Tottenham Focus: A game of two halves at Southampton
Tottenham came away from their visit to Southampton with three points and fourth place. The match was perhaps symptomatic of the season so far, being the typical game of two halves. Spurs dominated the first 45 minutes, but had to hang on somewhat during the second as the Saints threw themselves forward. Overall Spurs looked the better team and deserved the win, but André Villas-Boas may be puzzled by his team’s difficulty in completing a consistent 90 minutes.
Spurs were able to welcome back Gareth Bale, but the influential Mousa Dembelé was still missing through injury which again saw Tom Huddlestone deputise. This was arguably Huddlestone’s best game for Spurs this season, but he still appears something of a conundrum in the Lilywhite shirt.
Huddlestone possesses an exquisite passing ability and a powerful shot, but pace to get away from opposition can still be an issue as is his turnover rate. Villas-Boas has managed to produce some excellent performances from Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon this season, and fans will hope he can do the same for the Englishman gradually returning from injury.
Spurs took a 2-0 lead in the first half with goals from Bale and Clint Dempsey. Bale tormented his old club at times and it was his fine header that gave Spurs the lead. Dempsey is perhaps still finding his role in this Spurs team but as in the match at Old Trafford and with Fulham last season, exhibited the knack of being in the right place at the right time to knock in the second. This may be instinctive or a good ability to read the game; as Dempsey grows more familiar with his place in the team his scoring rate should increase. Without Dembelé, the creative onus appears to rest on the width as Huddlestone sits much deeper [perhaps to compensate for less pace]; fortunately with Bale and Lennon, Spurs have arguably two of the best wide players in the Premier League. Lennon especially appeared in fine form but like Bale, is dependent on supply and with Jake Livermore’s substitution for Huddlestone in the 63rd minute, this supply seemed lost.
Arguably Livermore’s substitution was one of the few this season by Villas-Boas that didn’t work. Southampton scored a few minutes after he came on the pitch and continued to press after in search of an equalizer. Livermore looked unable to get into the match, offering little supply forward and little defensively over the departed Huddlestone.
However, Spurs held firm, William Gallas, putting the Chelsea game behind him; Kyle Walker had an improved game and Jan Vertonghen and Sandro both excelled. One area still to be addressed is in goal. Friedel is consistent, made some good saves but can still look hesitant coming for crosses and his distribution is poorer than Hugo Lloris’.
Again Spurs played well in one half, less so in the other and made this more difficult than needed. In particular, Spurs need to close out matches they are in control of.
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