Tottenham Hotspur return to action against Southhampton after a ten day break. Spurs look to continue the form which saw them win four of their five matches in December and hold steady in the Premier League’s fifth spot. Just shy of the season’s halfway point, Tottenham have accumulated thirty-three points and are right in the thick of the race for the top four. Chelsea look invincible right now, so it might be a stretch to say that Spurs are a realistic contender for the title this very moment. Every team above us, and the two directly below us, Manchester United and Everton, won this match-week. The pressure is on to keep up with our competition.
Southhampton currently sit in eighth place, but a win against Spurs catapults them above Everton into seventh place. They are decidedly in the second tier of Premier League football this season — a top ten team for sure, but not a serious contender for the top four. And this shows in their results. They have gone out and nabbed draws against Liverpool and City, but they haven’t had a marquee win against a top team this term. Further, they have had some poor losses. Hull are dismal and they somehow dropped three points to them, while a 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace is confounding in just about every sense.
They can play though and their roster is chalk-full of talent. Their center-back pairing is one of the best in England as Jose Fonté and Virgil Van Dijk are beasts up the middle. Ex-Chelsea castaways Ryan Betrand and Oriol Romeu are more than solid players at the left-back and defensive midfield spot and add steel and consistency to their backline. Southhampton are actually tied with Spurs for second place in clean-sheets this season, with Chelsea the only team eclipsing them. In short, they will be a tough nut to crack.
Their attack is less formidable. Charlie Austin leads the team with six goals, but probably won’t even start against Tottenham. Jordy Clasie, while not an out and out attacker per se, has underperformed and Dušan Tadić has simply never reached the hype that accompanied him when he transferred from Twente — though he has featured for the Saints for the majority of this season. Southhampton’s two most dangerous attackers are probably the twenty-two year old Nathan Redmond and the undoubtedly talented, not to mention Pochettino favorite, Jay Rodriguez. The most interesting player on the opposition to watch though might be newcomer Sofiane Boufal. The Moroccan international and former Lille standout was constantly linked with a move to Spurs over the past two years before transferring to St. Mary’s. On his day the incredibly skillful winger can cause havoc to any defense.
Spurs are well-rested and that is a good thing as they face a competent and stingy opponent away from home. Just two games until the halfway mark and Tottenham really need to keep pace with the front pack. A win against Southhampton would not only do that, but lock-in a wonderful December. Spurs have a great opportunity for a quality three points on Wednesday.
How to Watch
Date/time: Wednesday, December 28th, 2016, 7:45 p.m. (UK), 2:45 p.m. ET (USA)
Venue: St. Mary’s Stadium, Southhampton, UK
Official: Mike Dean
TV: NBCSN (NBC Sports Live Extra), Sky Sports 1, Sky GO Extra, BBC Radio (UK), TSN4, TSNGO, TSN1 (Canada), SBS One Australia, Optus Sport (Australia), other listings at livesoccertv.com
Streaming: NBC Sports Live Extra (USA)
Radio: Audio streamed at tottenhamhotspur.com, also often at BBC Radio London,BBC Radio 5 Live, and TalkSport
The good news is that Tottenham are just a man short of a clean bill of health. The man missing is Erik Lamela who is still recovering from a hip injury. It seems like an age ago since he was healthy and featuring for the side. It also feels like he has been “close” for a good while too. Hopefully the new year coincides with his reintroduction to the first team.
I might be the only Spurs blogger who is obsessed with the perceived conundrum I see in the center of midfield when Spurs are at full fitness. The backline is predictable — Lloris, Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, and Rose will all start on Wednesday, yet the double pivot (if they even play a double pivot at all of course) is hard to predict. There is a reason Menno put Wanyama on the shortlist for player of the year for the first half and that is because he has been solid, consistent, and in some cases (see Manchester City) spectacular. Yet nostalgia can’t help my yearning for a elongated run of a Dier-Dembélé midfield.
And I think Poche wants this too, but also don’t think he wants to drop Wanyama from the first eleven. Its for this reason that I think all three will feature. Dembélé will start out right in the attacking band with Dier and Wanyama in the double pivot. For much of the match, the side might resemble at 4-3-3 rather than a 4-2-3-1. Eriksen will start out left, Dele in the hole, and Harry Kane up top to round out the lineup.
Only Skipjack failed to predict a Tottenham Hotspur victory. Only Alex Greenberg was able to nail-on a perfect 2-1 scoreline. Nothing else, save the Masthead’s collective waistline, has changed.
Cartilage Free Captain Prediction League Standings
Dustin Menno: Southampton isn't a bad team. We are a better team. 1-0 Spurs.
Matthew Pachniuk: There is a sense of dread about this game that I can’t put my finger on. My gut says a loss, but Toby Alderweireld is in the eleven so my gut is acting idiotic. I’ll split the difference and say the match ends in a 1-1 draw.
Jake Meador: Rested Spurs beat an erratic Southampton 2-1.
Luke Zimmerman: Southampton-Spurs is one of those 'some risk-some reward' matches. Spurs have been in decent form of late. It continues; 2-1.
Salmon Chase: 2-1 Spurs because putting more thought into this just leads to me coming up with exceptionally plausible situations that all end in an L. And look at that, as I typed that out I thought of 9 new ones. Fuck you imagination! My life would be so much simpler if I was born an ant.
Brian Mechanick: Spurs are hot and finally got some needed time to rest and recover after battling injuries all season. Give me a tight 1-0 win on the road and off we go. 1-0 Spurs.
Pardeep Cattry: This won't be a high scoring one (unless I'm wrong). Tottenham 1-0.
GN Punk: 2016 can't die soon enough for many reasons, but we'll get one last Spurs victory before we turn the page to 2017. 2-1 Spurs.
Alex Greenberg: Jay Rodriguez and Mauricio Pochettino are reportedly very close. So close that Poch was certainly interested in bringing Rodriguez to White Hart Lane before his injury issues. I think the narrative of Rodriguez scoring against Spurs, and against Poche, is too good for the soccer gods to turn down. 1-1 draw.
Bryan A: 2016 has sucked so far. Why would it do anything other than continue to suck. 3-1 Soton.
Ben Daniels: TBD
Earl of Shoop: Spurs 3-0. 2016 sucks and owes us one/several. It's the least this stupid year can do.
Bryan Meyers: TBD