OPPONENTS Southampton
COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Sunday 28th October 2012
VENUE St. Mary's






So, we witness the return of the South Coast Big Club to the top flight, thus justifying their legendary status.

But in doing so they are currently leaking an average of three goals a game.  But no doubt that will come to a stop when Spurs visit on Sunday ... travelling to one of their least favourite grounds.  However, they will travel with some more reinforcements than they have had over the last couple of games, with the returning (to St. Mary's) Gareth Bale and Mousa Dembele the most important.

Southampton have been giving value for money in terms of goal so far this season, with them flying in at both ends and in the process, they have had some close games with Manchesters City and United, but have been hammered by Arsenal and West Ham. Will Spurs be able to repeat the bitter dose of medicine dished out by the other London sides ?

Well, they face an old head in the home goal in Kelvin Davis, who is still looking sound between the sticks, although he is being challenged by Paolo Gazzaniga, an Argentinian who previously played for Gillingham.  Nigel Adkins will probably plump for the old head and he will be more worried about the leaky back four that will play in front of the goalie.

With rumours that big talent Luke Shaw might make his league debut, there will be a decision about who make up the other three.  Full backs Nathaniel Clyne, a summer signing from Crystal Palace and Danny Fox will be looking over their shoulder, with Fox having the experience, but Clyne the form and better forward intent.  Between the wide men will be Jose Fonte, who is a strapping central defender who can pose problems at set-pieces and Jos Hooveid, who came from Glasgow Celtic and has had a bit of a torrid time, scoring an own goal last time out.  The Saints defence might find it easier against Spurs, with just one man to mark and this is where Spurs must give the home back line no time to rest by playing two up front.

We have seen before, with the Maribor trip a prime example, that the lack of goals costs us and the need to get more people in and around the penalty box will increase the chances of going into a lead that teams cannot come back from.  The three behind the front man can flood forward, but with two up, it forces the other side to keep more back thus restricting their attacking options.

In the Southampton forward lien Ricky Lambert is showing that he can score goals at the top level and he is a physical handful as well as being able to convert a good percentage f the opportunities that come his way.  Joining him in attack may be Tandari Lee, who is a cult figure at Southampton, with a good amount of skill, but perhaps lacking a little in toughness, while they also have Jay Rodriguez, who signed from Burnley in the summer and is skilful, can pick out a good pass and is a decent finisher too.

The main strength for Saints is in midfield, where Adam Lallana has been picking up rave reviews and is a player many clubs are watching.  A good runner with the ball, aware of which is the best pass to play and another one who can finish when he gets into the right positions, which he does with well-timed runs into and around the box. 

Former Glasgow Rangers midfielder Steve Davis is another newcomer, but he has not found the pace of the Premier League easy to come back to.  He will have to work hard to break his way through the Spurs 3-2 midfield, but he is another who can find the net, being the possessor of a hard shot on him.  Some journeymen midfielders are in the Southampton squad with Richard Chaplow (formerly Burnley and WBA) and Jason Puncheon (formerly Plymouth Argyle, Milton Keynes Dons and Barnet).  Neither should give us too many problems, as their best days are behind them, but they are capable of doing good things on the pitch, as is Morgan Schneiderlin, the French midfielder who is another to catch the eye of other Premier League clubs.  Tall, rangy and with a good shot, he needs keeping an eye on.  Similar in build, but a little more laid back is Guly de Prado, who scored a number of goals on the way up through the leagues, but seems to have hit a bit of a dry spell now.  Adept at scoring from tight situations in the box, he is also goof with his head.

The problem for Tottenham so far has been playing at a tempo that pushes teams back and keeping the ball in the opposition's final third, with the support for Defoe being lacking.  By playing to our strengths and not strolling through games, we could put them to bed before the threat of a goal for the other side means lost points.

AVB is getting his team to play to his favoured system, but now he has to free them up a bit to make it pay.  Especially if we are to score for the first time in our games away at Southampton's new ground.  We should be able to achieve that and the first goal in the game might be vital to our hopes.

PREDICTION Southampton    1      Tottenham Hotspur   2
Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , history, etc.
Big summer signing Gaston Ramirez is still ruled out with a hamstring injury, while forward Tadanari Lee makes a comeback from an elbow injury and Luke Shaw might make his first League start.  Frazier Richardson (leg) and Jack Cork (knee) are also likely to be missing, with Danny Fox carrying a knock that might keep him out.
Spurs welcome back Gareth Bale after two games away following the birth of his and his wife's first child, while it is hoped that Emmanuel Adebayor (back), Michael Dawson (migraine) and Mousa Dembele (hip) will all be able to be considered for the game at St. Mary's.  Tottenham are still without Scott Parker (Achilles), Younes Kaboul (knee) and Benoit Assou-Ekotto (knee).

Match of the Day 2  (BBC 2) - Sunday 22.25 (highlights)  Also available online.

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Southampton  1 (0)     
Premier League
Sunday 28th October 2012                              
Venue :  St. Mary's
Tottenham Hotspur  2 (2)

Kick off  15:00
Rodriguez 66 Bale 15
Dempsey 39



Sandro (foul on S. Davis) 65
Vertonghen (foul on Mayuka) 75  
Livermore (foul on Lallana)  90+3


Crowd :   31,944 Weather :  Chilly
Referee :  Lee Mason (Bolton) Assistant Referees :  -
Fourth Official :  - -
- kicked off and played towards the - end in the first half.
Southampton : kit Tottenham Hotspur : kit
30  Artur BORUC

  2  Nathaniel CLYNE
  Jose FONTE
  3  Maya YOSHIDA
13  Danny FOX  (29  Ben REEVES 79)

  8  Steve DAVIS (21  Guly De PRADO)
20  Adam LALLANA
42  Jason PUNCHEON (24  Emmanuel MAYUKA 58)

  7  Rickie LAMBERT

Unused subs: 
  1  Kelvin DAVIS
27  Richard CHAPLOW

  24  Brad FRIEDEL

28  Kyle WALKER
33  Steven CAULKER
13  William GALLAS
  5  Jan VERTONGHEN     

30  SANDRO     
  6  Tom HUDDLESTONE  (29  Jake LIVERMORE 63     )

  7  Aaron LENNON
  2  Clint DEMPSEY  (20  Michael DAWSON 90) 
11  Gareth BALE

18  Jermain DEFOE  (22  Gylfi SIGURDSSON 78)

Unused subs: 
25  Hugo LLORIS

27  Iago FALQUE
31  Andros TOWNSEND

Manager :  Nigel Adkins Manager :   Andre Villas-Boas
Sponsor :   aap3 Shirt sponsor :  Aurasma
Kit Supplier :  Umbro Kit Supplier :   Under Armour
Match report

Why is it that Tottenham make things hard when they are easy ?   Having started this match as they went on through the first half, playing at a good pace and attacking Southampton to build up a 2-0 half-time lead, they went back into their shell for the second period and ended up in a rearguard action against a team who looked like they were already relegated in the first, eventually hanging on to a 2-1 win.

The Jekyll and Hyde nature of our performances are confusing, with the games against Panathinaikos, Maribor and now Southampton all straightforward once the game started, but when it restarted, things wee different.  Without the means of holding the ball up front, when Spurs are pressurised by the other side, they sit deep and invite them on to the defensive midfield two and the back four, meaning that there is not an outlet, as the attacking three have to funnel back to stop the opposition full backs making use of the space in front of our full backs.  This leaves Jermain Defoe isolated up front and the balls out from the back are rarely aimed at him, but for him to chase down.

So this game, like others this season, followed a similar pattern.  Spurs started this one well, so our good half was the first.  And we could have been one up within three minutes.  A through pass to Lennon saw him race onto the ball in the box, but he was faced by Artur Boruc coming out to meet him, having hesitated on his line.  Well, Lennon did get to the ball, but the keeper had done just enough to put the winger off and his shot went just wide of the goal as he thought he was going to get splattered.  Getting wide, Tottenham were putting the ball into the box, but not always the right areas, leaving Defoe frustrated, but when a free-kick from Huddlestone did get put into the right area, there was some panic in the home defenders, who struggled to get the ball clear and you could see how their defensive record is the worst in Premier League history over their first eight games of the season.

With 14 minutes gone, Spurs opened up the Southampton defence, with Lennon feeding Kyle Walker outside him on the right and getting to the dead-ball line, the full back pulled the ball back low to Defoe, who took it first time at the near post, but saw his shot whistle six inches wide of the near post.  It was a good chance and one you might have thought that an in-form striker like Defoe might have got on target.  Thoughts that missed chances might come back to haunt us sprung into my mind. 

But I shouldn't have doubted the team, as within two minutes, we had a 1-0 lead thanks to the returning Gareth Bale, who scored a most unlike Spurs goal.  When Tom Huddlestone got the ball on the edge of the box, many must have thought he was going to have a shot, but he looked up to his left and dinked a cross that Bale ran in onto and jumped higher than the static Clyne, powering his header across the keeper and inside the far post.  It was a goal of the style we don't score enough of and it almost immediately appeared to burst Southampton's bubble.  While they had not been in the game up until now, they failed to get out of their half much at all after the first goal and Spurs strolled through the remaining half an hour, causing me to have concerns about how this might all turn out.

Again, I shouldn't have worried so soon, as Bale had the beating of Clyne and he whipped in a low cross into the six yard box that leapt up viciously and Fox had to knock the ball out for a corner as Defoe came in behind him.  Bale got on the end of it, but couldn't get his header on target this time.  In the 39th minute, Aaron Lennon went on a run across the pitch and slipped a ball inside Jose Fonte for Defoe to run onto.  As Boruc raced out to close him down, he half-hit the ball past the Polish keeper and while on target, it looked as though Fonte would get to it, but as he reached the line, he slipped and the ball was cleared off the line weakly and across the face of goal.  Luckily for Spurs, Clint Dempsey was on hand to get to it first and bundle it across the line from about the same position as Sigurdsson did on Thursday.

At 2-0, things felt a little more comfortable, but Spurs were not always as accurate with their passing as they should have been and while the general consensus is that the team are instructed to hang onto the ball, going back to the keeper often results in a long punt upfield, where the opposition central defender picks the ball off with ease against Defoe.  Spurs did not have that problem in the first half as the Saints were lacking the desire to get at the Spurs players and they did not record a shot at goal (on or off target) in the whole of the opening 45 minutes.  Southampton's best moment came in the last seconds of the half, with Clyne floating a cross to the far post after doing well on the left, but Gallas was there to tidy that up.

Leading at half-time with  a couple of goals, you might have thought that the second half would be a breeze.  With the home support being limited to singing "We sing our own songs" as the highlight of their repertoire, Spurs should have had the confidence to go on and win well enough to bolster our goal difference.  And at the start of the half, it looked like they might do, with Walker reproducing his pull-back to Defoe and Defoe replaying his off target shot, this time doing incredibly well to get it into the top of the stand and hit the big screen at that end.

Three minutes after the break, Jason Puncheon had the home team's first shot at goal in anger, with a self-made volley that he pulled wide of goal from the edge of the box near the D.  Then Fox lashed one way over and  it looked like Southampton might have a spell of pressure, but it wasn't to be so just yet.

Lennon broke away cutting in from the right, before putting a reverse pass back out that way to where Kyle Walker was running in, but Dempsey was in the same space and the full back was put off and ended up slicing his shot well wide of the goal.   Then Vertonghen put in a low cross that was cleared before it got to Defoe, with Tom Huddlestone having a shot from the edge of the box and with him being so reliable in that department, it was a shock to see the ball squirming away to go for a goal-kick, just by the corner flag.

Friedel was called on to punch out a cross, which he did OK and then when the ball came into the box the next time, it went to Rodriguez, who headed wide from a good position.  It was a good spell for the Saints and they should have scored when Fonte shot and Gallas threw himself in the way to block and a long cross to the far post was punched out unconvincingly by Friedel and the second cross saw him losing out at the far post again as Yoshida had a good jump and a clear header but somehow managed to get it off his shoulder and wide of the goal from a yard out right in front of a gaping net. 

The goal came in the next attack though, with another scramble at the far post from a corner, where Brad reacted well to stop a header from Fonte, but Rodriguez was on hand as the ball dropped and he shot in off the far post to make it 2-1.

A couple of minutes later, Gallas headed out a ball into the box, but it didn't go far and once more it fell to Rodriguez who hit a hard shot at goal, but he should really have got it on target from 18 yards out,  pulling it wide instead.  Walker blocked a shot by Lambert and Lallana could have shot, but pulled the ball back across goal for nobody in a red shirt.

With the red tide flowing towards the Tottenham goal, Jay Rodriguez had another shot go wide and Spurs could not hold onto the ball, which is the worry when they sit back like this.  I suppose at the end of the game, when it is won, you can look back and say that we are improving on defending a lead, but I would still rather we went out to put the game beyond the reach of our opposition.  I suppose the thinking is that such an approach might leave space at the back, but against a better team than Southampton, we might get punished more ... as we did last week.

For about the last ten minutes, Spurs suddenly realised that they could hold onto the ball and ran down time passing the ball about, but still ended up turning over possession.  Towards the end, Southampton gave up trying to play as much football and there were so many Hail Marys that this game could have been staged at the Hail Mary Stadium or at Wembley where an NFL American Football match was taking place.  Spurs held out, without looking hugely confident, but then they didn't really need to be.

Southampton are dead certs for relegation if they play too often like they did in the first 45 minutes.  If they show a bit more of the fight in the second half, then they might stand a bit of a chance of staying up.

As for us, well, this win took us into fourth place. but with Wigan up next, followed by away games at Manchester City and Arsenal, the coming month might tell us more about where we are and where we might be going.

The Funky Phantom



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What you thought


Other scores during this week :
Arsenal 1 Queens Park Rangers 0 Saturday
Aston Villa 1 Norwich City 1 Saturday
Chelsea 2 Manchester United 3 Sunday
Everton 2 Liverpool 2 Sunday
Manchester City 1 Swansea City 0 Saturday
Newcastle United 2 West Bromwich Albion 1 Sunday
Reading 3 Fulham 3 Saturday
Stoke City 0 Sunderland 0 Saturday
Wigan Athletic 2 West Ham United 1 Saturday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Chelsea 9 7 1 1 20 8 22 +12
2 Manchester United 9 7 0 2 24 13 21 +11
3 Manchester City 9 6 3 0 17 9 21 +9
4 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 9 5 2 2 17 13 17 +4
5 Everton 9 4 4 1 17 11 16 +6
6 Arsenal 9 4 3 2 14 6 15 +8
7 Fulham 9 4 2 3 19 14 14 +5
8 West Bromwich Albion 9 4 2 3 13 11 14 +2
9 West Ham United 9 4 2 3 13 11 14 +2
10 Newcastle United 9 3 4 2 11 13 13 -2
11 Swansea City 9 3 2 4 14 13 11 +1
12 Liverpool 9 2 4 3 12 14 10 -2
13 Stoke City 9 1 6 2 9 10 9 -1
14 Sunderland 8 1 6 1 6 8 9 -2
15 Wigan Athletic 9 2 2 5 10 16 8 -6
16 Norwich City 9 2 4 3 7 18 7 -11
17 Aston Villa 9 1 3 5 7 14 6 -7
18 Southampton 9 1 1 7 14 26 4 -12
19 Reading 8 0 4 4 11 17 4 -6
20 Queens Park Rangers 9 0 3 6 7 18 3 -11


Position before match :  5th
Position after match :  4th
Position after the weekend :  4th


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