With Wednesday’s match against Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur now officially enter the back half of the Premier League season. From here we can look at not only what Spurs’ opponents are like, but also how they fared against them the first time around. This match is also the first match of 2020 — considering how disappointingly weird 2019 was for Spurs, it’s time to now wipe the slate clean.
The last time Tottenham played Southampton, September 28 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, was a weird match. Serge Aurier got sent off just after a half hour after picking up two yellow card within four minutes. Tanguy Ndombele scored his first goal for Spurs early on, but Danny Ings equalized after a howler from Hugo Lloris. Thankfully Harry Kane slotted home the winner just before halftime. Spurs dug in defensively down a man and managed to keep the Saints out in the second half, but it was a close thing, with xG more or less level.
Three months later, a lot has changed — Pochettino is out and Mourinho is in. Soton striker Danny Ings is having a career season with 12 goals thus far, and is leading the Premier League in non-penalty goals/90. Under Ralph Hassenhuttl, Southampton are three matches unbeaten and are averaging 2 points/match over their last eight. That includes a Boxing Day win at Stamford Bridge and three wins over the bottom three teams in the table.
Despite that, Soton are still in 15th place, four points above the drop. There’s work yet to be done, but Hassenhutl has done good things with this group of Southampton players. Saints are 6th in the PL in xG (thanks, Ings!), but 12th in xGA.
Wednesday’s match will take place at St. Mary’s, a place where Spurs haven’t won since 2016, but that hasn’t been especially kind to the Saints either — they’re just 2-2-6 this season at home, with their only wins coming againist Norwich and Watford. Beating Spurs would be a pretty feather in their cap this season, and would help put some additional distance between themselves and the relegation zone.
Goal poacher Ings is by far Saints’ biggest offensive threat, and Spurs will need to put in a stout defensive performance to keep him contained. James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond can also score, but if Spurs can keep Ings quiet it’ll go a long way towards keeping St. Mary’s quiet as well.
How will Tottenham line up at Southampton?
Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks are back after serving their one-match suspensions for yellow card accumulation, but I’m not sure we’ll necessarily see both of them return to the lineup for Spurs. Jose Mourinho’s tactical tweaking didn’t work out in the first half of the Norwich match, but Spurs battered the Canaries in the second half and were unfortunate not to win, defensive frailties aside.
For this match, I predict the return of Spurs’ established back line — Serge Aurier and Jan Vertonghen flanking Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez. Eric Dier was rested against Soton and while there’s a chance Tanguy Ndombele retains his place, I’m not sure if his fitness will allow two full matches in a week. My guess is Moussa Sissoko returns to central midfield.
Ahead, Son Heung-Min’s suspension ends after this match, but in the mean time Ryan Sessegnon appears to be in the process of establishing himself as Sonny’s backup. Dele and Harry Kane will start because of course they will, and I’d like to see Gio Lo Celso reprise his role from the weekend. If Ndombele starts in midfield, we could see Moussa Sissoko pushed wide right.
That’s my predicted lineup for Tottenham’s match at Southampton. What’s yours?