It’s safe to say that Watford’s 2019-20 Premier League season hasn’t gone according to plan. After the opening four matches, during which the Hornets took only one point, they fired manager Javi Gracia and brought back Quique Sanchez Flores for his second stint at the club.
Now after an additional four matches, the “new manager bounce” hasn’t happened, unless you consider home draws against Arsenal and Sheffield United to be a “bounce.” Watford are still winless in the league. They’ve scored only four goals all season, three from open play. Strangely, they’re mid-table in xG with a 10.93 rating, meaning they’re either very unlucky or their finishing has been atrocious. Probably a little of both. Understat has their xPoints at nearly 11, which would put them in a tie for ninth.
But the defense. Oh my. Only Norwich has given up more goals, and Watford are third from the bottom in xGA. Part of that is juiced by the 8-0 hammering they got by Manchester City in September, but their only clean sheet was their last match, a scoreless draw against Sheffield United. Not that Tottenham’s defense has been significantly better — it hasn’t — but the combination of an underachieving offense and a defense that is rated worst in the league on Whoscored seems like a pretty good opportunity for Tottenham Hotspur to bounce back and pick up a win.
This is the part of the article where I make a “here’s Doctor Tottenham” joke.
Statsbomb, writing in September just after the appointment of Flores, seemed a little bullish on Watford and suggested that the poor shot conversion will eventually improve to something closer to the mean, and that Watford may end up surviving relegation this season. That’s probably true. That doesn’t mean they’re a very good side right now, because they unequivocally aren’t. However, as we’ve already seen this season, just because Tottenham are hosting a bad team at the bottom of the table doesn’t mean that they’re going to play well, or come away with a result.
How will Tottenham line up against Watford?
Well, if I thought Spurs’ lineup last match against Brighton was a tough one to predict, it’s nothing compared to this one. After two disastrous matches featuring several players that are rumored to be on the outs with Mauricio Pochettino, there are murmurs that Poch could seriously shake up the team, sending some long-time players to the bench for some newer, younger, hungrier players.
Or it could all be bogus. We just don’t know.
Some of the lineup we can predict. We know Paulo Gazzaniga will start, as will Harry Kane. Son Heung-Min quite possibly could be rested for Red Star on Tuesday after a long flight back from Pyongyang, and if there’s any doubt about Christian Eriksen my guess is he won’t play either. It’s Watford, which implies that we will likely see some rotation, but considering Spurs are bad right now are we really in a position to rotate TOO much? Three points are three points and Spurs could really use a win today, especially with a trip to Anfield coming up next weekend.
The rest of it comes down to whether you think Poch is ready to exile want-away players or not. And thanks to Eriksen’s knock, that basically means Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose, and Serge Aurier. If you think he wants to send a message, then we could see a back line of Davies-Foyth-Sanchez-Sissoko. Or maybe Davies-Tanganga-Sanchez-Foyth. If not, one or both of Toby and Jan will be in the lineup. For purposes of this article, I’m going with the “exile defense.”
That’s my predicted lineup for Tottenham Hotspur vs. Watford. What’s yours?