WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) gives us his opinion on the Sunday lunchtime clash between Southampton and Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Will Kane-less Spurs still do the job?
Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton | Sunday 14:15 | Sky Sports 1
Tottenham host Southampton on Sunday lunchtime, looking to sustain their position in the top four and perhaps rattle the chains of Chelsea’s dominant position.
At the time of writing, they are 10 points behind the leaders. The other top four occupiers, Manchester City and Liverpool are playing each other, which makes this a great opportunity for Spurs to cement their position.
This will be Saints’ third consecutive Premier League away game, fourth if you include the EFL Cup Final at Wembley. Over those three previous games they’ve found the back of the net an impressive 10 times, scoring four at both Watford and Sunderland.
Happy Days Away
Five of those goals were netted by recent purchase, Manolo Gabbiadini. The target man has made an instant impact. With Charlie Austin suffering a long-term injury, Claude Puel needed a like-for-like replacement. Shane Long does offer plenty to the side but the way Saints currently play with a lone striker suits a more traditional forward.
The real stars of Southampton’s season have been Oriol Romeu and Steven Davis and they will hold the key to containing, and potentially unlocking, Tottenham in this tie. The Northern Irish captain bagged a brace in this fixture last season in a game Saints won 2-1; one of only three sides to win at White Hart Lane last season.
However, that scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story of the game. Mauricio Pochettino’s men had 71% of the possession and 20 attempts whilst Saints scored with both of the shots that they had on target. It was thanks to brilliant defending from Virgil van Dijk and Jose Fonte that they left with all three points.
Puel doesn’t have the luxury of picking those two stellar centre backs this time round. Van Dijk is still out with a long-term ankle injury and Fonte is now a West Ham player.
It means that Maya Yoshida and Jack Stephens will be the centre-back pairing again on Sunday and, whilst both should be praised for the work they have done, I don’t think they can emulate their predecessors.
Southampton have been able to replace pretty much every player that they’ve lost to their rivals in the last few seasons. The list is pretty remarkable; Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama, Morgan Schneiderlin, Luke Shaw, Calum Chambers, Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert.
The same can be said for managers; Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman. They are a brilliant example of a well-run club. However, losing them mid-season without proper time to explore avenues to replace them is tougher and it’s left Saints weaker at the back than they’d like, at least temporarily.
Fortunately for Saints, Pochettino has declared that Harry Kane will be rested until his injury clears up which means Son Heung-Min or Vincent Janssen will start up front.
That instantly makes life easier for the Southampton defence as the England striker has been in devastating form scoring 12 goals in his last 10 starts in all competitions.
Caning without a Kane
The last period that Spurs went without Kane they really struggled. For my money, Janssen really isn’t up to standard and I think Poch feels the same so would expect Son to lead the line. He believes things will be different now, claiming that they have “improved a lot since that period”, and I’m inclined to agree.
Wanyama and Kyle Walker are also minor doubts. Overall, I think the bookies have overreacted to Kane’s absence; Spurs have a W12-D2-L0 record at home this season, the only teams preventing them taking all three points being Leicester and Liverpool. Tottenham at 8/11 with Betfair has to be backed.
Working out whether or not we’re going to see a few goals is tough. Over and Under 2.5 is evenly split this season at the Lane with seven games going over and seven under. The absence of Kane points towards less but then Gabbiadini is on fire and both defences aren’t full strength. I’m swerving other markets.
Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton – Tottenham Hotspur to win (8/11 Betfair)