We are not sure what the Spanish for ‘park the bus’ is but whatever it is, Watford did it here. This was about as comprehensive as a 1-0 defeat gets as the Hornets came for a point and failed. Out-muscled, out-worked and out-played, they didn’t manage a single shot on target at White Hart Lane and the gap between themselves and relegation has been cut to ten points.
Watford haven’t won a game at White Hart Lane since 1985 and, in all honesty, they could’ve continued playing for another 30 or so years against this Spurs team and failed to score. Quique Sanchez Flores stuck his tactical neck on the line by changing just under half his line-up, including giving a debut to Mario Suarez, benching Troy Deeney, and implementing a switch in shape but it made no difference as Mauricio Pochettino got the better of him yet again. The Argentine has now won four of the six matches in his head-to-head record with Sanchez Flores.
There is, though, no disgrace in losing to this free-flowing, progressive Tottenham side who are up to second after a seventh league win in eight matches. Perhaps the bar was raised by Watford’s January spending and a point gained against the champions on Wednesday.
After almost every Tottenham player registered an attempt at Heurelho Gomes’ goal, the key chance of the game fell to Kieran Trippier who beat Nathan Ake at the back post to convert Dele Alli’s inviting cross. It was his first goal in 73 appearances in all competitions. It would come against Watford, wouldn’t it? It was, however, the least Spurs deserved.
Watford deserved exactly what they got. The Hornets have now failed to score in four of their last six Premier League games. Ít was therefore strange for Nordin Amrabat to be left kicking his heels on the bench once more.
Gomes was named skipper in the absence of Deeney and he produced a captain’s performance, earning the man of the match award for the second successive game. Spurs peppered the Brazilian’s goal and he had to spread his huge frame to keep out Harry Kane’s cheeky lob and showed his cat-like reflexes to deny strikes from the rampant Ben Davies and Erik Lamela.
The Watford head coach lost his cool for one of the few times in the Hornets dugout and the fans were not impressed either. When Miguel Britos miscontrolled a long, hopeful punt upfield, Sanchez Flores gave him the sort of stare you wouldn’t give your worst enemy. By half-time, Sanchez Flores had seen enough and made a double substitution in the hope of establishing a foothold in the game. Suarez, who was taken aback by the pace, was dragged off, together with Abdi, at half-time as Deeney and Valon Behrami came charging on.
It made no difference whatsoever. Watford remain camped in their own half and nearly conceded two penalties within five minutes of the restart. Kane went down twice, first under the challenge of Gomes, then Britos, but the penalty never came.
Then, soon after, Spurs made all of their good work count. To say it was coming is an understatement. Moussa Dembele’s backheel found Dele Alli in acres of space on the left wing and his clever cross was met by Trippier who made no mistake at the back post.
Kevin Wimmer and substitute Son squandered big opportunities to put Spurs out of sight and how they only won by a single goal was a mystery. Of some consolation was that Watford did not have anyone sent off, like they did against Spurs last time out, and that their goalkeeper didn’t concede a goal at the hands of his opposite number, like Ben Foster did at the hands of Paul Robinson here in 2007. But that really would be clutching at straws.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Davies, Wimmer, Vertonghen, Trippier, Dier, Dembele, Lamela (Son 71), Eriksen (Carroll 90), Chadli (Alli 60), Kane. Subs nots used: Vorm, Walker, Rose, Mason
Watford: Gomes, Nyom, Britos (Prodl 53), Cathcart, Ake, Watson, Suarez (Behrami 45), Capoue, Jurado, Abdi (Deeney 45), Ighalo. Subs not used: Pantilimon, Amrabat, Anya, Holebas.