. What was different about him and previous mangers? Experience is the answer, real experience not like AVB’s flash in the pan, or Ramos or Santini with the national team (France) or Sherwood! If arrogance equals real success for the first time in my adult life then I am desperate for Spurs to be back at the top and I am fed up with mediocre appointments and pathetic. ‘Oo give him another year..’ or ‘Next season we will…’ I have heard it too often and every time been let down.

      I am not sure what there is to indicate a disaster in appointing van Gaal – this is his record (taken from wiki):
      Eredivisie: 1993–94, 1994–95, 1995–96
      KNVB Cup: 1992–93
      Johan Cruijff Shield: 1993, 1994, 1995
      UEFA Champions League: 1994–95
      UEFA Cup: 1991–92
      UEFA Super Cup: 1995
      Intercontinental Cup: 1995
      BarcelonaLa Liga: 1997–98, 1998–99
      Copa del Rey: 1997–98
      UEFA Super Cup: 1997
      AZEredivisie: 2008–09
      Bayern MunichBundesliga: 2009–10
      DFB-Pokal: 2009–10
      DFB-Supercup: 2010

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th March 2014 at 3:03 pm #

      van Gaal is arrogant, but we need someone like him to get the best out of the players we have. AVB was reportedly too pally with the players, Sherwood too Sunday League, so we need someone that will command respect and knows what they are doing and how to achieve results. We’ve invested £100m in players to operate in a 4-3-3 and van Gaal is one of the best at this system. My only knock on him is that he’d be a short-term appointment at his age. Are we going for short term results in the next 2/3 years or are we looking at the longer term?