Tottenham Hotspur began their new Premier League campaign with a 4-1 win from behind at home to Southampton on Saturday afternoon, moving top of a very early table.
Despite an active transfer window, Antonio Conte didn’t start any of the club’s six new signings. Southampton had three of their summer recruits in the XI but it was the familiar face of captain James-Ward Prowse that broke the deadlock in the 12th minute, crisply volleying Moussa Djenepo’s cutback into the turf and over the line.
Having been painfully passive for the opener, Spurs hauled themselves level within ten minutes. Ryan Sessegnon provided a nod of approval for Dejan Kulusevski’s sumptuous, in-swinging cross at the back post.
Son Heung-min arced in a devilish delivery of his own after half an hour. Forward from a corner kick, Eric Dier helped the low cross into the far corner with a delicately glanced header.
Spurs finished a first half short of chances but laced with efficiency (half of the first six shots were scored) with a flurry of openings for Son and Harry Kane which the pair squandered on the cusp of the interval.
An hour into the new campaign, Mohammed Salisu recorded a strong contender for blunder of the season. Tottenham’s counter-attack had slowed to a crawl by the time Emerson Royal rolled the ball across the box. With time and space to take a touch or clear his lines, Salisu chose none of the above, tangling his own legs as he comedically sent the ball trickling over the goal line.
Spurs capitalised upon the disruption amid Southampton’s ranks as Emerson and Kulusevski dovetailed down the right, wreaking havoc in the space behind Djenepo, a natural forward at left wingback. Kulusevski cut onto his feared left foot to curl in Tottenham’s fourth of the afternoon within two minutes of their third.
Outside the opening quarter of an hour, Southampton struggled to create any notable chances as Spurs were comfortable defending their own penalty box, ultimately easing their way to three points to open the 2022/23 campaign.
GK: Hugo Lloris – 6/10 – Unable to rebuff Ward-Prowse’s opener but dealt calmly with what little else came his way.
CB: Cristian Romero – 7/10 – Reliably solid on the right of Tottenham’s compact back-three.
CB: Eric Dier – 7/10 – Taking an aggressive approach when tracking Joe Aribo’s hovering, Dier demonstrated a clinical touch which belied his three-year goal drought.
CB: Ben Davies – 7/10 – Always there as the second wave of Tottenham’s presence in the final third, without quite providing the final shot or pass.
RWB: Emerson Royal – 6/10 – The innate chaos of his game was unhelpful in his own half but proved very effective going forward.
CM: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – 6/10 – Peppered his performance with some raking passes alongside the expected ratting around off the ball.
CM: Rodrigo Bentancur – 6/10 – Kept things simple with a raft of one-touch, five-yard passes.
LWB: Ryan Sessegnon – 7/10 – Stormed in at the back post as he chugged up and down the left flank.
RW: Dejan Kulusevski – 8/10 – Caused all sorts of problems during a silky display.
ST: Harry Kane – 5/10 – Reprising his unique role of playmaking number nine, Kane was limited to a smattering of taps and flicks near the halfway line.
LW: Son Heung-min – 5/10 – Lacked his normal edge when lining up a shot on goal.
SUB: Ivan Perisic (66′ for Sessegnon) – 5/10
SUB: Lucas Moura (86′ for Kulusevski) – N/A
SUB: Clement Lenglet (86′ for Davies) – N/A
SUB: Yves Bissouma (86′ for Bentancur) – N/A
SUB: Matt Doherty (87′ for Emerson) – N/A
Manager: Antonio Conte – 6/10 – Let the players he started get themselves out of the mess they created for themselves.
GK: Gavin Bazunu – 6/10 – Commanding aerially but worryingly uncomfortable when he wasn’t using his gloves, Bazunu couldn’t be blamed for any of the goals.
CB: Yan Valery – 5/10 – Pushing out of the back-three when Southampton had possession, Valery’s work off the ball was deemed poor enough to see him hook at the break.
CB: Jan Bednarek – 4/10 – Skittish when put under pressure with the ball at his feet.
CB: Mohammed Salisu – 3/10 – Endured a mental blackout to blot out going forward.
RWB: Kyle Walker-Peters – 6/10 – Beaten by a stunning delivery as he let Sessegnon sneak away from him but threw his body in the way of several balls thereafter.
CM: James Ward-Prowse – 6/10 – Even in open play, the skipper’s revered technique was on full display in north London.
CM: Romeo Lavia – 7/10 – Sitting behind his central midfield colleagues, Lavia was unflustered even when white shirts charged around him.
CM: Oriol Romeu – 4/10 – Despite more licence to get forward, Romeu ambled around in No Man’s Land for much of the match.
LWB: Moussa Djenepo – 5/10 – Shoe-horned into an unnaturally defensive role, Djenepo created the opener but was increasingly exposed defensively as the match wore on.
ST: Joe Aribo – 4/10 – Flittered in and mainly out of an anonymous debut.
ST: Adam Armstrong – 3/10 – Stuck operating on a different wavelength to his teammates before he was mercifully hauled off at half-time.
SUB: Stuart Armstrong (46′ for A Armstrong) – 4/10 – Scarcely touched the ball, let alone provided the impact his half-time introduction intended.
SUB: Jack Stephens (46′ for Valery) – 4/10 – Failed to purvey any sense of security after his arrival.
SUB: Romain Perraud (72′ for Djenepo) – 5/10
SUB: Ibrahima Diallo (75′ for Romeu) – 5/10
SUB: Nathan Redmond (90+2′ for Walker-Peters) – N/A
Manager: Ralph Hasenhuttl – 5/10 – Took a proactive approach with a pair of substitutions that offered little better than the players they replaced. Hasenhuttl may be ruing the decision to leave Djenepo on at wingback for so long.