The Pochettino Derby: Tottenham vs. Southampton Match Preview


The 2014/15 season is almost over, and yet again, Tottenham find themselves on the outside of the Champions League places. Mauricio Pochettino’s side, in 6th place, are seven points behind 4th placed Manchester City with only five games to play. Now, in the section of the season when it seems like results do not matter as much, Spurs travel to the south coast to face Pochettino’s former side who sit in 7th.

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Southampton have impressed in the Premier League this season. New manager Ronald Koeman had his side competing for the Champions League for most of the season. Even after Pochettino left, along with star players like Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw, and Adam Lallana, this iteration of the team is on pace to record Southampton’s most ever points in the league. Spurs are set for a big test this Saturday. Here are the three things Spurs must do in order to walk out of St. Mary’s Stadium with three points.

  1. Don’t break under Southampton’s pressure

Just like under former coach Pochettino, Southampton employ an intense high-pressure defensive approach. This has yielded one of the best defense’s in the league this year, as they have allowed a league low 24 goals. Southampton are extremely organized both when pressing in an opponent’s half and also when positioning men behind the ball in their own half of the field. First, however, Spurs must focus on breaking the Saints’ minefield. Southampton will press with their athletic, technical midfielders like Steven Davis and Morgan Schneiderlin. These players will look to win the ball back quickly from Spurs’ defenders and fly into attack by quickly springing the Saints’ front three. Jan Vertonghen and company must be very careful with their distribution. After Spurs work it safely out of the back, then Spurs can work on unlocking Southampton’s formidable back four.

  1. Good positional play in midfield

Southampton have one of the best all around midfields in the league. All three of their probable starters: Schneiderlin, Davis, and youngster James Word-Prowse- can pass and tackle well. Nabil Bentaleb and whoever partners him, whether it is Paulinho or Ryan Mason, must remain disciplined and keep good shape. Southampton’s midfielders will all try to run past Spurs’ defensive block both with and without the ball while playing good passes to the wingers. If Spurs can keep a good shape and get in the passing lanes out wide, that will go a long way to stopping Southampton’s lightning-quick attacks.

  1. Supply Kane as much as possible

This seems like a no-brainer, but against Southampton this is even more important. Southampton are particularly stingy in the back. Whenever chances Spurs get to play quickly they must take advantage of those opportunities. This includes set pieces. Christian Eriksen must deliver good deliveries for Kane and others to attack. Southampton do let up a lot of set pieces in good positions because of their aggressive pressing style. Whenever Spurs get their rare good opportunities to attack, they must involve Kane, and hope the young Englishman will be on his best form.

So, with those points outlined, I think this will be a close game. I envision Southampton playing well on Saturday. They definitely want to play in Europe next season, and a win here would almost guarantee that will happen. This should be an intense game, one that will most likely be two teams counterattacking constantly at the other team’s back four. I think the stingy Saints’ defense will only be breached once, with Spurs also allowing a single goal to their hosts.

Saints 1-1 Spurs.

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