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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.