Tottenham Hotspur take on Southampton in the fourth round of the FA Cup thanks to their midweek win over Middlesbrough but how will they avoid an exit at the hands of a club that beat them in the Premier League?
The two clubs squared off at St Mary’s on New Year’s Day and the result had wide-reaching consequences for Spurs.
They lost 1-0, with a Danny Ings goal proving decisive, and Harry Kane sustained a serious hamstring injury that could well rule him out for the remainder of the season.
That game, though, was instructive for a number of reasons.
Per WhoScored, Spurs dominated possession, registering 59.1% of the ball, had a much higher pass completion rate, 74% to 63% and took more corners, nine to six.
But they also had a less effective mechanism of converting possession into chances; Southampton actually had more shots, 12 to 11, and registered more key passes, 10 to six, so this was a display in which Spurs laboured with the ball as opposed to zipping it quickly this way and that.
Saints have made something of a habit of this, averaging 47.1% possession in the Premier League, and one has to feel that they will be lying in wait in the fourth round, ready to pounce on any fast break opportunities that Spurs offer them.
The statistics are startling, really, when one truly considers them. Spurs attempted 499 passes against the Saints, 156 more than the home side, and could not find their way into a position to have more shots on goal than their opponents.
That speaks to a failure of their in-game management and their movement off the ball.
Indeed, while six of their shots came from inside the box, four were from open play and two of those were headers from crosses.
They could not find a way to pick the Southampton lock and one feels that their FA Cup tie may take on a similar pattern, with the Saints sitting back and almost daring Tottenham to find a way through.
If they can’t, the hosts will have the opportunity to break and, potentially, give Ings another major scoring chance.
The big fat Tottenham quiz of 2019 – how much do you remember about the last year at Spurs?
Spurs’ task, then, is clear, and the solution obvious: Spark some movement in the final third, move the ball quickly, and try to actually get into the Southampton box.
Otherwise, they will meet an all-too-familiar fate.
Meanwhile, PSG want to sign a major Spurs star!