Having seen Dele Alli rise to the challenge of filling the gap left by the club’s leading scorer, the Tottenham boss had no reason to change his view.
The loss of Kane to an ankle injury that is likely to keep the England international out for six weeks was regarded as the final blow to Spurs’ slender hopes of chasing down Chelsea. Yet while the prospects of them closing the 10-point gap to the leaders look even more remote after another weekend passed without Antonio Conte’s side slipping up, Pochettino’s side continue to look capable of leading the chasing pack.
Kane’s 19 league goals have been a major factor in Spurs’ rise to the position of best of the rest. But against Southampton, Alli ensured he featured on the scoresheet for a fourth successive game when he converted from the penalty spot after Christian Eriksen had fired the home side ahead in the 13th minute. The spot-kick took the midfielder’s tally to 14 league goals and gave Spurs valuable breathing space that was required when James Ward-Prowse replied in the 52nd minute. And the way he grabbed the ball to stake his claim to deputise for Kane, the regular penalty taker, suggested he has the appetite to add to that tally.
“Dele Alli always can surprise and you can’t guess with him,” said Pochettino. “He has an unbelievable personality and character and it is all possible with him. He is a player who plays in his best position, he is a player who likes to run into the box, he is very often very clever into the box.
“In the box he looks like a striker because he is more than clever, he has made his mark. Outside the box playing like a midfielder. I saw him at 17 years old playing at Milton Keynes as a holding midfielder against Manchester United. And I don’t know, always he can surprise me, maybe one day he can play like a goalkeeper or a full-back or a centre-back.”
And confirming he had no problem with the on-field debate about who should take the penalty, Pochettino added: “For me it’s okay. It’s good that you have on the pitch players that want to take responsibility to take the penalty. Fantastic. When there is no Harry Kane, for me everyone can take the penalty.”
Pochettino had every reason to be satisfied with the outcome that extended his side’s formidable record at White Hart Lane to 10 successive league wins, a club record.
Southampton could consider themselves unfortunate not to have left with a point but at times Tottenham looked worthy title contenders, right from the moment Eriksen expertly picked his spot to convert from 20 yards.
The second goal came after the visitors had lost in-form forward Manolo Gabbiadini to a groin injury and when Alli tumbled under a challenge from Steven Davis. Claude Puel, the Southampton manager disputed the decision, but Alli kept his nerve to double the lead.
Puel had further cause for complaint immediately before half-time when referee Andre Marriner rejected appeals for a Southampton penalty when Ben Davies brought down Dusan Tadic. “It was difficult to accept their second goal. If the referee gives the penalty the first then he needed to give the penalty for us. I cannot see the difference.”
Southampton’s response continued to trouble Tottenham and they were back in the game when Ward-Prowse turned home Ryan Bertrand’s cross but Pochettino’s side withstood the growing pressure to claim victory.
“It was a great opportunity to win and you will always miss your main striker,” said Pochettino.
“We must do what we can while he is injured and it was important to us to get that feeling, win the game, score goals and I think it keeps our position in the table with a very important three points.
“Our home form is fantastic. I think the team deserved all the prizes because we have been playing very well. It’s always difficult to play and keep your level in every game, but we have to be pleased to keep our position, get three points and our performance was good. In the first half, 2-0, we were in control of the game. It is true that with their goal we made a mistake, but that always happens in football. The victory keeps us in a very good position in the table.”
LLoris 6; Dier 7, Alderweireld 5, Vertonghen 6; Walker 6 (Trippier 78), Wanyama 8, Dembele 8, Davies 6; Eriksen 7 (Janssen 86), ALLI 9; Son 7 (Winks 75).
Vorm, Sissoko, Onomah, Wimmer.
Forster 6; Soares 6, Stephens 7, Yoshida 5, Bertrand 7; Davis 6, Romeu 8; Ward-Prowse 7, Tadic 7 (Boufal 69, 5), Redmond 7 (Rodriguez 81); Gabbiadini 6 (Long 31, 6).
Hassan, Caceres, Hojbjerg, McQueen.
Andre Marriner 5