A rather listless performance for most of the match by Tottenham Hotspur was salvaged thanks in part to a defensive blunder that Dele Alli capitalized on, picking up a point at home by the final score of 1-1.
Mauricio Pochettino opted for a back three coming off the international break, keeping Tanguy Ndombele on the bench and rolling with a Moussa Sissoko - Harry Winks midfield. Dele and Lucas slotted in behind Harry Kane to make it a 3-4-2-1. Watford countered with their own back three formation in return.
Watford had to adjust almost immediately as striker Danny Welbeck tweaked his hamstring and was subbed off for Gerard Deulofeu. Watford did not alter their formation due to the like for like swap, sticking with their back three.
The injury did not affect the Hornets in the least as they struck just four minutes after the substitution. Daryl Janmaat received a cross-field pass that was on a dime and made a couple of easy dribbles before crossing into the penalty area. Abdoulaye Doucoure made a run, leaving the Tottenham defense behind him and one-timed the shot into the lower corner, putting the visitors up 1-0.
There wasn’t much to talk about through the first twenty minutes after the goal. Spurs had a very light penalty shout at about the 15’ mark as Danny Rose took a quick corner and ended up on his side. While there was contact, it would have been a very soft penalty if given. Dele also had a chance at 23’ as he received a pass from Lucas at the top of the penalty area, but his shot was a bit awkward and was easily scooped up.
The match maintained a rather lethargic pace and felt like a copy/paste every two minutes: Get possession, push into Watford’s half, kick the ball around the defenders and either turn it over after one progressive pass or fire a cross into traffic that went nowhere. To say this process was frustrating is sugar coating it. This is how the entire half played out, over and over, with no sense or urgency whatsoever. Spurs were sent off into the dressing room to a chorus of boos from the Spurs faithful, and rightfully so.
Pochettino made a halftime sub(!) by bringing on Son Heung-Min for Davinson Sanchez. The formation was switched to a 4-2-3-1 to start the second half in hopes of kick-starting the attack.
Sonny didn’t have to wait long to get involved in the match as Dele put him into the final third on a gorgeous through ball in the 49th minute. The Korean international fired one for top shelf but drilled it off the crossbar. It was the first real sign of an attack in almost half an hour of game time. There were some half-chances and good strings of passes a few times after, but nothing as close as Sonny’s blast.
Lamela came on for Lucas in the 62nd minute to provide fresh legs. At this point in the match, Spurs had 70% of the possession yet it felt like they had been so far away from scoring a goal with only a couple of exceptions. While Spurs managed to get deeper into the attacking third on occasion, not much changed in the overall flow of the match. Spurs still had trouble breaking down Watford’s defense.
Tanguy Ndombele was brought on as the final sub in the 69th minute for Harry Winks as Spurs searched desperately for a goal. Lamela ripped a cross into the penalty area for Dele in the 73rd minute but couldn’t get on the end of it.
Spurs finally got their breakthrough in the 86th minute thanks to a major screw-up by Watford. A ball deep into Watford territory led Foster to coming out of his net to try and gather it up, but he clashed with a defender and the ball popped up into the air. Dele controlled it with his chest, brought it down and first it into the side netting. VAR had to do a check to ensure Dele didn’t handle the ball. After a bit of confusion, the goal was given and it was all square at one goal each.
Spurs pushed hard to get the winner and had a couple of chances to do it, including a free kick 40 yards out. Not much came of it other than a couple of scrums between players and more time wasting by Watford. The match came to an end with a bit of a thud as Spurs couldn’t get one last great chance to steal three points.
Thoughts on the Match:
- Spurs may have picked up a point, but this wasn’t a good match. 70% possession is great and all, but when you spend most of it kicking it around the back three and fullbacks? Worthless.
- The early goal by Watford was a breakdown on so many fronts, but the back line basically fell asleep and nobody seemed bothered by Doucoure streaking in.
- I am completely over the Winks-Sissoko midfield. I never want to see it again.
- Kane wasn’t good. His movement was poor and he only had two shots that I can think of, both of which were blocked.
- Sonny was shot out of a cannon in the second half and brought energy that was desperately missed. I also thought Lamela and Ndombele were decent in their sub appearances.
- Look, there’s no getting around this: A point is a point, but when you’re doing this at home to a side that’s not good? There are problems.
- Watch the tape. Burn it. Move on to Red Star.