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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.