Goals from Gareth Bale and Heung-min Son ensured a winning start to Ryan Mason’s caretaker spell in charge of Tottenham Hotspur as they came from behind to defeat Southampton in the Premier League.
Spurs looked toothless in the first half and were gifted their two strikes in the second as the Welsh superstar, starting for the first time since the north London derby, capitalised on a defensive mistake before the South Korean converted from the spot, having had an earlier effort ruled out via VAR.
The 29-year-old has hardly had much time to implement his own ideas but you could certainly see a change in spirit and energy, and it certainly felt like the side played with more freedom.
And this was most notably seen in just how much possession Mason’s full-backs enjoyed despite playing in a back four, rather than a back five.
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Both Sergio Reguilon and Serge Aurier recorded the most touches of the 22 players that started, with the latter edging it with a whopping 108 touches of the ball, as per SofaScore.
The 28-year-old deserves as much credit as the two goalscorers as he responded to our calls to see him axed with a pretty impressive display – by comparison, he only normally manages 65 touches each league game.
For once, he was far from being his usual calamitous self and actually proved to be a defensive beast at the back, as well as contributing further up the pitch with some nice link-up play with Bale.
No one recorded as many tackles as Aurier (seven), to emphasise just how good that was, the other Spurs players on the pitch combined for 11 between them, four of which was from the right-winger.
Aurier’s usual average is just 2.9 tackles, so he certainly exceeded expectations.
The £18m-rated star, who earns a reported £120k-per-week in north London, also won 13 duels and provided a single block, interception and clearance – young Nathan Tella really struggled to contribute, as a result.
We may have been slightly critical of his recent performances, but Aurier should also be handed praise when it’s due.
He was Mason’s unsung hero along that right-flank and he certainly will not get the plaudits, with Son and Bale finding the net to clinch a valuable three points in their race to secure a top-four finish.