In a back-and-forth night of football, Spurs beat Southampton 3-2 at Tottenham Stadium in the FA Cup.
This win in the final replay of the season sees José Mourinho’s men through to face Norwich in the next round. What did we learn?
1. Lethal Lucas leads the line
Harry Kane’s injury obviously terrified Spurs fans, because he is obviously the best player on the team. And José Mourinho obviously values Kane’s skill-set because he tried all January to sign a striker to fill the void left by the Englishman.
But the best choice to “replace” Kane is the man Mourinho’s currently got doing the job: Lucas Moura. Yes, the short Brazilian winger doesn’t seem like an obvious choice, but unlike the others Spurs forwards he has a tenacity and ferocity to his game that compliments his natural skill on the ball. This makes him quite useful in the kind of tight spaces a no. 9 can find themselves. And we also saw that when you’re playing on the break, having a “no. 9” as mobile as Lucas can actually make you harder to defend against.
Lucas has also long shown that he can impact big games with goals, firing Spurs to a Champions League final with an incredible hat-trick last season. And tonight he helped fire Spurs into the fifth round of the FA Cup, pulling Spurs level with a delightful goal driving the ball through the heart of the Saints defence, weaving himself an extra yard before slotting home calmly. That goal completely flipped the momentum of the game and led to Spurs’ incredible victory. No Kane? No problem for Lucas Moura.
2. Redmond makes Pep proud
Nathan Redmond has always been an intriguing player. Obviously talented but not always making the most of that talent. This has seen him twice get a passionate post-match pep talk from Pep Guardiola. It looked bizarre, but Guardiola repeatedly confirmed that yes, he just believed in Redmond so much he was giving him advice.
Well it seems like Redmond was listening to Guardiola, and was fighting to avenge the Catalan (who fell to Mourinho’s Spurs at the weekend) tonight. Redmond was sensational against Spurs, driving through whoever they could put in front of him. His dribbling and control was superb, his excellent shot on the spin forced Saints’ first goal, and then he wicked run and pass found Danny Ings for Saints’ second goal. His team may have lost, but he was supreme.
3. Mourinho changed the game
Spurs started this game getting pasted all over the pitch by Southampton. They pounced on a moment of defensive weakness and got a lucky deflection to take the lead, but honestly they were nowhere near the Saints. 10 minutes into the second-half, Mourinho acted decisively and withdrew Jan Vertonghen (who looked distraught), bringing on Gedson Fernandes. This changed the formation and the approach from Spurs. And when Dele Alli replaced the impressive Tanguy Ndombele, it added drive and impetus in attack.
Now Mourinho could have done a better job in terms of setting Spurs up, and James Ward-Prowse having to leave the field with an injury definitely effected how Saints performed in the second-half, but Mourinho’s ability to diagnose the opponent and adjust accordingly needs to be praised especially as Dele, the man who Mourinho brought on, got a big assist for Spurs’ equaliser and then created the winning penalty with a simply sublime pass through the lines of Saints’ defence.
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4. The bad side of Hugo Lloris
Hugo Lloris was an absolute titan as Spurs beat Manchester City at the weekend, saving a penalty and making several key stops beyond that. That was the good side of Lloris, but what we saw against Southampton tonight was very much the bad side of the Spurs captain.
Lloris was horrible against Saints. Nothing he did looked anywhere near his usual level. He didn’t dominate his area, didn’t organise his defence, and worst of all when it came to saving shots he couldn’t even do that right. Lloris made saves, sure, but he never seemed to push the ball out to safety, it was always back into the danger zone. One such save resulted directly in Southampton’s equaliser, and there were more instances of Lloris showing his bad side. Spurs got away with the win, but their captain’s display will cause Mourinho concern.
5. Spurs move on, but with issues
After the match, José Mourinho said “the best team on the pitch lost,” but after a lengthy bit of praise for the mental strength of his side, added: “my team deserve to win.” Now both of those things are true, and Spurs did show incredible heart to gut the win out from nowhere which is all well and good but Spurs really didn’t play well. Just like at the weekend where they got plastered all over the pitch by Manchester City but improbably came away with a victory there.
Spurs can’t keep on doing this. At some point their luck will run out and if they haven’t started playing well then it doesn’t matter how much heart they have, they will lose. They will face coherent defences and they will lose.