In what may have proved to be the final nail in the Antonio Conte coffin, it was another disappointing weekend ahead of a now two-week international break.
In a weekend that we had the chance to move clear of Newcastle, Liverpool, and even jump Manchester United with a win over then bottom-placed Southampton, everything was in place for Conte to ease the growing pressure over his position at N17 before the small hiatus of club football, but in true Spurs fashion, we failed to capitalise on the opportunity.
Both sides missed decent chances early on, and whilst the rest of the first half was relatively quiet, Pedro Porro’s late strike in added time gave Spurs a marginally deserved lead heading into the break.
The opening goal had a lot for fans to be pleased about, as both Son and Porro picked up their second goal contribution in as many weeks as the Korean’s ball allowed the Spaniard to drill his strike into the roof of the net.
Despite his disastrous debut against Leicester City, since regaining his place Porro has shown Spurs fans exactly what we’ve been missing at right wingback; with his three shots, three key passes, and two successful dribbles and tackles leaving him as Spurs’ joint highest-rated player on Saturday alongside Son (Sofascore).
It certainly begs the question of what could have been if Conte had the use of Porro from the start of the season rather than just January, but there’s no such point in torturing ourselves with such a scenario, and we should enjoy the likely little time the pair now have together.
For Tottenham, the goal came at the perfect time, as we entered the break with a crucial advantage that should have seen us kick on in the second half, but that could hardly have been further from the truth.
It took the Saints all of 47 seconds to level the scoring after re-emerging from the break (BBC Sport), as Che Adams was allowed to tap in from close range.
But in a refreshing twist, we responded well from the equaliser, and Kane’s customary goal followed by a fantastic strike from Perisic saw us take a comfortable 3-1 lead.
At about 16:35 on Saturday, Spurs fans were in dreamland; cruising to third place in the Premier League with Son, Porro, Kulusevski, and Perisic all getting much-needed, confidence-boosting goal contributions, with the Saints registering just 0.55xG out with Adams’ tap-in (Understat) as Tottenham were fully in control.
With less than twenty minutes to go and two goals to the good, the game should have been well beyond the hosts, but as fans will know all too well that simply wasn’t the case.
Just three minutes after Perisic’s strike, Theo Walcott again tapped in from close range giving his team something to fight for in yet another incidence of some terrible Tottenham defending.
As the ball flew across the box to Walcott, Spurs had three outfield players between him and the goal, but not one within three yards of Walcott himself who was afforded a more than generous amount of space to guide the ball home.
From there, the game still looked to be petering to an unexciting end, with neither side really threatening the other as Southampton looked to have accepted yet another defeat.
But of course, as we’ve seen time and again, a late penalty saw Southampton gifted a golden opportunity to claim a point as we threw away the game.
The penalty itself was certainly questionable, as Sarr looked to make minimal – if any, contact with Ainsley Maitland-Niles, but regardless we should never have been in the position to drop points in the first place.
Moreover, disregarding the Saints’ goals which all came from high xG chances, the hosts mustered just an additional xG of just 0.68, almost all of which was an accumulation from low xG speculative shots.
For Tottenham, it feels like the same old story, and in a season where so many teams are competing for top four and European places, this could ultimately be a catastrophic two points dropped.
It’s hard to imagine any of Newcastle, Man United, Liverpool or even Brighton dropping points with a two-goal lead so late on, so for us to be the outlier in that category is a painful realisation for fans and players alike.
Moreover, this was a chance for the squad and manager to enter the international break on a high, however instead, we are arguably in a worse position than ever with Conte’s subsequent media outburst.
Whether we’ve now seen Conte’s last game in the Spurs dugout is also certainly up for debate, as with no club football for nearly two weeks, if Levy were to opt for a change in leadership for our final 10 games of the season, now seems the ideal time to do so.
In fact, The Telegraph have reported this very evening that Spurs and Conte are expected to part ways in the next week, so that is a story to keep an eye on.
In truth, given the last month or so, the international break may well do Spurs some good, as those on national duty can at least temporarily depart what appears a less-than-positive environment and hopefully return reinvigorated – that’s the hope at least.
One thing’s for sure, despite the lack of club football, Tottenham and those left at Hotspur Way will face a busy two weeks as they prepare for what will be a tough trip to Goodison Park in the resumption of Premier League football – made even busier still if a new manager is in charge…
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