In an up and down performance where the Spurs avoided the big mistake, Tottenham continued their perfect run to start the season with a 1-0 win over Watford.
It is early in the Premier League season but with nine points from the first three matches, this is the kind of start Tottenham Hotspur and Nuno Espirito Santo would have hoped for. Additionally, we have not seen the attacking flair of the preseason yet in the Premier League but the Spurs still go to the top of the table after a 1-0 win over Watford.
Contrasting style stifles Spurs early
Although they did eventually settle down into a very counter-attack-oriented gameplan = maybe too much so from a Hornet’s perspective – Watford was on the front foot early. Within the first 40 seconds of the match, Moussa Sissoko was dropping a pass off in the box and only a very brave header from Eric Dier likely saved Tottenham from an early Juraj Kucka goal.
Watford’s organization made it tough on Tottenham
As the game progressed things settled down a bit and Tottenham eventually took over the majority of the possession. However, Watford was very organized, turning their 4-1-4-1 into a 5-4-1 defense when the Spurs had possession.
Essentially, Watford was using Peter Etebo to sit central and double team the ball as soon as it was cut into the box. This defense effectively limited the LIlywhite’s ability to get shots on frame off the dribble.
Then when the Hornets had the ball in possession they got really wide to stretch the Tottenham defense across the pitch and effectively limit the Spurs press. You could draw a line straight up the pitch from the fullbacks to the Watford wingers who were trying their hardest to keep the Spurs fullbacks wide and engaged.
Watford’s game plan was a good one and they employed it effectively. Unfortunately for the Hornets, some goalkeeping indecision would cost them the game.
Son does just enough for Spurs
The game was by no means a masterclass on either end, however, Tottenham did have the majority of possession (58%) and outshot Watford 15 to 9, which included eight shots on target to Watford’s two according to whoscored.com. Despite the Spurs never really being pushed and Watford not testing Hugo Lloris, Tottenham struggled to create clear-cut chances of their own to put the game away.
It was a relatively fortunate – or unfortunate depending on perspective – play that led to the only goal of the game. Tottenham had a free-kick wide on the left near the top of the box. Heung-Min Son stepped up to put an inswinging curler into the box hoping someone might get on the end of it.
Essentially, the best ball for a player here is to aim for the far corner and that is what Son did.
As the ball curled in, Watford keeper Daniel Bachmann took one step toward the ball as if he was going to cut the cross. Then in the worst possible move, a keeper can make, he then took a step back. That moment of hesitation and indecision was all it took as the ball hit the turf one time and skipped past Bachmann into the net.
The rest of the game had a back and forth ebb and flow, which Tottenham mostly had control of. There were a few times where it looked like Tottenham would put the game away but they never did. Harry Kane had an excellent volley off a corner kick but it was saved. Another time, Kane got down the right and crossed in only for the shot from Dele Alli skid just wide.
While Tottenham could not find a second they were certainly not going to let Watford find a first. In an approach very similar to Manchester City, the Spurs refused to allow runners past them on the dribble, committing several professional fouls near midfield before the situation could deteriorate.
These fouls led to three yellow cards for Tottenham but also meant no clear-cut advantages on the counter for Watford. Now with nine points from three matches, even with just three goals for, when you see zero goals against – best in the league – you realize these Spurs might be something different. It is far too early to tell for sure but Sunday was another big win because the team took all three points.