Opinion: Player Ratings: Southampton 2 – 5 Tottenham Hotspur

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Harry Kane Heung-min Son
Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur were carried to an impressive 5-2 away victory by two of their superstars Heung-min Son and Harry Kane against Southampton on Sunday afternoon. It was one of the strangest games to watch and analyse by Spurs who found themselves down and out of ideas in the first half, only to be carried to a comfortable win by their two forwards and some abysmal defending by the hosts in the second half.

Tottenham started the game off brightly with a lot of energy and full of running from their front line. Kane had an early goal disallowed from a Son run behind the defence which was a foreshadowing to things to come later on in the game. After the early push forward though, Spurs seemed to have lost all energy and creativity, and they let Southampton boss the rest of the first half with ease. The hosts almost went ahead through Che Adams twice, but the striker missed glorious opportunities with Lloris making a brilliant reaction save first and Davies putting in a brave last-ditch block.

However, Spurs couldn’t escape the inevitable for too long as Ings put the hosts in front in the 32nd minute with an spectacular tight angle finish with the assist coming from the former Spurs man Kyle Walker-Peters. The poor play from Spurs didn’t end there as Southampton could have scored more with their press causing all kinds of problems for the visitors. Just when things looked bleak for Spurs, the game turned on its head as Ndombele played an unbelievable sequence where he won the ball, pirouetted away from the Saints midfielders and played a great ball to Kane who fed Son. And the Korean finally broke the offside trap of the hosts and coolly slotted the ball in the net to give Tottenham a much needed boost just before the half.

Second half started as the first one ended as the Southampton defence started to break down and allow Tottenham runners to get in behind. 90 seconds after the restart, Lo Celso was the one who fed Kane and the striker provided his second assist to Son who took his chance again to put the visitors in front. This was the start of a 30 minute sequence in which every time Spurs won the ball in their half, they managed to play a ball over the top of the Saints defence for a big chance. Southampton’s high press struggled to put any pressure on the ball, and their high defensive line was so exposed that Son could have scored 6-7 just on his own. In the end the Korean scored 4 almost identical goals with Kane assisting all 4. The striker capped an unbelievable performance by scoring a goal of his own after Lamela hit the post on another counter-attack that the Saints defence couldn’t stop. Danny Ings completed the scoreline after a ridiculous handball call against Doherty presented the penalty to the hosts, but this was just a mere consolation as the game ended 5-2.

This was a much-needed, high-scoring, comfortable win for Tottenham who are in the midst of an exhausting fixture congestion, but I believe it will be very hard to carry any lessons from this game onto the next. Southampton have a game like this every season, with Leicester beating them 9-0 recently. Their defensive line was a shambles, and we won’t see many teams repeating the same mistakes against Tottenham. Jose Mourinho had just the one idea and combination to create goals this game and it worked, but as we saw against Everton and the first half of this game, it doesn’t take much to stop the Spurs attack. Bale and Reguilon’s additions will be welcomed ones, since they replace two of the poorest players in the starting XI in Lucas and Davies, but unless Mourinho comes up with a better structure for the defence and plans to get the attack going, we won’t see Tottenham in the top 4 again this season.

Player Ratings

Hugo Lloris – 7 – The captain had an up and down game today as he started the game with an unbelievable save against Adams to keep the score even but he almost gave a goal away to Ings in the typical Lloris fashion shortly after. He couldn’t stop Ings’ brilliant finish from a tight angle but was pretty assured after that. His play on the ball has never given the fans any confidence and today was no different but at least there were no important mistakes. And finishing the game with 5 saves, 3 inside the box, showed his quality and importance to this team.

Matt Doherty – 3 – I wasn’t a fan of the purchase of a right-back who hasn’t played in a back 4 in so long and my worries about Doherty are showing up game after game since the start of the season. The Irishman is not a good defender as he thrives with a centre back covering behind him. He let Southampton wingers, especially Djenepo so much freedom on the ball and space off the ball. Djenepo almost created a goal for Adams in the first half by embarrassing Doherty with his dribbling down the wing. The right-back’s attacking production is also nothing to write home about which makes him an even bigger question mark for me going forward.

Davinson Sanchez – 5 – The Colombian was the best defender for the Spurs on the day but that doesn’t say much about his performance as the whole back line struggled. He was more active than Dier and put in 3 tackles and 7 aerial dual wins but still struggled to contain Ings and Adams at times. He really needs an Alderweireld type, calm and composed defender next to him to help and gets exposed often when he’s put next to Dier.

Eric Dier – 3 – Dier’s transition from midfielder to centre-back is not going well at all in my opinion and it is so difficult to understand Mourinho’s infatuation with him. He’s not fast enough to track rapid players, can’t defend that well on the ball, doesn’t have much spacial awareness, and he’s not even good enough on the ball for a player who played in the midfield for the last 5 seasons. The first Saints goal was due to him watching the ball played over the top and he was lucky the hosts only scored one goal in that abysmal first half.

Ben Davies – 2 – The Welsh left-back prevented a goal by throwing himself into a very brave block against Adams in the first half, then completely disappeared from the game. He was so poor defensively for the rest of the game, with most of the Saints attacks coming from his side, and he was so poor going forward as he couldn’t pick a good pass all game long. He finished the game with 0 tackles and interceptions, 2 dribbles past, 68% pass accuracy, 0 key passes and 0 successful crosses. Enough said.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – 7 – He was one of the players who turned it around completely in the second half and the score could have been much worse if it wasn’t for his defensive presence. He started the game off poorly with providing pretty much nothing to the build-up and allowing the Saints attackers freedom in the midfield. But in the second half, he was a much better player on both sides of the ball as he completed the game with 9 duels won, 2 tackles and interceptions, 2 successful dribbles and 83% pass accuracy. This was a performance to build on for the Dane as a midfield of him, Ndombele and Lo Celso has the potential to be one of the best in the league.

Harry Winks – 2 – Worst player on the pitch for Tottenham for me and it wasn’t particularly close. He was playing as the deepest of the 3 midfielders and these were his stats from the game: 1 tackle, 0 interceptions, 2 dribbles past, 2 successful long balls out of 10(!), and 73% pass accuracy. Every pundit in the country always praises his passing ability and quality on the ball which were nowhere to be seen today. His defensive problems cause so many problems for his team that he has to be as good as De Bruyne to justify his selection. Saints front 4 took turns running to the middle of the pitch, collecting the ball, turning, and playing a dangerous ball forward in the entirety of the first half, and it would have continued if Hojbjerg didn’t improve himself. Winks should be played as an 8 rather 6, and should be a squad player with the way he’s playing right now.

Tanguy Ndombele – 6 – It’s tough to judge a 45 minute performance from the Frenchman who’s just starting to integrate himself into the team again but that was very encouraging. He was put in position to be a combination of an 8 and 10, and that role didn’t really suit him as he lacked the space in front to carry the ball forward. However, he was still the most dangerous midfielder Tottenham had and played some good passes to the forwards to take advantage of. His world-class play right before the half showed why he’s the club’s record signing, and why everyone is so excited about his potential as he won the ball in the midfield with ease, got away from the opposition midfielders with a brilliant turn and played a great forward pass to Kane for the goal. More to come from him this season, and he will be a huge boost to the team.

Lucas Moura – 2 – I thought Lucas was not as negative as Winks today but I actually forgot the Brazillian was on the pitch until he was taken off for Lamela in the second half. I checked his stats and he completed a total of 5 passes and 1 dribble, and that’s pretty much it. He is seen as this defensive winger who puts in a shift for his team every game, but he didn’t even complete a tackle or interception all game long. The reason he didn’t infuriate me as much as others though, is because he was just there. He at least occupied a defender or two with his presence, and wasn’t dribbled past in defence. So thank goodness Bale is here, because Mourinho is now out of excuses to play Lucas every game now.

Heung-min Son – 10 – This game was the perfect set-up for the Korean and he took advantage in the best way. 4 goals scored and could have been more. The funny thing about his performance is that scoring goals is all he did. He wasn’t involved in any of the build-ups, didn’t really create opportunities for others, and completed a total of 18 passes. But still, he took what the Saints gave to him, and punished their suicidal high-lines. Every time Spurs won the ball he was off to the races, and scored 4 identical goals to get himself the match ball and save Mourinho’s job for now. We all knew he was a world-class player, and hopefully with Bale and Reguilon’s additions, we’ll get to see these kinds of performances more from him.

Harry Kane – 10 – One of the best strikers in the world just put in one of the best ever creative performances in the Premier League. It was amazing to see how a player who’s been made fun of as a tap-in merchant destroyed an entire defensive line with unbelievable passes and world-class combination play. His 4th assist was the highlight of the day for me as he picked out Son with an inch-perfect cross while his momentum was taking him towards the touchline, just sublime. It was a great day that was capped off with one of his typical poachers’ finishes after Lamela’s shot bounced off the post.

Subs

Giovani Lo Celso – 6 – It was a surprise to see Lo Celso rested until he was introduced in the second half, and then it was clear why. Even though he started off brightly with a great ball to Kane for Tottenham’s second goal, he started to fade away later on in the half. He was still showing a lot of spirit by fighting for the ball in front of his box and trying to find his attackers, but this wasn’t a typical Lo Celso performance. I’m not worried at all though, he will come back stronger soon, and I cannot wait to see his combination with Ndombele going forward.

Erik Lamela – 7 – After seeing how Southampton was defending at the start of the second half, I immediately thought of Lamela to be introduced as this was the perfect game for the Argentine. He was allowed tons of space in the attacking third, and he was able to pick out a pass or get into dangerous areas easily. He deserved a goal in the end but still ended up assisting Kane with a great shot that bounced off the post.

Steven Bergwijn – N/R

Manager

Jose Mourinho – 2 – I’ve never been more worried after a 5-2 win by Tottenham until today. Southampton pretty much gifted the win to Spurs by playing a ridiculously high line at the back and Son and Kane took full advantage. It was clear from the start this was something Mourinho planned for as he played Ndombele ahead of the midfield two to pick out these dangerous passes for Son who was running in behind the Saints defence from minute 1. However, if the Saints players didn’t run out of energy in the second half and lost their minds at the back, they would have done just fine against this gameplan as they were in the first half. Tottenham midfielders had no chance against the press as possession after possession ended with centre-backs sending aimless balls forward after the midfield failed to find any forward progression. The defence was a huge worry as well as all 4 defenders were either below average (Sanchez, Doherty) or extremely poor (Dier, Davies) with Winks sabotaging the team and Hojbjerg having to do way too much to cover for him. Hopefully the two additions will fix some issues for the team, but the manager is giving me zero confidence at this point of the season.

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