Tottenham Hotspur are unbeaten in their first three matches in the Premier League this season, with away wins at Newcastle and Manchester United, and a “home” win over Fulham sandwiched between. You know who else has nine points from three matches? Watford, who will host Spurs at Vicarage Road this Sunday.
The Hornets have a penchant for starting the season off with a bang. Last year, under now-Everton manager Marco Silva, they lost just once in their opening eight matches, though that singular loss was a 6-0 shellacking by Manchester City. This season they are once again off to a fast start under Javi Gracia with wins over Brighton, Burnley, and Crystal Palace. It’s their best ever start to a Premier League season.
And strangely enough, they’re doing it with good defense. Through the first three matches, Watford have conceded only twice, are averaging only 7.7 shots per game (behind Manchester City), and are second in the league in expected goals allowed (xGA) with 2.27 (again behind City). It’s a super small sample size against pretty meh opposition, but Watford has looked pretty decent thus far, especially at home.
But as good as their defense has been in the early goings, their offense has been a little anemic. In fact, the vast majority of their offense has come from new signing Roberto Pereyra, who is leading the team in both goals scored (3) and shots per game (2.7), and Troy Deeney (1g, 2.3 s/g). They also have summer signing Will Hughes, who, as you might have heard, is on fire.
That’s all to say that there’s some evidence that this may not be the same Watford side that took five points from its last nine fixtures last season, limping to a 14th place finish. They’ve been pretty ruthless against Burnley and Brighton, and should feel good about beating Palace. On the other hand, this is pretty much what they did last season, too and they reverted to the mean. Going up against a Tottenham squad that looks like a title contender will easily be their stiffest test to date, and Spurs should be strong favorites.
Conversely, coming off of what feels like a statement win over Manchester United at Old Trafford, Spurs will need to be wary of complacency against Watford, as this could be a vintage banana-peel match.
How will Tottenham lineup against Watford?
It’s getting a little difficult to accurately predict what’s in Mauricio Pochettino’s mind, just three matches into the new season. Poch has shown an unusual tactical flexibility and willingness to rotate in key positions, especially as he attempts to protect his World Cup-weary players. Of course, some players are immune to any form of rotation — Harry Kane, Dele Alli, and Lucas Moura are on sensational form, and Christian Eriksen is the engine that makes the entire team run. Still, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to see a few new faces, if only on the bench.
Honestly, I have no idea how Poch will set up his side, but I’d like to think that Poch is as dissatisfied with Spurs’ defense as I am. Watford pretty much run the dang 4-4-2 and Deeney can give any center back something to think about. Against two not-bad strikers in Deeney and Andre Grey, I wonder if we might not see the back three again at Vicarage Road, with Dembele making way for Davinson Sanchez. I’d put money on Spurs’ midfield handling the likes of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue even without Moose, but Spurs will certainly have him on the bench if things don’t go according to plan. I suspect the fullbacks may run riot on Sunday, and we already know what Trippier can do against Watford.
That’s my guess for Spurs’ starting XI against Watford. What’s yours?