Roll on Tottenham Hotspur. The endless grind of matches continues for Spurs today as they prepare to host Southampton. This is a club well known to and beloved by Mauricio Pochettino — it was his first Premier League club, the one Spurs poached him from. He’s moved on, of course, but he has repeatedly said what an important place Soton is to him.
It’s hard to know how to preview Southampton, because nobody knows how they’re going to play now. News broke this week that after just one win in their opening 14 matches, the Saints fired Mark Hughes, and look likely to appoint Ralph Hasenhuttl to lead them going forward.
It’s curious timing, especially after Southampton had one of their better performances of the season in a 2-2 draw against TEAM IN CRISIS Manchester United. But here we are. Hasenhuttl was most recently in charge of RB Leipzig and behind a high-octane offense took Leipzig to second in the Bundesliga behind Bayern Munich. If Southampton can work out arrangements to actually get Hasenhuttl in, it could potentially transform Southampton into something that more closely resembles the sides that were pushing for European places just a few seasons ago.
But Hasenhuttl isn’t here yet, and the Saints will almost certainly be managed by caretaker manager Kelvin Davis, a former player (and club captain) of Pochettino, against Spurs. That means we have little real idea what to expect from the Saints on Wednesday, but it’s likely that Davis will attempt to at least hold serve with similar tactics. Saints have been almost comically bad under Hughes: nine points from 14 matches, and in the relegation zone, one point ahead of Fulham and tied with Burnley. And amazingly, they’re outperforming their xG by five goals. The only thing close to a competent goal scorer they have is striker Danny Ings, who has four goals this season.
Defensively, they are a shambles, giving up 26 goals this season, fourth worst in the league. This is a team that doesn’t shoot very much, and when they do they rarely convert their shots. Ironically, they allow the same number of shots per game as Spurs do — around 13 — but their opponents convert them at a much, MUCH better rate.
Even so, this is something of a clean slate match for Saints — they come to Wembley with little to lose, and could benefit from a “new manager bounce” with tweaked tactics and a freedom to just play. Make no mistake, Spurs should be heavily favored to win in this match, but there’s enough uncertainty here to make me pause, if only slightly.
How will Tottenham line up against Southampton?
Rotation continues to be the keyword for Tottenham, but they still have a lot of players out. The club confirmed yesterday that Mousa Dembele, Victor Wanyama, and Davinson Sanchez are still out, and now add Erik Lamela to the list, who also missed the North London Derby with a thigh issue. Jan Vertonghen will serve his one match suspension after picking up two yellows against the Gunners. Kieran Trippier, however, is back in training and could be in line to play.
That means, defensively, Toby Alderweireld and Juan Foyth are locks for the back line, despite Pochettino winking that Eric Dier could start. Poch seems to be settling on a “two games on, one game off” system for key positions, so I think Dier gets the nod in midfield, alongside Harry Winks, with Sissoko getting a breather. I’d like to think that Danny Rose gets his first start in a while, but I’m not convinced we’re ever going to see Kyle Walker-Peters and Trippier is only just back, so say hello again, Serge Aurier.
It gets more complicated in the forward attacking band. My guess is that Christian Eriksen starts on the bench (to manage his abdominal problem), while Lucas Moura comes back into the starting XI behind Harry Kane who doesn’t ever rest because he’s Harry Kane. Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min make up the other two attacking midfielders. It’s not DESK — it’s DSLK and definitely needs another vowel.
That’s my prediction for a starting lineup today against Southampton. What’s yours?