After two very poor performances it appeared we were on course for a third and with it our second successive 1-0 home defeat but the introduction of two youngsters – both products of our Academy – changed the dynamic of the team and indeed the match.
Ryan Mason was a revelation especially to those who have not seen too much of him, while Harry Kane showed yet again that he does possess the ability to turn defenders and score goals. In between their fine strikes, Roberto Soldado´s instinctive touch from outside the box turned in another wayard effort from Andros Townsend.
And so we ran out winners, comfortably enough in the end, but yet again questions are being asked as to why the level of performance is not what it should be.
We all know that Pochettino demands a high pressing game, intent on winning the ball back quickly and using it effectively and whilst this worked against QPR it has since failed to materialise no matter who is in the team or who the opposition. Individuals whose work rate rarely comes into question seem lethargic and fatigued – even in the first half.
The new regime requires a high level of fitness and I am sure the players are all responding and putting in the appropriate effort on the training pitch and this is the message we are getting whenever a player is interviewed, so why aren´t they able to put the effort in on the pitch? Could the two go hand in hand? Are players so exhausted after strenuous double training sessions that come match day they are simply too tired.
Last season there were reports from Southampton players who were not used to the training methods that they simply went straight home in the afternoon and all they could do was sleep – they were that worn out.
Is the strategy of getting the players into peak fitness at all costs leaving them short of time to recover and thus their performances where it matters most – on the pitch for 90 minutes – suffers?
Perhaps once all the squad have achieved optimum fitness the training programme can be scaled back and players will be given more flexibility in their routines with ample time to recuperate but with games coming at the rate of two per week for the foreseeable future, there is little hope of any respite, and the games do not come much bigger or harder than the one we face tomorrow afternoon.
Any game against our oldest foe is always going to be hard, but the trip to the EmuRat this year is going to be a serious test of nerve and skill, let alone fitness. While we have struggled to find any semblance of form over the past month, Le Arse have gained in strength in the Premier League, with three successive draws followed by that 3-0 demolition of Villa last weekend.
Admittedly their midweek form has not been impressive – but until Wednesday night neither had ours – but they too put out almost an entirely different team.
They will be virtually at full strength, with Ozil looking like he is back to his best form, the likes of Ramsey and Wiltshire will be raring to go and a rejuvenated Welbeck looking to prove all the doubters wrong.
They will be hurting after going out of the Capital One Cup, so they will need no extra motivation for this game.
Will Pochettino go with an unchanged League team for the third game in a row or will he mix and match, bringing in players – Vertonghen, Fazio and Stambouli for example – who have only played in midweek recently?
Whoever plays will need to be on top form and in the right state of mind, this will be the biggest test of the season so far, it will show where we are in relation to one of the teams vying for a top four finish, we will need to be at our very best to even contemplate survival let alone anything else.
For the moment I would be glad to come away with a point.