Tottenham Hotspur, thanks to a big penalty save from Paulo Gazzaniga, got their first away clean sheet under Jose Mourinho at a surging Watford side.
Tottenham Hotspur have been a sieve defensively all season long. Today was the first signs of that stopping, as Spurs held a Watford team that had scored 10 goals in their last five games to earn a 0-0 Premier League draw. While Spurs never looked too confident defensively, the back line did just enough not to concede.
Mourinho went with a back four today, using the young Japhet Tanganga for the third time in as many games in his third different position. He was joined by Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, and Serge Aurier. In the first half it looked much like what we have seen since Jose’s arrival, with Aurier pushing up the pitch to form a modified back three. However, as the game progressed, particularly in the second half, the constant threat from Gerard Deulofeu Watford’s left pushed Aurier back into a more defensive role.
Aurier wasn’t the only one feeling the heat, as Tanganga was under just as much pressure on his side of the pitch from Ismaila Sarr. Tanganga – who has progressed through the academy as a center-half – had his hands full with Sarr and earned his first yellow card early in the game after misjudging a header. While Tanganga was beaten a few times – as was Aurier – all of Watford’s 24 crosses were turned away. At least resilience was on display.
In truth, the continued lack of any real wing presence for Tottenham is hurting severely the club. Spurs no longer hold possession enough in the midfield, nor do they get real width from the attacking band, both of which put the fullbacks under more pressure. The more pressure the fullbacks are under the less they can contribute to the attack, and a vicious cycle ensues. That happened today and it almost cost Tottenham in the end.
When you are trapped defensively, bad things can happen. That is exactly what happened for Jan Vertonghen at 69 minutes. Vertonghen slid to block a shot, but held his arm up a bit too high. Jan irrefutably handled. He received a yellow, making way for Gazzaniga’s moment of the game.
Watford has had multiple penalties during their undefeated streak, and Troy Deeney has been putting them home. Today Deeney left the ball waste high and about half-way between Gazzaniga’s starting position and the post. In other words, he hit the shot fat and Gazzaniga easily blocked the ball to preserve the point.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 18, 2020
Beyond the penalty, Vertonghen and Alderweireld were better defensively on the day. They weren’t beaten by the long ball and kept the attackers in front of them. Given the run of form from Watford and the constant pressure, they both held up well. That said, it’s likely one of the two gets a rest to add a bit more pace against Norwich midweek.
All-in-all, a clean sheet is a big deal for this club and will hopefully lead to some confidence on the defensive side of the ball.