Southampton aren’t an especially great team right now, but they’re getting better. After a couple years under Mauricio Pochettino at the beginning part of the decade where they flirted with the top six, the Saints lost their manager to Spurs and the bulk of their team to other bigger clubs including Liverpool and Manchester United. That started the inevitable backslide, though they have had enough in the tank and talent from their vaunted academy to stay in the top half of the league under Ronald Koeman and Claude Puel.
Until last season. Under Mauricio Pellegrino and Mark Hughes, Southampton finished in 17th in 2017-18. That form continued into much of the 2018-19 until the Saints pulled the plug on the Hughes era, appointing Ralph Hasenhuttl from the high-flying RB Leipzig.
It’s now ten months into Hasenhuttl’s tenure, and while Southampton aren’t rocketing up the table, they have stopped the bleeding. Change takes time, and Soton has begin a process of slow and steady improvement that should begin to bear fruit this season. Under Hasenhuttl, the Saints are fifth in the league in xG and are underperforming at present, with Nathan Redmond and Danny Ings combining for only two goals. More impressive has been the play of striker Che Adams, who lit up the Championship last season with 34 goals but has been unfortunate this season with his finishing — no one on Southampton has a higher xG (2.52, .65 xG/xA90), but he has yet to break his duck.
Southampton’s midfield has also been given an injection of steel behind the play of (now injured) Moussa Djenepro, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, and Sofiane Boufal. Defensively, the Saints aren’t the stoutest, giving up an average of 10.5 shots/game, and their biggest weakness is probably on the defensive end. They give up a lot of shots, and many of the ones they give up are quality ones; that’s reflected in their -4 goal differential.
They haven’t had the most robust early schedule thus far — their toughest match has been a 2-1 loss vs. Liverpool and they got shellacked 3-0 at Burnley at the beginning of the season. Despite a 1-1 home draw to United this will be probably their toughest away trip to date. However, this is a team that could catch a few clubs with top-six ambitions, like Tottenham Hotspur, by surprise if they’re not careful. Ralph Hasenhuttl is building something at St. Mary’s, and while the progress has been slow, it’s been steady, and it’s clear Saints haven’t hit their ceiling.
How will Tottenham line up against Southampton?
Well, this is kind of a big match, isn’t it? After making 10 changes between the Leicester City and Colchester matches, it’s probably not a stretch to say that there will be once again a lot of differences in Mauricio Pochettino’s lineup compared to Tuesday.
The back line again more or less picks itself, with Serge Aurier and Danny Rose flanking Janby Alderweirtonghen. In central midfield, there are options, and I am torn (as I usually am) between what I’d like to see and what I think Pochettino will actually do. This time, I’m going with my heart and predicting a pivot of Moussa Sissoko and Tanguy Ndombele.
Son Heung-Min is a lock to play, and while Erik Lamela has been very good this season this also seems like a good match to get Dele some serious minutes with something close to a first choice team. I’m also choosing Lucas Moura ahead of Christian Eriksen because reasons. Harry Kane starts because of course he does.
That’s my predicted lineup for Tottenham’s upcoming match against Southampton. What’s yours?