Spurs secured their place in the 4th round of the FA Cup and a trip to St Mary’s to play Southampton with a workmanlike victory against Middlesborough on Tuesday evening.
A lot has been made of the fact that the missing piece in the Pochettino jigsaw was a trophy. Jose has a history of winning them and his strong line ups so far in this year’s FA Cup suggest that he will be taking the competition seriously.
The manager started with both Erik Lamela and Giovani Lo Celso, 2 players who had been credited with changing the game in the first instalment at the Riverside when appearing as 2nd half substitutes. There was also a general uplift in tempo when they appeared midway through the second half of the Liverpool game. The manager’s faith was repaid as the Argentian duo put Spurs two up after 15 minutes.
Spurs were largely in control for the remainder of the game with Middlesbrough seemingly content on damage limitation after the early goals. That was until George Saville shot Boro back into contention after 83 minutes following Davinson Sanchez failure to clear a long ball. The Colombian struggled in the air all evening as storm Brendan made for some difficult conditions.
This lead to a slightly nervous last 10 minutes, more than it should have been, but after all this is Spurs we are talking about!
A clean sheet perhaps the main thing missing from the evening. Spurs have now only kept a clean sheet once since Jose Mourinho joined the club. A very un Jose stat. While Gazzaniga has proved to be an able deputy and very good shot-stopper, it will be interesting when Hugo Lloris is fit again after his lengthy injury lay off.
For one there is bound to be a debate as to whether he should be restored straight away to the starting line up. If he is, it will be interesting to see if there is an improvement in the goals against column.
While Lloris himself seems to have a mistake in him these days there is no doubt that he has been a vital part of the defensive cog. Although not really offered as a reason for our leaky defence, the likes of Alderweireld and Vertonghen have played with Loris for such a long and largely successful period of time that they are bound to miss his presence.
While many bemoaned the extra fixture, I always felt that the replay was a good opportunity for Mourinho to continue his ‘on the job assessment’ of the Spurs players at his disposal.
Dier, Lo Celso and Lamela all got valuable minutes under their belt and there was another chance to take a look at young Japhet Tanganga. The young Englishman has all the attributes to be a top Centre Half but is excelling in the problem right-back position. A very near miss in the first half together with a lung-busting run towards the end suggests that he also has an offensive side to his game and offers a genuine alternative to Serge Aurier. Japhet was awarded the man of the match trophy by ex-Arsenal player Martin Keown. His subsequent post-match interview equally as assured as his performance.
Lo Celso was industrious throughout and there are signs that he may provide the creative spark offen missing. Ryan Sessegnon looked very comfortable at left back and seemed to have more confidence tonight than in other games this season with a desire to be more direct and try to beat the full back. So 2 of the new signings now appear to be ready to make their mark on the team but concern must be growing for Tanguy Ndombele. His manager isn’t speaking about him in glowing terms and reports from the French media are now emerging of a player with a history of injury and attitude problems. Bearing in mind his frugal nature the lack of impact of his record signing will be making Daniel Levy livid.
Onto the next round and Spurs have faced Southampton three times in the FA Cup since 1990. It is always a game that seems to produce plenty or goals. The three ties seeing a total of 19 goals scored!
On the 4th January 2003, Spurs played their one and only Fa Cup tie at the St Mary’s stadium, at the time known as the Friends Provident Stadium. In what turned out to be a game to forget for the Lilllywhites Southampton thrashed a strong Spurs side, featuring a front two of Robbie Keane and Teddy Sherringham, by 4 goals to nil.
Sandwiched in between the 2 defeats was a tie that long lives in the memory of Spurs fans. In the 5th round of the 1995 Fa Cup Spurs had been drawn at home to the Saints.
The first game at White Hart Lane had seen Le Tissier, from the penalty spot, and Klinsman trade strikes in a one all draw.
The replay took place at the now-former home of Southampton, the Dell.
Spurs had been trailing 2-0 at half time with goals coming from Neil Shipperly and another Le Tissier penalty.
At half time Spurs made a substitution with Israel striker Ronny Rosenthal entering the fray. The rest as they say is history.
The ‘Rocket’ fired two goals past former Liverpool team mate Bruce Grobbelaar to take the tie to extra time and completed his hat trick on 102 minutes. Further goals from Teddy Sherringham, Nick Barmby and Darren Anderton gave Spurs a 6-2 victory and completed a miraculous comeback.
Google Ronny Rosenthal and his horror miss for Liverpool v Aston Villa is emblazoned on your screen. For Spurs fans mention of the ‘Rocket’ brings far fonder memories.
A quick return to St Mary’s will give Spurs a chance for revenge after one of their worst performances of the season over the Christmas period that resulted in a one nil defeat.
A Saints side rejuvenated following their own revenge victory versus Leicester will be no pushover but I expect Spurs to name a very strong side. I get the feeling that Jose is starting to learn more about his squad and identifying his lieutenants. He will have a plan that is for sure. By the time of the game there may even be a shiny new signing or two……COYS
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