Tottenham Hotspur vs. Southampton: 6 Things We Learned
Spurs super-sub Gylfi Sigurdsson scored a dramatic late winner, overturning a 2-0 deficit in the process, which ensures besieged manager Tim Sherwood has something to celebrate, per Matt Law at the Telegraph.
Sigurdsson may have snatched the headlines, but teammate Christian Eriksen was the best player on the field, scoring twice and creating Sigurdsson's goal.
Positive Signs for Tim Sherwood
Tottenham's last two games against Benfica and Southampton are positive signs for embattled manager Tim Sherwood.
When Benfica centre-back Ezequiel Garay headed home Eduardo Salvio's cross, the Portuguese club were 1-0 up and had a 4-1 advantage on aggregate against Spurs during the UEFA Europa League round-of-32 second leg.
However, Spurs deep-lying forward Nacer Chadli scored two goals in succession to decrease Benfica's aggregate lead to 4-3.
While the game ended 2-2 and a 5-3 aggregate win for Benfica, Spurs' willingness to fight foreshadowed a sterling comeback against Southampton.
Down 2-0 against Southampton after 28 minutes due to two defensive errors, Spurs were expected to pack it in.
Instead, they persevered and fought back to level the score at 2-2.
Then Spurs were rewarded with a stoppage-time long-range winner from Gylfi Sigurdsson—Spurs 3-2 Southampton.
For all the left-field tactical mishaps that Sherwood has made this season, subbing Sigurdsson on for Mousa Dembele was an inspired move.
Christian Eriksen to Lead Spurs Not Erik Lamela
Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy must build the team around Christian Eriksen and hope Erik Lamela can supplement Eriksen's greatness.
Eriksen being able to communicate in English has helped him immensely in making a quick transition to life in England.
Denmark, his nation, and the Netherlands, the country he played football in from 2008-13 for Ajax, are classified as European countries with a "very high proficiency" in English, per the Education First English proficiency index.
In contrast, Lamela "doesn't speak English," according to Spurs manager Tim Sherwood, per Kevin Palmer at ESPN FC.
Given Lamela's inability to communicate effectively with his teammates and Eriksen's glimpses of world-class form, Spurs should be the Dane's team going forward.
He gave a brilliant performance in the 3-2 victory over Southampton. He scored twice and made the pass to Sigurdsson, who netted the late winner.
Premier League Defending
A stereotype that ardent fans of the Premier League use when debating why their league is better than La Liga is the quality of defending—or lack thereof in Spain.
Well, the defending in this Premier League matchday has been awful.
Relegation-threatened Cardiff managed to put three past Liverpool, but it was only a moral victory since the Reds scored six.
Meanwhile, in Tottenham Hotspur's 3-2 win over Southampton, four of the five goals came from defensive errors via Kyle Naughton (two), Dejan Lovren and Nathaniel Clyne.
Self-inflicted wounds have cost Spurs this season. Naughton's horror show was how you could describe the standard of Spurs' defending in a 6-0 (and 5-1) defeat to Manchester City, a 5-0 defeat to Liverpool, a 4-0 defeat to Chelsea and a 3-1 defeat to Benfica.
Kyle Naughton's Mental Toughness
Tottenham Hotspur right-back Kyle Naughton used to be a highly touted defensive prospect, but his development has stagnated, and it was not helped by filling in at left-back.
While he has struggled at left-back, he has been OK when called on to play at right-back in Kyle Walker's absence.
Yet Naughton's example of how not to defend at right-back in a 3-2 win over Southampton raises questions surrounding his mental toughness.
Has he already accepted that he is only a backup/occasional starter?
He misjudged the goal kick of Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc's booming long ball, which led Southampton left attacking midfielder Jay Rodriguez to score.
Naughton's turning over the ball enabled Southampton centre-forward Rickie Lambert to play in Adam Lallana, who finished past Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
His two mistakes against Southampton were unforced, so his concentration levels are not high enough to be a week-in, week-out starter for Spurs, which have aspirations to be one of Europe's elites.
Nacer Chadli Operating Centrally?
Nacer Chadli started his second successive game behind Roberto Soldado as a deep-lying forward.
The first time—Tottenham Hotspur's 2-2 draw against Benfica—worked out well since Chadli scored twice.
He did not have the same influence in Spurs' 3-2 win over Southampton since he only attempted one shot and registered one key pass (a pass that leads to a shot).
In comparison, Christian Eriksen, who should be operating in Chadli's space on a permanent basis, scored twice, shot six times, registered an assist and made six key passes.
Sure, his statistics in combined Premier League/UEFA Europa League games on the left are excellent (six goals and three assists in nine games), but is he really playing on the left?
If you look at Eriksen's average positioning throughout the game against Southampton, per ESPN FC (tactical formation → average position), he is central.
Whenever you watch him, his most productive moments are central.
It's almost as if Spurs manager Tim Sherwood thinks he needs to provide a decoy in order for Eriksen to flourish. Harry Kane was the deep-lying forward in Spurs' 3-1 defeat to Benfica, and Chadli filled the same position in Spurs' 3-2 win over Southampton.
Coincidentally, Eriksen scored in both games.
Roberto Soldado Played Well but Did Not Score
Tottenham Hotspur centre-forward Roberto Soldado played well, and it would be insincere to say otherwise.
He created two shots for his teammates, including an assist for Christian Eriksen's second which was a pivotal moment in the 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
Soldado linked up well with Eriksen and Aaron Lennon and did everything good but score.
At the end of the day, six goals and five assists in 25 Premier League games for £26 million, per the Guardian, are not value-for-money.
Statistics via WhoScored.com