Christmastime is the best time to start believing. Tottenham Hotspur is not going to win the Premier League, but this team is looking like the real deal. Fourth place is just about the expectation now and there could be a trophy ahead as well. It has been just six league matches, but Antonio Conte’s side looks much different than under the past two regimes.
Sunday’s thorough win over Crystal Palace follows a very strong effort against Liverpool. The offense looks completely revitalized, with Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son showing no shortage of venom in the Spurs counterattacks. The team has already scored more league goals under Conte (12) than in nine matches with Nuno Espirito Santo (9).
The festive period is finally picking up for Tottenham after a few Covid postponements. The squad will be back in action on Tuesday against Southampton, who has struggled this year but did upset West Ham in London on Boxing Day. Not much time to rest, but this is a prime opportunity for three more points.
Southampton (t-12th, 20pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (5th, 29pts)
Date: Tuesday, December 28
Time: 10:00 am ET, 3:00 pm UK
Location: St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton, England
TV: NBCSN (USA), Amazon Prime Video (UK)
The biggest challenge for Southampton this year has been scoring, with actual production falling way below a decent xG tally. This should not worry Conte’s back three, which has recorded four clean sheets already despite a rotating cast. Japhet Tanganga came in for Ben Davies against Palace and more or less did alright, though the Welshman will likely return to the lineup.
Meanwhile the wingbacks continue to make a big impact, with Emerson Royal notching an assist and providing some options out wide in transition. Sergio Reguilon (and Ryan Sessegnon) are seemingly always in the box on the other side, and it is no coincidence that the team is generating far more scoring opportunities now.
Interestingly, Conte has had success with both the 5-3-2 and his apparently preferred 3-4-3. His affinity for the latter has to due with Lucas Moura, who has rewarded the manager with both his contributions and efforts. Few attackers seem to be as willing to drive the ball forward, and the Brazilian put that on display by having a hand in all three goals on Boxing Day.
- Spurs took it to Saints last year, winning 2-5 on the road behind four (!!) Son goals in the second match of the season. In April the visitors actually jumped ahead, but Gareth Bale equalized before a very late penalty allowed Son to slot in the winner in a 2-1 victory.
- While the West Ham win was impressive — and helpful — Southampton has overall not been too solid this year and sits in the bottom half of the table. Prior to the weekend, the past six matches resulted in three draws and three losses. Tottenham will definitely be favored again.
- Thanks to the early lead and subsequent red card, Conte was able to sub off both Kane and Son in the second half on Sunday. Another relatively straightforward win would be very helpful as the fixtures keep on coming. Neither player likes to be on the bench, but there are not many alternatives in this current squad, so rest is important.