Mauricio Pellegrino knows Southampton will have to produce a “perfect” display to get the better of Liverpool at St Mary’s Stadium.
And while he’s vary of the threat Mohamed Salah poses, he’s warned his team not to become fixated on stopping just Liverpool’s leading scorer who has 21 goals so far this campaign.
“He is a top-class player, but one player alone can do nothing when you don’t have a context, the connection and co-ordination with your team-mates,” the Southampton manager said.
“Salah is an important player, but so is their striker, their midfielder and defenders.
“Liverpool are a really good team and have a lot of capacity to create problems.”
Pellegrino spent a short spell with Liverpool under Rafael Benitez towards the end of his playing career, and also later worked there with the Spaniard as a first-team coach.
Having seen the Saints well beaten 3-0 on his Anfield return earlier in the season, the Argentinian coach is hoping for a better show this time around.
“For sure it is special for me to be in Southampton and playing against this team, of the biggest clubs, not only in the Premier League, but in the world,” he said.
“Now, though, I am representing Southampton and will try to do our best, to try to compete much better than we did away (against Liverpool).”
Pellegrino added: “To play one game well like the other day (at West Brom), that is important, but more so to be consistent in every single game.
“We always have to improve in some respects. When you don’t play well, it is about the small things, being more consistent, especially in our mentality.”
The margin of victory should have been greater, three other excellent chances being wasted by the England forward.
In contrast, the Gunners did not have a shot from inside the box until substitute Alexandre Lacazette appallingly ballooned a volley well over deep into second-half injury time.
Here, we analyse the performance of the new Arsenal
Goals – 0
Assists – 0
Shots – 0
Shots on target – 0
Touches – 23
Passes – 18
Key passes – 0
Dribbles – 0
Dispossessed – 0
From the ecstasy of his scoring debut against willing Everton, Aubameyang came crashing down to earth.
The £56 million (Dh284.5m) buy from Borussia Dortmund’s only sniff of a goal came in the 13th minute when a marginal offside call from England midfielder Jack Wilshere’s cute pass denied him a one-on-one opportunity.
Was left frustrated when Switzerland centre midfielder Granit Xhaka over-hit a pass to him in the second half, and also put in an absurdly-bad cross in injury-time when redeployed to the left flank.
WAITING TO POUNCE – Arsenal’s game plan revolved around getting men back in numbers and then springing on the counter-attack.
In the early running, they appeared poised to cause Spurs problem. Aubameyang loitered on the shoulder of the last man and stayed alert to each opportunity.
It was not his fault that wretched ex-BVB team-mate Henrikh Mkhitaryan completed zero key passes and was hooked after 64 minutes, while Germany playmaker Mesut Ozil’s return of two key passes was half that of Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen.
CAN A LEOPARD CHANGE ITS SPOTS? – Arsenal knew what they were getting when they invested in the Gabon striker.
He is a man who will flit in and out of matches, bursting into life when a presentable chance comes his way. But is this contribution enough for Arsenal?
The structure of the team does not appear sound enough to carry such a luxury player. At their top-six rivals, Sergio Aguero, Romelu Lukaku, Harry Kane, Alvaro Morata and Roberto Firmino all, to varying degrees, provide far more than mere goals.
13th min CHANCE: Wilshere looks up and springs Aubameyang, who is denied a clear chance by the assistant referee’s flag.
60th CHANCE WASTED: Xhaka lacks the ability to play Aubameyang through, despite his excellent run.
92nd CHANCE WASTED: Moved out to the left flank to accommodate replacement Lacazette, a position he’s not played in years. An embarrassing cross which fired out of play shows why he should stay central.
Nothing new was learned about Aubameyang, as a player.
Famously, he only had 19 touches in his soporific last run-out for Dortmund. But this is a club he scored 141 times for in 213 games, and his ability to unsettle on the counter was also visible at Wembley for new employers.
The key takeaway is how manager Arsene Wenger reacts to seeing his new front line fail to make the most of moments of transition while further weakening a suspect defence. Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan and Ozil contributed two tackles between them; Dele Alli, Eriksen and Kane provided six.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com
Spurs could have won by more at Wembley had they not squandered countless chances in the second half but Kane’s seventh goal in eight versions of this fixture was enough to seal all three points.
Here, we look at three things learned from a Spurs perspective.
KANE NOT YET THE WORLD’S BEST CENTRE-FORWARD
Seven goals in seven Premier League games against Arsenal – Kane is well and truly the king in the north of London.
But the Spurs striker should have stretched that record to at least nine with a hat-trick opportunity missed.
Seconds after his brilliantly headed opener, he missed with another seconds later and then saw a bullet volley stopped by Cech. He glanced wide from yards out with another header in the first half and there’s a legitimate argument to suggest his support play superseded his finishing on Saturday.
Yet, Kane showed all the elements of his repertoire to support his case as the world’s best centre-forward – a conversation which includes Robert Lewandowski and Luis Suarez.
His movement to float between the two Arsenal centre-backs was clever, his one-touch lay-offs crafty while his perfectly executed switch balls were crisp.
Suarez was the last player to break the 30-goal barrier in the Premier League in 2013/14 and it’s reaching that bracket which will truly elevate the England international above the likes of the Uruguayan and Lewandowski.
He’s on track with 23 already, but squandering chances like he did against Arsenal is why he’s in the discussion rather than leading it – for now at least, after all at 24 he’s nine years Suarez’s junior and seven to Lewandowski.
HALF-TIME GENIUS FROM POCHETTINO
Mauricio Pochettino and Arsene Wenger before Saturday’s clash
There have been games and moments in which Mauricio Pochettino has truly announced his managerial eminence.
Outclassing Manchester United and Liverpool, taking four points from Real Madrid and six from Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League are testaments to their big-game mentality.
There have been games where they have failed to perform but that never looked like being the case on Saturday as they stretched their unbeaten run to 12.
Another late-season charge appears to be on the cards and with Spurs sitting third, Pochettino’s side are right in the mix for a top-four finish.
And the manager deserves tremendous credit for a huge three points. Arsene Wenger did the right thing and started with a compact midfield to nullify Dele Ali, Christian Eriksen and Son.
The route to Kane was cut off with Elneny and Xhaka rotating as a third centre-back. But after half-time, Pochettino replied by pushing Son and Eriksen wide with their full-backs taking up a more central position.
It meant there was no one to stop the crosses as they came in field and ultimately it proved dividends with the winner.
A brilliant tactical tweak from Pochettino and another justification of why Madrid are sniffing around.
DAVIES’ DELIVERY IS UNDERRATED
If only we could find more players with the attitude and commitment as Ben Davies whenever he takes to the field. His crossing ability is also severely underrated, a peach of a ball for Kane’s header today. #COYS#THFCpic.twitter.com/8o75zkZetB— Ricky Sacks 🎙 (@RickSpur) February 10, 2018
Whenever Ben Davies takes to the field his attitude is near exemplary.
Committed and commanding, it’s easy to see why Spurs fans have taken to the 24-year-old left-back.
He is keeping Danny Rose out of the team on merit and considering figures of £50million are being tagged to him, you wonder how much Davies is worth.
The Welshman has barely been singled out for the praise he deserves having really gone up another level in recent weeks but he was superb again on Saturday.
His crossing ability is seriously underrated and the delivery for Kane’s header was a real peach for a sixth assist of the season.
The fact he was afforded the time by Arsenal defenders is for another day but the cross practically rolled out the red carpet for a blockbuster header. It wasn’t quality in isolation though. He crossed the ball five times against Arsenal and all were whipped into dangerous areas in between the centre-halves and goalkeeper.
Away from his quality on the ball, his adaptability was another key asset for Spurs as he moved into field to help create space for Son who was being doubled up on.
A previously perceived weak link in the wake of Rose’s injury troubles has become an area strength.