WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) casts his eye to St Mary's where Tottenham look to continue their good form and surge towards the Champions League places. Can a fairly blunt Saints team halt them in their tracks?
Southampton v Tottenham | Wednesday 19:45 | Sky Sports 1
Tottenham had built a nice cushion over fifth-placed Manchester United but four wins on the bounce for the Red Devils has closed that completely prior to this game.
Southampton are cruising along nicely in terms of standings but eighth is what we’ve come to expect from Saints.
Topsy turvy Saints
The hosts have had an underwhelming season overall thus far. Getting knocked out of the Europa League by Hapoel Beer Sheva was disappointing for both the south coast club and the creditability of the Premier League.
Their progress past Arsenal into the EFL Cup semi-finals is a great achievement but it was something I predicted with the ability of their youth players and Arsene Wenger’s similar policy with changing the squad in that competition.
Otherwise Saints have been feeble in front of goal of late; averaging exactly a goal per-game, only Hull, Sunderland and Middlesbrough offering less. It’s a strange one and partly to do with the loss of Charlie Austin through injury but mostly due to a poor conversion rate of chances.
Saints have mustered a whopping 260 shots on goal which puts them sixth in the league on that metric, 18 more than Arsenal. But they’ve scored just 17 goals whilst Arsenal have put away more than double; 39. Chelsea are also way more efficient, having had just 16 more shots at time of writing but scoring 38.
It’s not even really to do with missing the goal too often. Saints have had a similar amount on target to Arsenal but they evidently suffer from both poor finishing and also struggle to create golden opportunities.
Jay Rodriguez could solve that puzzle and went some way to doing so after punishing Bournemouth in the second half last week.
Spurred by heartbreak
I mentioned a few weeks back that Spurs fixture list through December to New Year presented a series of very winnable fixtures.
Victories over Burnley and Hull were recorded as expected and now a win here and then a tie with a Watford side trending in the wrong direction would put them well and truly in contention for a Champions League spot.
Tottenham's crashing out of the Champions League in November seems to have only made them want to secure entry back into that competition even more.
Burnley were very lucky not to be hammered as Tottenham created 30 attempts on goal at the Lane last time out. It was another game that showcased their wing backs as the best in the league with each playing a part in the goals for the second consecutive game.
Spurs have also profited from the return to goalscoring form of Christian Eriksen. The Dane has scored five in his last five Premier League outings and is therefore exceptional value to find the net at St Mary’s at 39/10 with 888.
Overall though I can’t really separate these teams in the match odds. Spurs have drifted to 17/10 and could therefore be a good wager on the +0.0 Asian Handicap line but Saints have lost just one of eight home games this season. The absence of Toby Alderweireld is also off-putting.
A trend that should be worth following as an alternative is Spurs slow starts. Last season they were well known for late goals and it hasn’t changed this season either. The North Londoners have only scored first in four of their last 10 games which for my money means they shouldn’t be favourites to away at Southampton.
The hosts are only marginally longer at 6/5 with Bet365 as the first team to score, but it looks good value considering they have done so in four of their last six home league matches. Sure they haven't been scoring too many but Spurs love a slow start so I'll take my chance.