Premier League 2022: Kulusevski Shines In Tottenham’s 4-1 Win Over Southampton
Despite falling behind early in the game, Tottenham scored four goals in the next seven minutes to open the 2022-23 Premier League season with a victory in north London on Saturday.
James Ward-Prowse scored the Saints’ first goal after 12 minutes, before Ryan Sessegnon, Eric Dier, Mohammed Salisu (own goal) and Dejan Kulusevski added to the score in a much-improved performance from Antonio Conte’s side as they picked up where they left off at the end of last season.
Tottenham vs Southampton: What we learned
There were four goals scored by Tottenham on the opening day of the season, and all Harry Kane and Heung-min Son were able to contribute to the cause was one measly assist between them.
It was the spurs’ dynamic duo that took a backseat on Saturday, as Kulusevski largely ran the show from the right side of midfield, after combining for 40 goals and 16 assists between them last season.
With the early goal conceded, Spurs were a constant threat to win the ball high up the field and create scoring opportunities out of one or two simple passes after conceding the early goal.
Normally, Kane and Son will gorge themselves on goals and assists in that situation, but maybe this season they will be a bit more balanced and multifaceted in their approach in that situation.
Southampton’s heads dropped after conceding goals after a quick start
For the first 15 minutes of the game, the Saints were comfortably the superior team-wide, while the Spurs took their sweet time to settle in.
Once they did, however, it was as if a switch had been flipped (on both sides), and wave after wave of pressing and attacking came at them from every direction.
Gavin Bazunu, a 20-year-old goalkeeper who is part of the Irish national team, made a decent debut from a shot-stopping perspective, but he gave the ball away too easily when trying to play out from the back.
Whenever Saints attempted to do anything, they were under extreme duress from the moment Tottenham equalized.
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Due to the lack of time on the ball in the midfield, the forwards were not provided with any kind of service, with the exception of an occasional counter-attacking opportunity.
Spurs’ first two goals came as a result of crosses from very wide areas, with Kulusevski and Son creating as much out wide as they did combining in the middle of the park.
Conte’s system emphasizes the importance of maintaining width, whether it is through the use of the wingers or the use of overlapping fullbacks.
Whenever you play with three at the back, there’s a risk that you’re going to become far too narrow in possession, which then leads to a very little buildup in the last third of the field.
As far as Son and Kulusevski are concerned, they are the most dangerous in the channels and off Kane, but they are equally willing to stretch the field to put someone else in a dangerous situation.
As long as the midfield and attack get too compact and narrow and the wing-backs are forced to play deeper defensively (read: against Manchester City and Liverpool), Spurs will struggle to break down the opposition.
Stars in the show
Kulusevski is 22 years old and has only been at Spurs for eight months when watching him play.