Get the lowdown on Tottenham Hotspur ahead of Sunday's fixture from Ben Pearce, who contributes Spurs articles to Yahoo Sport.
Second in the league and in an FA Cup semi-final, it all seems to be going well on the face of it for Spurs this season. Do you agree?
It’s probably going better than expected in terms of the start to the season. Spurs were third last season, but you would have expected a lot of the teams with [Pep] Guardiola at City, [José] Mourinho going to Man United and [Antonio] Conte coming to Chelsea, then [Jürgen] Klopp having his first full season you would have expected to push on too. Despite the money that some of those clubs have spent they’re not in a better position than last season and Spurs have spent less, so to get into the semi-finals of the FA Cup is definitely a good thing.
It’s a shame from their point of view that the semi-final line-up is so strong. It would be a great one to go and win. The one disappointment from the season so far is the Champions League. It was only their second season in the competition and the first time they got to the quarter finals and they played Real Madrid in the Bernabeu, they were some really good nights and the hope was that this team would be able to emulate that, but they didn’t, they fell short and then immediately went out in the Europa League against a team they really should have beaten.
Europe will be the disappointment but we’re at the stage now where, particularly with Harry Kane injured now, you start to wonder if it’s a blessing in disguise.
The players won’t look at it that way but if Spurs were to finish in the top four or even get second then that would be above expectations for the season and if they can win the FA Cup then it would be a doubly brilliantly season.
How will Harry Kane’s expected absence this weekend affect Tottenham?
Very much so. He’s scored 15 goals in the last 13 games and he was probably the in-form player in the Premier League, scoring a hat-trick against Stoke recently where he got the opening goal as he did against Everton too. I don’t think they’ll change their approach, I think they’ll probably be 3-4-2-1 again. They’ve played that system with full backs for a few weeks now and I think that’s definitely been their best formation. I would be surprised if they changed away from that.
If Mauricio Pochettino is worried that three attacking players isn’t going to be enough then he might change back to 4-2-3-1 which would enable them to play four attacking players instead of three, but Spurs have looked so much better in the system they’ve been playing recently and you can see the number of goals they’ve scored playing that way. I think it will be a straight swap by bringing Heung-min Son in for Kane.
Spurs beat Southampton 4-1 in December. Will Saints find it as tough this time?
Spurs are very good usually defensively at White Hart Lane with something like seven league goals conceded all season and two of those came very recently in a game against Everton in a game they went on to win anyway. Southampton will have their work cut out to get a goal against Spurs, but Gabbiadini looks a really clever player with a really nice touch with good finishing as well, so he looks the part. I always like Bertrand, each time he plays he looks good too.
How do you see Sunday’s game going?
I would predict a win for Spurs, their home form has been that good, you’d be silly not to really, but with Saints being the last team to win there it gives all the more reason for no complacency.
The key for Spurs recently has been very fast starts. In their recent games, the one against Millwall they took the lead in the 31st minute and that was the latest they’d gone ahead for five games, so they’ve been putting an emphasis on starting games very, very quickly, to get an early goal. A lot of teams come to Spurs to defend, and if you can get an early goal, it makes a huge difference as teams have to change their plans to start coming out earlier than they planned which opens up space for Spurs to score more and get the game won relatively early. It’s been a theme recently and a real strength for the team. The question will be whether they can do the same without Kane, or whether his absence means they find that a bit tougher.