Tottenham edge past Southampton to consolidate second place
LONDON -- Three thoughts on Tottenham's 2-1 win vs. Southampton in the Premier League.
1. Ten in a row for Tottenham at home
Can Tottenham cope without Harry Kane? On this evidence, they can, but it was a little too close for comfort against Southampton as they extended their winning run at home to 10 Premier League matches with a 2-1 victory.
Their record sequence began with a 3-2 win against West Ham in Kane's first home game after seven weeks out with an ankle injury. The England striker suffered a similar injury last weekend and, although he is only expected to miss a month this time, the question before this game was whether Spurs would be the same without their leading scorer.
Son Heung-Min, who replaced Kane in the only change from the 3-2 win over Everton here, and Vincent Janssen, fresh from his first goal from open play for the club, replaced Kane as Spurs' strikers, but it was Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli who replaced his goals.
Eriksen made it three goals and seven assists in his past six matches with a fierce low drive on 13 minutes, while Alli won and scored a penalty, taking him to 14 league goals for the season. Even without Kane, there is firepower in this Tottenham team.
Son had already forced a save from Fraser Forster before Eriksen opened the scoring, the Dane picking up Mousa Dembele's pass, driving forward and planting a shot past Forster from 20 yards. Not for the first time this season, the England goalkeeper might have done better, but take nothing away from Eriksen: It was the third time in five games that he has scored the all-important first goal, after KAA Gent and Millwall. He is enjoying one of his hot streaks, and there is no better playmaker in the Premier League when he is like this.
Forster made amends after with a one-handed scooped save from Toby Alderweireld's header, but Saints had chances at the other end for Manolo Gabbiadini and Dusan Tadic. Then, with the visitors on top, they suffered a minute from hell after half an hour. First, Gabbiadini limped off and his replacement Shane Long had only been on the field a moment when Steven Davis chopped down Alli in the box. Saints missed two opportunities to clear the ball before the incident -- a comical show of defending -- and Alli calmly rolled the penalty to Forster's right.
White Hart Lane had been remarkably relaxed, subdued even, in the first half but they say 2-0 is a dangerous scoreline and so it proved. Southampton's goal, shortly after half-time, involved a collector's item: a mistake from Alderweireld. The Belgian air-kicked Nathan Redmond's cross and James Ward-Prowse, fresh from an England call-up, bundled in at the back post. Game on, and what a week for the Saints midfielder.
Now the nerves crept in. Long tested Lloris; Pochettino replaced Son with Harry Winks and moved Alli to No. 9. Kieran Trippier replaced Kyle Walker, who hadn't trained all week, leaving Spurs without both their first-choice full-backs. Saints though were restricted to half-chances and Spurs closed out the game impressively, only troubled on the occasions when the speedy Long threatened to get in behind their back three.
Eriksen was replaced by Janssen on 85 minutes to a standing ovation, and the Dutchman nearly put the gloss on the victory for the second weekend running, forcing Forster into a stop with a vicious drive from 20 yards. There was still time for Sofiane Boufal to fire wide but Spurs were good for another home win, proving there is life after Kane.
2. Is this the season that Spurs surpass Arsenal?
This result kept the title conversation going, if not particularly riveting, but Spurs fans streaming away from White Hart Lane were looking down the table, rather than up it. Another three points moved Tottenham nine clear of their North London rivals Arsenal, who finished the weekend in sixth after a fourth defeat in five league matches at West Brom.
Surely -- surely! -- this is the year that Spurs finish above their rivals in the Premier League table for the first time since 1995.
That has been said many times before, of course, including last season, when a 2-1 defeat to Southampton here -- Saints are still the last team to win in the league at White Hart Lane -- contributed to a remarkable end-of-season collapse, moving Arsenal ahead of Spurs into second on the final day of the campaign. In 2011-12, Spurs blew a 10-point lead over Arsenal and in 2012-13, they did the same again. There was the odd smattering of "Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay" around the stadium but Spurs fans will be more cautious about telling their neighbours to "Mind the gap" this time.
The gulf between the two clubs could hardly be greater though, both in terms of quality on the pitch and unity off of it. Arsenal are a club so divided, it is impossible to say what their fans want. Spurs, on the other hand, have a thread of unity running through the club from boardroom to terraces, with manager Pochettino the key man. Whereas Arsenal collapsed at the Hawthorns on Saturday, Spurs showed their resilience again, restricting Southampton to one presentable chance after Alderweireld's mistake gave the visitors a lifeline.
Spurs play Arsenal in what is expected to be the last North London derby at White Hart Lane on April 30 and a win there could all but confirm Tottenham's first finish above the Gunners in 26 years, assuming things continue to go the same way at both clubs. The power in North London is finally shifting.
3. Gabbiadini injury sees Southampton lose cutting edge
Spurs may have won, but they will continue to be scrutinised more closely while Kane is sidelined. And now Southampton are in a similar position, after Gabbiadini limped off in the first half. The Italian had scored in his past seven matches, including in his last three appearances for Napoli, before this game, leading Pochettino to say he had been "very impressed" with him beforehand.
Midway through the first half, Gabbiadini showed his quality, exchanging passes with Tadic and rifling a first-time shot into the side netting with Hugo Lloris at full stretch. He carried on for two minutes before signalling to the bench that something was strained, and heading straight down the tunnel.
Saints are already without Charlie Austin for the rest of the season, while Long and Jay Rodriguez have both started just seven league games apiece this season and they are not generally trusted in the lone-striker role by Claude Puel.
After losing the EFL Cup final and surely achieving Premier League safety already, there is a danger that Saints' season could peter out, even if they are bound to be fired up for their first league game after the international break: the South Coast derby against Bournemouth.
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.