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Watford vs. Tottenham Hotspur Preview: Fighting through the frustration

Spurs can feel robbed by Tuesday’s draw but have no time to wallow.

Tottenham Hotspur v Watford - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

While Antonio Conte is now undefeated in seven Premier League matches, two of the past three have ended in somewhat disappointing fashion. Tottenham Hotspur was the better side against Liverpool and had plenty of opportunities to score the winner, and against Southampton last time out it was questionable referring decisions that kept the scoreline even.

Spurs are still right in the thick of things in the table, but every match is vital with three other teams fighting for fourth place. Traveling to relegation-adjacent Watford — a team they already beat earlier this season — should allow the club to get back on track heading into the new year.

Tottenham still has a ways to go to overcome its early-season struggles, but Conte is clearly making his mark on his new squad. A performance like any of those over the past couple weeks should be more than enough to take down a lowly opposition and start 2022 with a quick three points.

Watford (17th, 13pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (7th, 30pts)

Date: Saturday, January 1
Time: 10:00 am ET, 3:00 pm UK
Location: Vicarage Road, Watford, England
TV: USA Network (USA), Premier Player HD (UK)

When the two teams met in August it was not a very thrilling affair, with only a misplayed Heung-Min Son freekick dividing the sides. That goal masked some of the offensive issues of the club and that match was the final of three 1-0 wins to open up the year before the bottom quickly fell out.

It is wild to look at the attacking numbers under Conte now and realize this is essentially the same squad as the one that limped through the fall. Five of the last six outings have seen Spurs post at least 2.0 xG with only allowing over 1.5 xGA once, and three times limiting their opponents to under 0.5 xGA. To say this is a dramatic turnaround would be an understatement.

However, even with the outrageous goal overturns, Tottenham still should have killed off Saints (and similarly Liverpool). While the team is clearly generating more chances, goals are the metric that actually count. Lucas Moura continues to look like a key piece of the attack and Dele Alli is working his way back into the side, but no one outside Son and Harry Kane has truly transformed the front line just yet.

Three themes

  1. The biggest area of rotation for Conte has been in midfield, with Oliver Skipp, Harry Winks, and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg all receiving starts and both Dele and Tanguy Ndombele making cameos in the middle of the pitch as well. It truly seems like the two center spots are still up for grabs.
  2. After Saturday, the fixture list gets crazy. January is filled with an FA Cup walkthrough against Morecambe, a North London Derby at home, and three matches against Chelsea — two League Cup semifinal legs, then a trip to Stamford Bridge before the international break.
  3. As a reminder to American viewers, NBCSN is being sunset in 2021 (though the website and app should still exist in similar form for streaming). For those wishing to watch on actual television, matches that have traditionally been broadcast on NBCSN will now be on USA Network.