Both teams targeted the same flank to try and attack each other as it finished Watford 1-1 Tottenham at Vicarage Road.
The same Premier League managers doing the rounds has been a major talking point this week. Therefore, it was refreshing that two young upstarts provided an open and attacking encounter, which finished Watford 1-1 Tottenham at Vicarage Road.
Longer in the tooth managers often identify an opponent’s chief threat and try to nullify it to get a result. Both Mauricio Pochettino and Marco Silva threw caution to the wind as they backed their own team’s strengths in order to win the three points.
Two distinct patterns of attacking play were the result, both focussed on the same flank. Even going down to ten men saw Pochettino continue to stay on the front foot rather than back down and nullify the Watford attack.
Tottenham attack through Trippier
Switching to a back four, Mauricio Pochettino sought to use Kieran Trippier as our main mode of attack. Trippier has a history of torching the Hornets and it was surprising to see Marco Silva concede space to him out on the flank.
The space for Trippier was a combination of two factors. Firstly, Watford were focussed on stopping us playing through the middle. Secondly, the Hornets left Richarlison cheating up field to expose the space Trippier was leaving. As a result, wing back Marvin Zeegelaar was often caught between supporting his team mate in attack, covering the in-field drifting Christian Eriksen and getting out to Trippier.
Space became easy to find for Trippier and he got in to several good crossing positions. The most dangerous of which saw him punch a long diagonal from Eric Dier first time through the box, just eluding Harry Kane.
Whilst Mauricio Pochettino was trying to leverage the space for Kieran Trippier, Marco Silva was gambling on that leaving room for his primary weapon, Richarlison. Silva had the Brazilian remain up-field, looking for the spaces that Trippier had left by going forward. As soon as Watford regained the ball, they immediately looked for Richarlison’s runs with first time passes.
One such pass from Tom Cleverley started the move that saw Watford take the lead. Eric Dier was fouled in possession of the ball, but no whistle from referee Martin Atkinson was forthcoming. Cleverley then instantly sent it across the field in Richarlison’s direction.
The Brazilian did an excellent job to keep the ball in play. He then drove forwards in to the space to attack the recovering Tottenham right back. He won a corner from which Watford would take the lead.
The Hornets have a host of players with size and good aerial ability and are therefore always dangerous at corners.
They took the lead through Christian Kabasele as he escaped his marker, Jan Vertonghen, to score. Vertonghen was yanked backwards just as the corner was taken, pulling him off balance and creating space for Kabasele to exploit.
Eric Dier couldn’t get over in time on the cover. Harry Kane was left trying to contest the header from a standing jump. Kabasele powered the ball in to the net, as Watford’s routine that had obviously been worked on to create the separation for the header paid off. Shockingly, referee Martin Atkinson had been deceived that all had been done legitimately.
Spurs hit back
Watford had taken the lead through their attacking outlet. Tottenham would hit back down the same flank through ours.
Once more, Martin Atkinson played a part in the build-up. Watford’s hopeful punt over our back line saw Richarlison again look to capitalise. He appeared to foul Ben Davies before the Tottenham man dropped him to the turf. However, Atkinson waved play on.
The ball would be swiftly moved to Kieran Trippier who was free with Zeegelaar caught in between markers. Trippier with time found Christian Eriksen racing in to the space behind.
The right back perfectly picked out Eriksen’s run. The Dane in turn played a measured pass for the arriving Son Heung-Min to sweep in to the back of the net, making the score Watford 1-1 Tottenham.
Sanchez sees red
The decisions, and indecisions, of referee Martin Atkinson played a large part in this match. He’d played a big role in both goals, as well as keeping his cards in his pocket despite Harry Kane being kicked around the park by a Watford defence determined to rough him up.
Atkinson’s cards did come out with his decision to send off Davinson Sanchez. Once more Watford were seeking to spring Richarlison in to the space beyond Kieran Trippier who was up the field attacking. Davinson Sanchez was therefore left to rotate out and cover for him. Needlessly getting his elbow up in to the face of the Watford man as he sought to block off his run put Atkinson in the position of having to make another decision. A red card was the outcome.
Both managers attack
In a situation of 10 vs 11 the merry-go-round managers in the press this week such as Allardyce, Moyes, Pulis and Pardew would play ultra defensive and shut up shop, content to take a point. New wave bosses Pochettino and Silva both went on the offensive.
Pochettino moved to a 4-3-2 set-up as he sought to get two attackers up top to trouble Watford. Son Heung-Min’s pace thus became a factor. Moussa Sissoko was then also introduced to provide another running threat.
Marco Silva equally went after the win. Silva withdrew one of his back three and then went 4-3-3 as Andre Carillo entered the match. He also finished with twin strikers as Andre Gray came on for the last two minutes.
Set piece scares
Watford took the lead through one set piece and then almost won the game from another. Once more a dubious decision by the officials was at the centre of the passage of play. The linesman looking totally bewildered as to which way to point his flag before appearing to be talked in to giving the corner by Roberto Pereyra.
Abdoulaye Doucoure loitered on the edge of the box before smacking Kieran Trippier’s partial clearance off the post.
With time almost up, Martin Atkinson would again find himself with a big decision to make. Richarlison was once more was sneaking in to the space behind the advancing Kieran Trippier. Another first time pass out his way found him in space. As Eric Dier came across to challenge, Richarlison’s cross appeared to be blocked by his arm. Atkinson waved play on, avoiding the concession of another set piece in a penalty and keeping the score at Watford 1-1 Tottenham. A well-earned point for both teams.
Watford 1-1 Tottenham overall
Both managers pursued their attacking intentions, content to concede space to the other’s offensive outlets. The mini game within the match of Trippier vs Richarlison played out most of the big moments. Trippier advancing to attack and Richarlison purposely staying up-field, seeking to exploit the space being left by him.
Each team scored from their exposition of the space on this flank. These tactics made for an entertaining encounter, aided by the haphazard and poor refereeing of Martin Atkinson.
Mauricio Pochettino talked of us learning a lot from suffering this run of form and results. The team is currently being hit hard by injuries and the loss of personnel through suspension. I have no doubt that Pochettino will pull us through this. However, adverse situation experience is why the same managers are hired by the Premier League merry-go-round with few teams in trouble prepared to gamble on an untrusted or younger name.
Final score: Watford 1-1 Tottenham.
Spurs MOTM: Christian Eriksen.