An intense press from the midfielders and forwards but without a stupidly risky high line, Mauricio Pochettino’s Southampton played very attractive football.
They pounced as soon as they lost possession high up the pitch, but were also solid defending behind the ball. Performances against Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal in 2013/14 were excellent.
“All teams want to press and win the ball back quickly,” the boss said after Pochettino made a great impression on the south coast. “Southampton maybe do it better than others.
“We were tested by being challenged for every single ball and we responded quite well.
“We always had the focus and I could never feel that we eased off. They made it very difficult for us.”
That was Wenger’s verdict on a 2-0 win, courtesy of an Artur Boruc error and a penalty. Olivier Giroud pounced to score twice, but the game proved to be one of Arsenal’s biggest tests of the season.
The reverse fixture, which ended in a 2-2 draw, was the same. Arsenal were never settled in midfield and the game could’ve been out of sight by half-time.
A move to Spurs in the summer of 2014, and Wenger had to wait until his third meeting against the Argentine for a north London derby win. That came this season, with Mathieu Flamini scoring both goals in a League Cup game. The Premier League clashes last season were a very different story.
The first half saw Arsenal struggle to breakthrough a deep defence before the opener, scored by Nacer Chadli, came after Spurs pressed Mathieu Flamini high up the field. At White Hart Lane, Spurs targeted Santi Cazorla and outnumbered him, negating his ability in small spaces.
Incapable of playing out, Arsenal lost the game 2-1 despite taking the lead.
Four Premier League games, and Wenger has won just one. That came thanks to Artur Boruc having a mare.
One point last season, hopefully Wenger can quadruple his north London derby tally against Pochettino on Sunday.