A nervous but deserved win against an energetic and lively Southampton team who gave us a scare and I suspect won all the possession stats but had only one shot on goal to show for their efforts – apart from the one they scored with. At a guess.
If nothing else it highlighted the value of having the back three stroke five that we’re currently endowed with. Alderweireld in particular, the odd hoof into touch excepted, was outstanding. Dele, Harry and Eriksen take all the normal plaudits but the defence, and Wanyama and Dembélé, were the foundations of this win, we should not take them for granted.
Life Post-Kane was supposed to focus on our lack of goal potential but the pressing of the Top Six Saints (No 1 St Manolo, No 2 St Nathan… Maybe not.) brought what are normally taken as Pochettino’s Platitudes into relief. When asked about Harry, MP is big on emphasising his (HK’s) all round contributions away from banging shots into the bottom corner and our inability to relieve any pressure by giving Stephens and Yoshida something to do apart from look a tad offended occasionally was a huge bearing on the pattern of the match. Kane’s willingness to occupy defences and give his team mates options to play the ball into and run beyond him was sorely missed. Time and again we fought to play our way out of defence only to have the ball come straight back to us as we crossed the halfway line.
Our first goal was a piece of magic from Eriksen. He made it look so easy. Taking a pass from Dembélé and then moving into a bit of space before curling a low shot past Forster’s right hand. Beautiful. The second was more prosaic, Alli forcing an error from a Saints defender and then firing home the resulting pen after arguing with Son about who was taking the kick. Unseemly, but it got the job done. 2-0 at the break.
The lowlight of the second half was the slip that brought Southampton’s goal, the highlight, arguably, was Harry Winks’ cameo. Brought on to replace Son with 15 minutes to go his positive attitude and play single handedly upped our energy and combative levels and pushed back the visitors’ midfield. Janssen came on for the last few minutes and the ridiculous amount of injury time played by Marriner. No idea where he got that extra five minutes from or why he played so much more than that.
Nine points clear of the filthy gooners, and seven points clear of fifth. Burnley and Swansea up next.
Things could be worse.