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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Southampton Preview: The squad is set and the mission is clear

The transfer window is closed and the revised roster has its eyes set on the top four.

FBL-ENG-PR-SOUTHAMPTON-TOTTENHAM Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images

Despite the loss to Chelsea a couple weeks ago, both the performance and the results have been much improved ever since Antonio Conte took over. The new manager is still settling into his preferred formation and preferred players, but with the activity at the end of the transfer window, he should now be able to fully utilize his desired plan.

The squad does have a few injuries, but Heung-Min Son and Cristian Romero took the pitch in Saturday’s FA Cup win, as did new signings Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur. All four of these players are likely to feature in the majority of the remaining league matches, even if the incoming transfers need a couple substitute cameos first.

Tottenham Hotspur’s quest for the top four resumes on Wednesday with a visit from Southampton. The sides split the points at St. Mary’s just over a month ago, where Spurs dominated the match against 10-men Saints, but managed just one goal, a Harry Kane penalty that was drawn by Son. Not too much needs to change to turn the result into three points.

Tottenham Hotspur (7th, 36pts) vs. Southampton (12th, 25pts)

Date: Wednesday, February 9
Time: 2:45 pm ET, 7:45 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
TV: USA Network (USA), BT Sport 3 (UK)

Outside of the Chelsea loss (to clarify, the league fixture, not the other two losses in January...), Spurs have generated plenty of shots under Conte and should see some more goals come in. Kane seems to be coming into form under the new manager, and the infusion of Son and Kulusevski could see this attack really take off.

Southampton has been good in this department as of late, allowing just one goal in three of its last four league matches. However, this has been a below-average defense over the course of the year, and if the previous contest between the two sides is any blueprint, Spurs should have plenty of opportunities.

Not to beat a dead horse, but just a reminder that Tottenham is in pole position for fourth place at this time. United, West Ham, and Arsenal are all higher in the table, but Spurs have at least one match in hand over all three and could have a healthy gap — and even third place — if the postponed contests all resulted in wins. One step at a time, though.

Three themes

  1. If Skipp continues to be out, perhaps Conte is willing to plug Bentancur into the lineup right away. The central midfielder has the potential to really transform the middle of this lineup and provide some ball progression that has been lacking. He stands out from Skipp, Harry Winks, and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and should displace one of them soon regardless of it he gets the nod this week.
  2. The other big lineup question is along the back three. Romero is finally back healthy and looks ready to retake one of the centerback spots, meaning one of Ben Davies, Eric Dier, and Davinson Sanchez will have to slide out. Davies is probably safe given his left-footedness and Romero has looked great when on the pitch, so Conte will have some decisions to make going forward.
  3. Spurs had the ball in the net two additional times against Southampton in December. It was extremely frustrating and probably not justified, and the main takeaway was that the visitors we robbed of the win. However, it did show this team’s potential, and the advanced metrics implied good things could be on the way despite the draw. A win Wednesday would confirm this belief and would continue the squad’s upward trajectory.