COMMENTARY | Tottenham Hotspur supporters routinely sing "I'm Tottenham 'till I die." It appears that Spurs are once again set on testing that mantra at the end of a season.
That Tottenham were largely outplayed by a relegation side for the second consecutive weekend, this time at home against Southampton, was erased from the scoreline and the Premier League table by a moment of absolute brilliance from undisputed Player of the Year Gareth Bale. Bale's latest heroics do not, however, cover up that Spurs sure look like a gassed out side going into their midweek do-or-die showdown at Chelsea. Manager Andre Villas-Boas is now tasked with what will likely prove to be his most daunting task of the campaign; getting his squad ready for Wednesday's trip to Stamford Bridge.
Spurs 1-0 Southampton: Concerns
The most worrisome thing I took from Tottenham's performance on Saturday is that it is very clear that neither the previously mentioned Bale nor Aaron Lennon are 100 percent after returning from injuries. Lennon in particular is a concern in that he was taken off right at the hour mark of play in order to receive treatment. To make matters worse, Moussa Dembele hobbled off the pitch nine minutes before halftime after suffering what appeared to be yet another hamstring problem.
Spurs as a whole looked overly fatigued from the beginning of play, and they were fortunate to not be trailing by two goals at the break. Yes, Bale turned it on when he had to and produced the game-winning goal. Expecting him to continue to be at his best when he is probably somewhere around 75-80 percent is unrealistic. Someone else is going to have to step up and be the go-to guy for Spurs over the next three games.
Spurs 1-0 Southampton: Difference maker
He drives Tottenham fans crazy. He picks up curious and sometimes unknown injuries. I often wonder if he can even be bothered. When he is on his game and motivated, Emmanuel Adebayor is also a front man who makes his team's attack just that much more dangerous.
The entire tempo of Saturday's match changed once Ade replaced Lennon. Southampton almost immediately shifted into a more defensive formation, and Adebayor twice drew the attention of opposing players before creating scoring opportunities, one of which should have been buried by Clint Dempsey. He was, as is always the case when he wants it to be, a physical force inside the penalty area that Spurs hadn't yet had during the match. Even his hold-up play was fantastic.
As was pointed out by the TV commentary crew and individuals discussing the match via social media, Spurs wouldn't have finished fourth in the league table last May had Adebayor not found the back of the net four times in his club's final three season games. That Ade, the guy who put in a 30-minute shift against Southampton and who also happened to score at Chelsea before Christmas last season, is a must for AVB and company if Spurs are to finish above of the Blues and/or Arsenal.
Spurs 1-0 Southampton: Who starts for Spurs on Wednesday?
All indications are that Villas-Boas may have to tie Bale down to a chair in the dressing room to keep the Welsh wonder from starting. Lennon and Dembele are doubts until we hear otherwise from the Tottenham boss. AVB has done well in rewarding players, which leaves me wondering if he won't swap Jermain Defoe out for Adebayor, thus leaving the England international as a potential super-sub.
I would not at all be shocked to see Clint Dempsey start the game on the bench. He was anonymous minus skying a scoring opportunity over the bar, and Lewis Holtby had himself a solid afternoon after replacing Dembele. Villas-Boas could also decide to go with Gylfi Sigurdsson over the American.
Tottenham's back line could be a major talking point come Wednesday evening. Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who has been out of favor at Spurs throughout year one of the AVB era, hardly covered himself in glory against Southampton. That could lead Villas-Boas to start Kyle Naughton, a natural right back who hasn't looked good at all playing on the left. Villas-Boas could also move Jan Vertonghen to left back and place the inconsistent Steven Caulker in central defense.
Arsenal's 1-0 win at Queens Park Rangers that came just a couple of hours after Bale broke Southampton hearts means that Spurs will be out of the Champions League spots even if Manchester United defeat Chelsea on Sunday. Make no mistake about Wednesday night being a cup final for two teams looking to return to the major European competition. Chelsea kept Spurs from winning the FA Cup and from earning Champions League a year ago.
Is Villas-Boas en route to getting revenge on his former club?
Zac has been covering Tottenham Hotspur, Major League Soccer, RBNY, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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