19/12/2015: Saints 0-2 Tottenham
Saints went down to yet another disappointing defeat, this time at home to Tottenham. The game followed a similar pattern to many other recent encounters. Saints played well in spells, but were lacking going forward and sloppy at the back. The team remain in 12th, but with several of the teams below closing the gap.
Saints made a decent start to the game. The crowd were in good voice, and the team responded with some aggressive pressing. Spurs were well organised and content to just sit back during the first 20 minutes. Koeman made a few alterations to the team, with Sadio Mane playing centrally. Jordy Clasie also operated a bit higher up the pitch than he has done previously, putting pressure on Tottenham's holding midfielder's.
Mane had the first major chance on 6, forcing Toby Alderweireld into a block. The same player was then denied by Hugo Lloris, who made a brilliant save down low to his right after Tadic had crossed low.
Spurs gradually started to gain greater control of the game midway through the first-half. The visitors mostly only threatened from half-chances at first. Alderweireld's looping header went over the bar, before Paulo Gazzaniga saved from Harry Kane. Spurs did eventually take the lead on 40. Kane picked up the ball about 40 yards from goal, skipped past a couple of players before completing a simple finish into the corner of the net. It was a poor goal to concede. Saints had a number of opportunities to clear, with Virgil van Dijk completely missing the ball as he attempted to slice clear. Spurs doubled their lead a few minutes later. The away side caught Saints on the counter once again. Kyle Walker played the ball through to the far post for Dele Alli, who slotted in. Saints stood still when Alli received the ball, appealing to the linesman, but Cedric was playing him onside.
Saints made a solid start to the second-half, without really stretching the Tottenham defence. Pelle curled the ball straight at Lloris following good work by Mane on 54. The Italian then headed wide from Cedric's cross. Just past the hour Saints seemed to run out of ideas. Juanmi and Shane Long came on, but it made little difference. Spurs were winning nearly every second ball in midfield and had control of the game during the final 30 minutes. Mauricio Pochettino's team managed the game well, keeping the ball without expending any unnecessary energy. Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela had tame efforts on goal. Finally James Ward-Prowse forced another excellent save from Lloris deep into stoppage time.
Saints looked bright at the start of both halves, but overall it was another disappointment. Spurs were everything Saints weren't, organised and aggressive. It wasn't just the midfield; their front players won nearly every duel against our defenders. We're halfway through the season now, well beyond the point where we can write our current form off as a blip. There's something not quite right within the team at the moment. There is little cohesion and unity visible. Defensively organisation is lacking and going forward we aren't playing with the same incisiveness we once did. Koeman has kept to the same core of about 15 players this season, but some fresh faces would be welcome right about now.
Gazzaniga: 5. Nearly gifted Tottenham a goal at the end. Made a few decent claims, but could have perhaps reacted better for second goal
Cedric: 6. Used his speed to good effect, making some good last ditch tackles, but some na´ve defensive positioning too
Fonte: 5. Sloppy in possession at times and even outmuscled in the tackle
van Dijk: 5. Poor play for the first goal and generally disappointing throughout
Bertrand: 6. Did plenty of good work. Lost out in the tackle which led to the first goal, but blame for that should be attached to teammates who failed to provide cover
Wanyama: 6. Made a few big tackles, but far too quiet during other periods of the game
Clasie: 6. Pressed to good effect early on, but unable to maintain the same standards throughout
S Davis: 6. As with many others started well, with some good sharp passing and aggressive tackling, but less influential as the game went on
Tadic: 6. Some good link-up play in the first-half, but overall not that great
Mane: 6. Had the beating of his man a couple of times, but didn't have enough support to really thrive
Pelle: 5. Another ineffective display
Juanmi: 5. Couldn't get into the game
Long: 4. Completely wasteful yet again
Ward-Prowse: Should have really buried the chance he had at the end
Tottenham: Kane (40) Alli (43)
Attendance: 31,636 (3,199 Tottenham fans)
Referee: Kevin Friend
Saints line-up: Gazzaniga, Cedric, Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand, Wanyama, Clasie (Ward-Prowse 78), S Davis (Juanmi 64), Tadic (Long 64), Mane, Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Yoshida, Targett, Romeu
Tottenham line-up: Lloris, Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Dier, Dembele, Lamela, Alli (Carroll 79), Eriksen (Chadli 86), Kane (Son 90)
Subs not used: Vorm, Wimmer, Winks, Bentaleb