To ensure a return trip to the Champions League next year, Tottenham Hotspur will need to improve on last season, which starts with matchday one.
If you listen to pundits, you might think Spurs will have a cakewalk on Saturday afternoon at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium against Southampton. During the Arsenal broadcast on Friday in the US, Robbie Mustow and Tim Howard put Spurs’ Saturday opponent in the relegation conversation while Tottenham would battle for the top four.
As a Spurs fan, what I think of most when I think about Southampton is one, which was the number of points Tottenham took off the Saints last season. Thus, if the Lilywhites want to improve this campaign, it starts with taking three points from Southampton in the opener on Saturday.
Southampton had Tottenham’s number last season.
Although Spurs earned enough points to take fourth place and have Champions League football this season, it was no thanks to the two matches against Southampton, with some significant credit going to Southampton.
During a nine-match unbeaten league run, the draw was one of three to start Antonio Conte‘s Tottenham reign. Spurs drew the first of the nine matches against Everton and had a draw with Liverpool but also had a 1-1 draw at St. Mary’s in between.
Despite twice taking the lead in the second match, Tottenham could not stop Southampton late in the second half, with the Saints scoring two goals in four minutes to go from 2-1 down to ahead 2-3. And if my memory is correct, one of the two goals for Spurs was an own goal.
The point is that Ralph Hasenhüttl and his team had Conte’s number and will likely look for similar smash and grab results.
If this year’s team is going to do something special, we may start to see glimpses of it Saturday. Southampton will be packed in tight and force Spurs to break them down. If Tottenham can do it, the season could be special; if not, and the Saints steal another three points on the road, we might be in for more of the same
Personally, I expect to see Spurs make a statement and win convincingly, but that might just be the homer in me.