Mauricio Pochettino’s return to St. Mary’s ended in a point for both sides. It was an emotional game for the Argentine against the team he professes to still love – the chants from the Southampton faithful seemed to suggest the feeling wasn’t entirely mutual.
Reassuringly the team-sheet had Hugo Lloris back in goal. The only problem areas were at fullback where both Walker and Rose were missing. A bit of a worry when you are facing a team with dangerous fullbacks of their own. Would Davies and Dier be able to provide the width we are so often crying out for?
Much has been made of the way Southampton have managed change – keeping continuity by appointing a very similar manager. For the first twenty minutes it was evident that the teams were very evenly matched. Both team’s 4-2-3-1 formations and energetic pressing cancelled each other out. In fact there wasn’t a shot of any kind until as late as the 24th minute – the longest wait for an effort on goal in this season’s Premier League.
Tottenham were controlling possession but it was Southampton who looked sharper, more incisive. Sure enough it was the home side who opened the scoring but it was a goal of Spurs’ making.
Southampton broke with Mane’s pace. He ran at Vertonghen and Fazio causing panic. Fazio got in a good tackle and it looked like the danger had passed. Mason had the ball with plenty of time but he took an extra touch, slipped and played a desperate ball back towards goal.
Davies got to it in front of Pelle but dithered, allowing the big Italian to sneak in and poke the ball past a surprised Lloris. The full-back looked to have been pushed but he was still at fault, so close to goal he should have been more decisive.
The equaliser came from a great cross by Dier. His delivery from wide was one of the positives Pochettino can take from this match. Lamela looked to have got the final touch with his arm but it was good to see a midfielder getting in the box to support Kane.
As Southampton continued to test the Spurs defence, Steven Davis dragged his shot wide as our back four parted like the Red Sea.
He then missed another great opportunity from inside the penalty area.
Southampton’s second goal was to come from a cross. The quick, lively Mane – the kind of player Spurs were sadly lacking – slipped the ball out to Long. The striker put in a fantastic cross and Pelle rose to grab his second of the match. As at Villa, Fazio was crucially beaten in the air. Pelle and Benteke are very worthy adversaries but I expected a bit more of a challenge from the big Argentine. Winning headers is, after all, his thing.
The Spurs second was again created by Dier, making a much better fist of the right back role than earlier in the season. This time he slipped a perfectly waited pass into the channel for Chadli. The Belgian used his strength to hold of Yoshida and slot the ball home from a tight angle.
It was another story of lots of possession – 64% – but not much to show for it. Our opponents play a similar style but had several of the key ingredients we lack.Their passing was quicker and more incisive. In Mane they had a player willing to run at the defence with pace and directness. Their fullbacks provided width.
For me our one stand out player was Dier. The provider of both goals, he got forward well, put in some nice crosses and was probably the pick of our defenders.
Kane had a quiet game, as did Eriksen. Mason made some errors. With a handful of games left and not a lot still to play for, it would make sense to give some of our second string players or youth prospects a go. I would like to see Dembele, Stambouli and Paulinho considered in the middle.
A score draw away at a good side isn’t a disgrace and there were some good points about the Spurs performance. However, overall Pochettino’s side were a little fortunate to take a point. The shot count was 13-7 in the home sides favour, and our two goals were Tottenham’s only two shots on target.
Southampton almost stole the points at the end, as Jose Fonte headed just over from a corner. Spurs held on to earn a creditable draw and Pochettino will be happy to have got away from his former home relatively unscathed.
Are you happy with a draw? Is Pochettino or Koeman the better manager? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.