North London is red now, and Tottenham’s Mauricio Pocchetino has some work to do. At the end of the clash against Arsenal, Spurs’ manager considered the 4-2 defeat a consequence of a tough week, in which Chelsea and Internazionale tasted White Hart Lane’s steel.
This seems to be a very generous response to an anthology of individual mistakes seen at the Emirates, protecting his pupils from the awful truth before meeting Barcelona in the next Champions League fixture.
One shall remember that, some days before the derby, the Argentinian manager admitted fifth placed Tottenham are not aiming for the Premier League title. Therefore, the next match at Wembley can provide all relief needed, against a stumbling and acephalous Southampton.
Jan Vertonghen’s poor performance arguably decided the match, conceding two goals and melting down the brave youngsters from the Lane. A penalty and a red card cost way too much for a team that splits its effort between EPL and UCL, but Arsenal’s dominance was too uncomfortable throughout the match, thanks to Unai Emery’s bravura in the last quarter with his substitutions. Even though Spurs scored twice with lucky strikes, the overall visits paid to Bernd Leno’s box were few.
Eriksen and Dele Alli were below expectations, Aurier left an avenue open in the right flank for the most of the first half and Juan Foyth, named Spurs’ best player by Pocchetino, had the ball stolen for Arsenal’s third screamer.
Although absolving, Pocchetino’s explanation suggests he will give some people a rest. Along with Toby Alderweireld replacing the suspended Vertonghen, some players may have an opportunity to start in the 4-3-3.
Recently recovered Danny Rose, who played the last 20 minutes at the Emirates Stadium, may get back to the left. Harry Winks and Lucas Moura are also good options to rotate, while Trippier might still be absent due to injury.
For the meeting with Southampton, almost everything favours Tottenham. In the last 12 encounters, the Saints won only one. If history means little, the present looks worse; having sacked manager Mark Hughes, Southampton arrive at Wembley stadium under the supervision of assistant coach (and former goalkeeper) Kelvin Davis, while their board admittedly looks for a heavier name. Austrian coach Ralph Hasenhuttl, former conductor to RB Leipzig, is on target and may be announced by next weekend.
These circumstances may signify a conservative approach by Davis, although an 18th position with one single win scarcely means something should be conserved. On Saturday, still under Mark Hughes’ directions, Southampton reached a 2-0 advantage over Manchester United, only to allow a tie before halftime.
Inertia will bring striker Charlie Austin back to the starting XI, while Michael Obafemi, Danny Ings and Shane Long deal with medical issues. The Saints’ backline with Stephens, Yoshida and Vestergaard would be expected to be motherly with visitors. However, every single Southampton player knows there is someone checking them out, somehow, somewhere.