Saturday's lunch time kick-off between Southampton and Tottenham has more narrative than an episode of Game of Thrones. Thankfully there's far less nudity although I'm fairly certain the expletives will be on par. I'd hazard a guess that's the part of the game Spurs (fans) will come out on top. I'm not so sure of equal success on the pitch. Statistically, we do have plenty of positives related to this fixture. We've won five on the trot against the St Mary's club since they reclaimed their Premier League status. Although historically, it's never been a happy hunting ground for points. We also have one of the best away records in the top flight. That's where the positives end. Okay, so I exaggerated the extent of the positives.
Both clubs have been erratic recently, which says plenty about the quality of the teams below us because a win (for either side) would see Liverpool leapfrogged for 5th spot. The game is being citied tentatively as a Europa League essential as we both 'battle it out' to claim qualification. Seems everyone is arguing about Europe at the moment. No referendum with Tottenham, just a philosophical debate over whether the lack of recovery time post-Thursday nights has been hurtful to our momentum.
Mauricio Pochettino has remarked about the lack of points accumulated (9 out of 33) directly after European games when kicking off in and around lunch time. It's always going to catch up with you if rotation isn't common place. The question with Poch and his lack of mixing it up to avoid the festering of fatigue will then lead to the lack of genuine depth in our squad. He could have used the likes of Benji Stambouli and Federico Fazio far more often, as two prime examples. We've played more games than most and it was always going to drain us of effort towards the back end of the season. Europa football is not a fulfilling commitment for the players. I don't see a team chasing silverware, I see one plodding through unavoidable games in the calender. Even the promise of Champions League qualification (by winning it) isn't enough to prompt pomp.
Ronald Koeman has been excellent this season, astutely understated as Southampton have risen above the disappointment of losing their 'star' players. A testament to their internal infrastructure, transfer policy and academy development. No wonder we pinched Paul Mitchell from them. Their season will be perceived as a success and with European football, Koeman would be in with a shout for the Manager of the Year award.
No European football isn't something Bill Nicholson would be happy about. Maybe a sabbatical will work with the greater good in mind (focus on league games) leading to more sustained challenges.
So onwards to the game. Poch returns to St Mary's. Southampton supporters to dress in orange to celebrate Koeman's tangible success as coach. Harry Kane versus the meanest defence in the league. Maybe the narrative isn't as rich as Game of Thrones, but if there's one song that's synonymous with Tottenham's season it's The Rains of Castamere. Everyone thing is going to plan, it all looks good. And then in the midst of celebration, we have our throats slit.
For the moment, Poch's head won't end up on a stake. That threat will come in season two.