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Southampton vs. Tottenham Hotspur: 6 Things We Learned

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2013

Southampton vs. Tottenham Hotspur: 6 Things We Learned

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    Danny Rose was one of the returnees to contribute to Tottenham Hotspur's return to winning ways.
    Danny Rose was one of the returnees to contribute to Tottenham Hotspur's return to winning ways.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Tottenham Hotspur bounced back from a miserable seven days to beat Southampton 3-2 at St Mary's.

    Tim Sherwood's first Premier League game in charge saw his Tottenham side go a goal down after Adam Lallana duped Vlad Chiriches and fired in a precise, long-range effort.

    Spurs equalised just over 10 minutes later through a terrific counter-attack. Erik Lamela cleared to Emmanuel Adebayor, who found Roberto Soldado's run out left. The Spaniard's subsequent cross picked out the charging Adebayor's run, with the striker scoring with a scissor-kick.

    Jos Hooiveld gave Spurs a second-half lead after deflecting Danny Rose's cross into his own net, but Southampton responded within five minutes.

    The impressive Lallana got in behind the visitors' defence and made the most of Hugo Lloris' kamikaze charge from goal, picking out Rickie Lambert with an open goal in front of him to make the score 2-2.

    It was to be Spurs' own star man Adebayor who won the game. Benefiting from the persistence of substitute Nacer Chadli, he tucked the ball away to seal the win.

    The result moves the North London club up to seventh place with West Bromwich Albion up next on Boxing Day. Saints take on Cardiff City, looking to end what is now six matches without a win.

    In the meantime, here are some things we learned from Sunday's match.

"Dirty Work" Stands Eriksen in Good Stead as a Centre Midfield Option for Spurs

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    Eriksen played his first game since returning against Anzhi a fortnight ago.
    Eriksen played his first game since returning against Anzhi a fortnight ago.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    The number of centre midfielders in the Tottenham squad has meant Christian Eriksen has predominantly been regarded as an attacking midfield option. Against Southampton, the returning Dane staked a claim to be among those considered for a role in the thick of the action.

    Rightly or wrongly, it is the more elegant side of Eriksen's game that has been focused upon since his time at Ajax. Chiefly the eye for a pass, the gliding runs and the ability to find the top corner of the net.

    His tidy passing and comfort in possession were in evidence versus Southampton. It was the so-called dirty work that stood out, though.

    From the start, Eriksen was looking to get in among the opposition. Closing down his Saints counterparts, he put a foot in where he could. The same was seen early in the second half, when he helped Spurs establish the upper hand as they outfought their hosts.

    About the only time he and the midfield seriously fell short of their duties was for Southampton's first goal, when Adam Lallana was given a vast amount of space to work in.

    Overall, however, Eriksen played his part in ensuring Spurs' attacking approach was not taken advantage of. He won five out of six attempted tackles and his sole attempt at a header, and was there to clear on another occasion (as tallied by Squawka.com).

    Elsewhere, Tim Sherwood will hope Mousa Dembele's injury is not too serious. Concerns over a shortage of options in midfield will have been alleviated slightly by the positive debut of Dembele's replacement, 19-year-old Nabil Bentaleb.

    The young Frenchman did a steady job in helping his team play the ball out of their own half in the face of Southampton pressure. As he settled down and his confidence increased, he even chanced a couple of short runs forward.

    He's one to watch then, especially if Sherwood is appointed full-time and hands Bentaleb and other youngsters further chances to impressive.

Effort Is Becoming of Adebayor and Soldado

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    Emmanuel Adebayor is congratulated by teammates after scoring Spurs' winner.
    Emmanuel Adebayor is congratulated by teammates after scoring Spurs' winner.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Three goals in two games for Emmanuel Adebayor has vindicated Tim Sherwood's decision to bring the forward back into the Tottenham fold.

    The nature of his brace on Sunday also made a strong argument as to why Spurs are better off with two up front.

    Neither development would have been possible, though, without the general effort shown from Adebayor and Roberto Soldado. Each worked hard to make the partnership work, both in relation to each other and in leading the line of attack for their teammates.

    The most striking example of both elements was seen in Adebayor's first goal. Positioned just far enough forward to take Erik Lamela's pass out of danger, he quickly turned to combine excellently with Soldado and ensure their team did not lose their way in this game early on.

    Not everything the Togo man did was gold, with loose passes and runs into crowded areas seeing him lose possession. Nonetheless, the general busyness of his display was welcome in occupying Southampton's attention.

    Soldado was less involved for large periods. On occasion his non-action was frustrating.

    Nearby defenders went unchallenged, and when Adebayor was denied by Paulo Gazzaniga an hour in, Soldado was nowhere to be seen for the follow-up.

    Whether this was the moment that woke him up is not clear, but for a 10-minute spell afterward, he was active in (almost) the best way possible.

    A trio of chances were missed, but the alertness Soldado showed in getting himself in shooting opportunities was a reminder of his clear threat (though his last chance, a shot into the side-netting, should have been ruled offside).

    In his pinpoint cross for Adebayor's equaliser, Soldado demonstrated his quality. The key for him and his teammate making the most of their respective talents—at least in terms of what they can do individually—will be putting in maximum effort.

Chadli's Best Side Is His Right Side

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    Nacer Chadli made an impressive second-half cameo.
    Nacer Chadli made an impressive second-half cameo.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Given his chance in right midfield, Erik Lamela had a decent outing versus Southampton.

    He started the move that led to Tottenham making it 1-1, and there were further glimpses of his talent elsewhere in some nicely chosen passes.

    The trouble Tim Sherwood has—as former manager Andre Villas-Boas did—is deciding whether to persevere with a run of action for Lamela that might benefit him long term but may leave the team a little lacking for the time being.

    The contrast between Spurs' record signing and the significantly cheaper Nacer Chadli was seen in the latter's effectiveness in the final half-hour.

    Used by Villas-Boas predominantly in left wing, Chadli looked far more at home on the right.

    He had the measure of left-back Danny Fox. Chadli beat him on a couple of occasions on the dribble, and his crossing was most threatening and his passing immaculate (recorded by Squawka.com at 100 percent).

    While the Belgian's one shooting opportunity flashed wide, his determination in a foray in from the right led to Adebayor scoring Spurs' winner.

    But for injury, Aaron Lennon may have kept his place in right wing. His return to the team over the last month-and-a-half has largely been positive, and he will see action again.

    With Andros Townsend showing recent form on the left flank, Chadli put in a cameo here that may have seen him rise up the pecking order on the right.

    It is a chance of situation that is worth further examination versus West Bromwich Albion on Thursday.

A Job Well Done from Sherwood, but Plenty of Work Is Still to Come

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    Tim Sherwood applauds the travelling Spurs fans after his first win in charge.
    Tim Sherwood applauds the travelling Spurs fans after his first win in charge.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    "We knew we had to get our top players on the ball in correct areas and we’d cause them problems. In the second half, we achieved that."

    So said interim/caretaker/potential new Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood on his club's official Twitter page. Though spoken in reference to his pleasure at what he thought was an improved post-interval performance form his team, it was in keeping with the simple effectiveness of their display.

    Spurs did not have it all their own way. Yet they were competitive in midfield and dangerous in attack.

    Defensively, they were only truly undone by two moments of quality from Adam Lallana. And the second, in the build-up to Rickie Lambert's goal, might have been avoided had Hugo Lloris not had a rush of blood to the head and charged needlessly out of goal.

    Otherwise, the balanced back four largely dealt with the home side's advances.

    Southampton are not a patch on the Liverpool side Spurs faced last week, but they were an opponent that had to be carefully negotiated. Sherwood's 4-4-2 allowed his players to do their jobs and implemented an extra attacking edge that has largely been lacking this season.

    As good a three points as these were, numerous challenges are still to come for Spurs, whoever is in charge.

    With the uncertainty over the club's future direction, similar issues as to what Andre Villas-Boas faced are still potentially on the horizon.

    In between the defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool that cost him his job, Villas-Boas led his side in and to good performances and results in a trio of league games (plus two Europa League victories). The nature of that Liverpool loss was indicative of his team's trouble competing with those also in the hunt for a place in the top four.

    Be it in Spurs' underwhelming home form that will be again under examination over Christmas, or the challenge of facing a top-four rival in Manchester United on New Year's Day, Sherwood (or a potential new manager) will have to find ways of overcoming the challenges ahead.

Lallana's Performance Masked Saints' Lack of Firepower

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    Adam Lallana celebrates scoring Southampton's opening goal.
    Adam Lallana celebrates scoring Southampton's opening goal.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Having scored in each of their last five Premier League games (including this one), Southampton have proven they have goals in them. Only the teams above them in the division (save for Spurs) have scored more than the 22 they have this term.

    So while far from a problem, Mauricio Pochettino's team do have issues in attack.

    For parts of their defeat to Tottenham, these were masked by the adventurousness of Adam Lallana in particular.

    Saints' captain gave his team the lead and later temporarily helped restore parity when he set up Rickie Lambert in the second half.

    Lallana's quick thinking in passing and movement was instrumental in Southampton's better moments.

    Yet while Rickie Lambert kept Spurs busy, and Jay Rodriguez was menacing in his runs behind the defence, the South Coast club were largely dealt with.

    The absence of the enigmatic Dani Osvaldo was a contributing factor here. As too was Pochettino's requirement to change up elsewhere, robbing Southampton of some of the rhythm that has fared so well for them this year.

    There is still the feeling about this team that unless they are all performing, there are not more than one or two players to really lift them. Lallana came closest here, but more will be needed moving forward.

Southampton Will Benefit from Stability in Defence

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    Dejan Lovren could do little to stop Spurs on Sunday.
    Dejan Lovren could do little to stop Spurs on Sunday.Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

    As was often the case for Tottenham last season, Southampton are suffering from not being able to field the same defensive lineup.

    Mauricio Pochettino has been unlucky here. Left-back Luke Shaw ruled himself out of contention for this one through illness early on Sunday.

    Absences at other times to previously in-form defenders like Dejan Lovren and Jose Fonte have not helped matters either.

    The former was part of a Southampton defence that was undone by some great work from Spurs on Sunday.

    They were often caught out by the smart and powerful running of Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado. On the flanks, Danny Rose and Nacer Chadli in particular had great joy coming inside.

    When Lovren and Fonte have played together, they have been led a Saints back-line that was among the Premier League's stingiest early in the campaign. Partnered for the recent visit of Manchester City, they helped the team to a commendable 1-1 draw.

    Without that familiarity, Southampton do not look anywhere near as organised and robust.

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