Son Heung-Min scores to make it Spurs 4-0 Watford in the Premier League match at White Hart Lane, London.

Spurs 4-0 Watford: attacking the full backs

The Hornets’ narrow full backs were ruthlessly exposed as it finished Spurs 4-0 Watford at White Hart Lane.

Tottenham went through the gears to rev up and rout Watford in the space of in ten breathtaking minutes. The Hornets put up some initial resistance, but their narrow full backs were torn apart by Kieran Trippier and Son Heung-Min in ruthless fashion. The score raced to Spurs 4-0 Watford to put three more valuable Premier League points on the board.

Watford tucking full backs in

Watford set up to be as difficult to break down as possible. The Hornets lined up in a 4-5-1 formation with the aim to keep their back four narrow and tight. The full backs, Daryl Janmaat and Jose Holebas, tucked in to their centre backs. A central midfield trio lined up in front to them to try and protect make shift centre back pairing, Adrian Mariappa and Sebastian Prodl. Isaac Success and M’Baye Niang were often tasked with tracking our full backs from their wide midfield positions.

Janmaat and Holebas tuck in, Success and Niang track outside during Spurs 4-0 Watford in the Premier League at White Hart Lane, London.

Janmaat and Holebas tuck in, Success and Niang track outside.

Watford had two issues with their set up. Firstly, they were very narrow, which gave us space in the wide areas. Secondly, their wide midfielders, Success and Niang, aren’t the most defensive-minded of players. Thus their laxness, along with the full backs narrowness, left gaps for us to get in to. Kieran Trippier and Son Heung-Min had space to get forward and attack the Watford full backs.

Trippier in space left by Niang and narrow Holebas during Spurs 4-0 Watford in the Premier League at White Hart Lane, London..

Trippier in space left by Niang and narrow Holebas.

Spurs took advantage of this to expose both full backs, with Trippier and Son the stars of the show.

Attacking the right back

Our first three goals came from taking advantage of Watford right back Daryl Janmaat.

We’d looked in the Spurs vs Watford match preview at how the Hornets right back zone had been exposed due to the number of players rotated through this position.

Janmaat is a right back by trade, but he was hung out to dry by Isaac Success not covering and Nordin Amrabat slow to help from inside.

Son had already been a pest by dribbling inside Janmaat and ringing a shot off the post before we took the lead. The goal came from a beautiful piece of counter attacking play.

Watford were on the attack and having committed men forward, tried to press. A neat pass from Kieran Trippier ripped straight through them and Mousa Dembele was off. Marauding through the midfield, Dembele held off Abdoulaye Doucoure before finally being thrown to the floor as he delivered the ball to Dele Alli in space.

Watford were caught in their transition defence. They had narrowed up to keep us out of the middle of the field, but this meant Daryl Janmaat was caught inside.

Son Heung-Min in space draws Daryl Janmaat out during Spurs 4-0 Watford in the Premier League at White Hart Lane, London.

Son Heung-Min in space draws Daryl Janmaat out.

Son received the ball with time and space, sizing up his options. Janmaat was drawn over, as was Nordin Amrabat. Dele Alli was left free and Son returned the ball to him in space.

Realising his over-commitment, Amrabat was unable to recover. Dele unleashed a wickedly curling effort in to the top corner. 1-0 and celebratory handshakes all round.

Amrabat and Janmaat drawn to Son leaves Dele Alli free to score a goal during Spurs 4-0 Watford in the Premier League at White Hart Lane, London.

Amrabat and Janmaat drawn to Son leaves Dele Alli free.

Watford’s right side was exposed again five minutes later. Once more Son and Dele were at the heart of it. Janmaat, Success and Amrabat were on the receiving end.

Isaac Success had been caught forward on our first goal. On the second, he was slow to get to his marking assignment, Ben Davies. Our full back could find Dele Alli, who had once more slipped the attentions of Nordin Amrabat. As a result, Daryl Janmaat, who was once more playing narrow, was way off Son Heung-Min.

Son Heung-Min with space dribbles at Daryl Janmaat during Spurs 4-0 Watford in the Premier League at White Hart Lane, London.

Son Heung-Min with space dribbles at Daryl Janmaat.

Son could size up and take on Janmaat in space before getting a shot away. As he cut inside and aimed for the far corner, his shot was blocked and ricocheted out to the edge of the box. Eric Dier was waiting and unleashed a piledriver straight through everything and everyone in to the back of the net, 2-0.

Freezing the right back

Our first two goals had taken advantage of Daryl Janmaat tucking inside and the slowness of his teammates to help. Freezing Janmaat and forcing him in to a decision added a third goal.

A clearance by Toby Alderweireld allowed us to win the second ball. The always busy Christian Eriksen was immediately on it, scooping it up and feeding Son’s inside run.

The overlapping burst of Ben Davies was highly effective and helped Son out greatly. The run caused centre back Adrian Mariappa to hesitate, pause and then try to close down. Daryl Janmaat was also frozen by the danger of Davies running in to the space and then forced to track it.

Davies' run freezes narrow Janmaat, alowing Son to shoot and score a goal during Spurs 4-0 Watford in the Premier League at White Hart Lane, London.

Davies’ run freezes narrow Janmaat, alowing Son to shoot.

Janmaat’s was the greater error. Tucking inside to play narrow, he was close enough to have closed Son down, even possibly to stop him turning.

This is the difference between front foot and reactive defending. Defences that scheme to quickly shut the ball down, such as ours, would attack the player on the ball with the closest man.

Reactive defending sees the man defend the space and options. There’s no doubt that Davies run was the higher percentage option play. Davies would’ve been in down the side and running at goal with the choice to shoot or pull the ball back to a waiting attacker. By backing off, Janmaat opened up the lane for Son to drive in to and shoot, as can be seen in the following video.

Attacking the left back

After the second goal went in, Walter Mazzarri switched the sides of Niang and Success to try and stem the flow down their right. Success had been a complete failure at helping Janmaat. Niang had only faired slightly better helping Holebas. The change made little difference and brought Kieran Trippier more in to the game with Isaac Success now on his side.

Trippier had already had moments of conjuring up creative crosses. His early ball in had seen Vincent Janssen thigh one off the bar. Trippier then provided a fizzing ball in that was just too early for the burly big man to get on the end of.

Goal number four arrived with Trippier providing the cross from the left back zone and Son finishing it in the right.

Isaac Success was nowhere to be seen in the build-up as Trippier fed the ball to Eriksen. Trippier then darted past Jose Holebas, taking the Watford left back out of the game. Abdoulaye Doucoure was unable to get over and help, giving Trippier time to pick his cross.

On the other side, right Daryl Janmaat was caught tracking the run of Dele Alli, creating space for Son Heung-Min to sneak in at the back post unmarked to make it Spurs 4-0 Watford.

Trippier on the right finds son on the left to score a goal to make it Spurs 4-0 Watford in the Premier League at White Hart Lane.

Trippier on the right finds son on the left to score.

The following video shows Trippier’s excellent run to get past and away from Holebas as he plays the ball to Eriksen. Trippier’s lung-bursting sprint is also complimented by Eriksen. The Dane just checks inside momentarily to halt Doucoure’s progress. Trippier thus has more room and time to cross.

Kieran Trippier’s cross to pick out son was pinpoint. With the score now Spurs 4-0 Watford the game was over, but Trippier continued to create. He found Son with a delicious ball round the corner to ping off the bar. Trippier also burst past his marker, Isaac Success, to whip in a cross before narrow left back, Jose Holebas, could get out to him.

Slow Success and narrow Holebas can't get to Trippier to stop the cross for Harry Kane during Spurs 4-0 Watford in the Premier League at White Hart Lane, London.

Slow Success and narrow Holebas can’t get to Trippier.

Whilst this was going on Harry Kane surged through the middle and almost got his head on to it.

Spurs 4-0 Watford overall

Twelve months ago, Spurs may well have struggled against an opponent like this. The development this term is a confidence and tactical nous to sweep aside opponents that have set up to be difficult to break down.

Watford gave as good as they got for 30 minutes, but then couldn’t live with the speed that we moved the ball at their narrow playing full backs.

Watford’s wide midfielders, Success and Niang, did little to help Daryl Janmaat and Jose Holebas, but Spurs sussed and exposed their game plan. With Eriksen floating inside, Kieran Trippier was excellent at utilising the space on the overlap. On the other flank, Son retained his width and ripped Janmaat apart.

Final score: Spurs 4-0 Watford.
MOTM: Kieran Trippier.

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23 Responses to Spurs 4-0 Watford: attacking the full backs

  1. Prem 9th April 2017 at 10:39 pm #

    Son unfortunately missed out on a hat trick. A wonderful performance from spurs again and a nice analysis too.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th April 2017 at 12:10 pm #

      Yes would’ve been good for him to get it after netting the one against Millwall. Three double figure Premier League scorers this season now, pretty good!

  2. Toby4ev 10th April 2017 at 3:06 am #

    Great work Mark and I totally agree with the first sentence in your summary.

    We should have scored about 8 goals.

    Rarely do you see a team score four high quality goals in under an hour – it was a delight.

    The fourth goal is captured nicely in your embedded video.

    Trippiers 80 metre sprint looked the hero dish whilst watching live, but you have correctly given Eriksen due credit for his exquisite control and little feint inside to hold back his pass for perfect delivery to Trips.

    Kieran’s cross was inch perfect – and Sonny was ruthless.

    He certainly deserved the match ball, but he can only blame himself for missing out.

    I’m loving every minute of this.

    We need Utd to pull something out of the bag to have any hope of the title now, but 0-0 or 1-1 looks inevitable there.

    At least we can put last years demons to bed by continuing our great push all the way to the line.

    We simply must hold second place this time.

    And if we are guaranteed second, Hull are relegated and we are in the Cup final, we can rest our first team for the trip north on the final day so they can be fresh for the Cup final – hopefully against you know who.

    COYS !!!!!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th April 2017 at 12:29 pm #

      It was a great performance. I was surpsied to see online and also hear that some peopple were not ahppy with the way we played before taking the lead. I thought we were very good throughout, especially at matching Watford’s early energy and then turning it against them – as was evidence on our first goal from breaking out on the counter attack.

      We do need a favour from Man Utd otherwise we will need Chelsea to really mess up in a big way, which doesn’t look likely as they don’t have European games to worry about.

  3. Daudi 10th April 2017 at 7:02 am #

    Great work as always Mark.
    For the first 20 or so minutes it was being evident that Watford had shown up for the game, they were being compact and had a good shape, and were getting forward and finding space too. Even remembered someone’s comment last week about us starting flat and it looked like it right there.
    Then a nice passage of play from the back, ends with a Dele stunner, my hands on my head mouth wide open, that’s how I celebrated. We were cruising from then on. Was literally laughing with joy by the time Son got his first, the way he just took it, with aplomb, I believe would be the word. No Dier, I haven’t forgotten your piledriver….

    The curious case of Janseen continues, gotta feel for him though, really tries.
    Just when criticism was being put out for Trippier, and Davies, they have stepped up in the past few weeks, they just needed to get into the groove of the game, just like last season. Trippier might be giving Walker run for his money…

    We are looking really good at the moment, even when we have to change formations, and just how teams seem to open up when we score first. long may it continue


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th April 2017 at 12:36 pm #

      I did feel gutted for Janssen being taken off at 4-0. I tweeted at the time that we really should have left him on and focussed on trying to create chances for him. He’s been looking like he’s turned a corner these last few games, but being dragged off for Kane wouldn’t have done his confidence any good. He was probably thinking that any chance he had was now gone and that he’ll be sat back on the bench again for the forseeable future. We will need him again at some point and to drag him off when we’re cruising didn’t make sense. For me, it would’ve been better to take off Dele or Eriksen to bring Kane on and just gone two up top with Harry and Vincent. Both Dele and Eriksen them have played 90 minutes across three games this week, plus two internationals with travel previously, so it’d make sense at 4-0 to rest one of them. Probably about the only thing i could criticise in what has been an excellent week!

  4. YouShubes 10th April 2017 at 8:37 am #

    Is an answer against bus parkers who play their FBs quite narrow to use Trippier’s ability to get up and down the pitch allied with his incredible crossing?

    Feel for our old keeper as he had no chance against any of those goals

    Janssen needs to improve his reading of the game…but at least he was in the box as opposed to channel running…so he is learning where to worry is he got caught offside a few times…but this can be worked on in training

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th April 2017 at 12:42 pm #

      I think that is Poch’s solution. Trippier played Watford earlier this season and provided 2 assists due to them being narrow. He was also in acres against a narrow Watford team when he crossed in for Son’s winner last season. A bit of a pattern emerging… :)

      Janssen is looking better and, like Davies and Trippier, is improving with more playing time. As said above to Daudi, I think we should’ve left him on for the full 90 minutes, as with Kane coming back his confidence may take another hit, as he knows he’ll be back on the bench now. I’m hoping its not a case of one step forward and then one back with him!

  5. Mark from Virginia 10th April 2017 at 5:45 pm #

    Hi Mark,
    Great stuff. I noticed Eriksen’s feint also, it had quite an impact on Trippier’s time and space who I believe has a better brain than Walker. I also agree with your comments on Jansen. He has been fantastic the past few weeks and should have been left on for the full 90. Loving your posts!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th April 2017 at 6:30 pm #

      Yes, Eriksen’s feint was a thing of beauty and highlights his intelligence as a player to just freeze the defender to create more time and space for Trippier.

      I’m a bit concerned about Janssen now as with Kane fit, we have no Europa or inconsequential cup games that we can give him proper game time to keep his condfidence up. I’m hoping we can get 2 or 3 up on teams and then bring him on to get some goals when the opposition defence is tired, but its not the ideal solution.

  6. Paulo 10th April 2017 at 9:01 pm #

    Just an observation; Trippier’s best 4 matches in a Spurs shirt have all come against Watford!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 11th April 2017 at 12:04 am #

      For some reason he seems to like playing against them…

  7. ashley collie 11th April 2017 at 4:09 am #

    Mark, good analysis, as always mate. Eriksen should’ve gotten a second assist for Sonny’s second goal — he often sets up the pass to the player who gets the assist for the goal, like to Alli to Son in Burnley game when he dispossessed Barton at center circle. And great observation on him checking inside slightly to delay the defender as Tripps kept going down the flank. He’s involved in nearly all our good stuff, apparently has run the most in 19 or our last 25 games — a skill player who’s bought into the work ethic. He may be my offensive (or even Spurs) player of season. While Jan/Toby are the heart of our PL’s best defense. What an enthralling season, the best is yet to come. COYMFS!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 11th April 2017 at 2:31 pm #

      Yes if there was the second hockey assist then Eriksen would have double what he has right now. He’s my player of the season so far, even ahead of Jan, Toby and Mousa Dembele. It never ceases to amaze me that he is at the top of the distance covered charts almost every game for us!

  8. Mos 11th April 2017 at 11:12 am #

    Great analysis Mark, I worry for Janasen as well but I expect us to have a few games with a comfortable margin from here to the end of the season, would like to see him get on with Kane as well since the one formation we haven’t really mastered is 442, I would even suggest using Trippier as a RM in this formation. I think we need to build up our tools before a tough season at Wembley and if we get to a point where winning the league is impossible we should start experimenting.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 11th April 2017 at 2:34 pm #

      Yes i’d like to see us with Kane and Janssen up top. So far we’ve only breifly seen them on the pitch at the same time with Kane as a number ten. Both as out and out strikers would be a fascinating experiment, best done in a 3-5-2 for me.

  9. Toby4eva 11th April 2017 at 4:30 pm #

    “Freeze the defender”.


    Time did stand still for a split second!

    Like the 3-5-2 thought Mark.

    But assuming…

    Dier/Toby/Verts at the back

    Harry and Vinnie up front

    Two of the Gang of Four looking after the wings.

    That leaves three spots for Victor, Moose, Eriksen, Sonny and Dele to contest.

    Eriksen and Dele pick themselves – as does Wanyama as the screening midfield defender.

    Nice problem to have!

    But statistically it’s Dembele who has been the strongest constant influence over the past two years. From memory we have only lost two PL games in which he has started (Utd and Scouse I think) over the last two seasons.

    Happy to be corrected as Dr Google is not helping!

    But some other powerful numbers in this article from 12 months ago…


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 11th April 2017 at 5:53 pm #

      My 3-5-2 would see:

  10. Toby4eva 12th April 2017 at 2:00 pm #

    Like it


  11. Toby4eva 13th April 2017 at 10:41 am #

    Sorry Mark – that was obviously the wrong link!

    This is the Dembele article…


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th April 2017 at 11:15 am #

      Nice stat. He’s an incredibly important player for us. Those that doubt that or say that he doesn’t score or assist enough will only see how vital a cog he is when we dont have him anymore.

  12. Chas 16th April 2017 at 3:26 pm #

    A couple of weeks ago I wrote that I wished Dembele would let fly at goal a bit more. That was not to say I didn’t think he was important to the team, simply that when he had opportunities, for reasons best known to himself, he
    elected not to shoot.
    So it was exciting to see his outside-the-box rocket, (very well saved – but who cares?), then his goal minutes later.
    And he was very obviously pleased to have scored… maybe it can become an acquired taste.
    Added to a gob-smacking 98.5% successful pass rate, it was a flawless performance.
    Just saying, he can hammer it. The odd strike at goal here and there would make him a fearsome opponent.

  13. Toby4eva 17th April 2017 at 3:01 pm #

    Agree 100% Chas

    Moose is almost universally regarded by his squadmates and opposition players as one of the most naturally gifted and difficult to dispossess players in the game.

    He has upper legs that would win a Mr Universe title, so that why he can rifle them.

    Like you he has frustrated me over the years in that he hasn’t more often gotten more forward and marauded into the box and let loose.

    Obviously under AVB we played a very prescriptive game – and Moose was perhaps not encouraged to be too inventive last year as Poch deployed the early stages of his master plan.

    But as Mark observed a couple of weeks back, Verts has been playing a more adventurous attacking game in recent times as team confidence develops as the master plan takes solid shape.

    Saturdays game was a delight for a Tottenham fan.

    The Old Trafford result just as sweet.