LONDON — Three points from Vicarage Road as Spurs turned a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 defeat at Watford.
1. Watford maintain their perfect start and end Tottenham’s
This was supposed to be the day when Watford got vertigo and were brought down to earth by a top-six club. Instead, they maintained their perfect start while Spurs missed the chance to equal their best-ever opening to a Premier League season, when they managed four straight wins back in 2009-10.
Javi Gracia’s side gave Spurs problems throughout, remaining tight at the back in the first half and asking questions going forward. There is a nice balance to their 4-2-2-2 system and a range of abilities that complement each other with the muscle of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue, the intelligence of Will Hughes and the pace and tricky of Roberto Pereyra. Up front, Troy Deeney and Andre Gray offer strength and pace between them and the former scored with a fine header.
Pochettino deployed his side in a 3-1-4-2 system giving his wing-backs licence to get forward, but Watford’s full-backs were at least as influential. Indeed, Jose Holebas set up both of their goals from set pieces.
The Hornets have scored at least two goals in each of their matches so far this season and the early signs are that they can easily improve on last season’s 14th-place finish. No team, big or small, will want to play Watford given their current form and confidence.
2. Pochettino’s worst fears are realised
Tottenham’s manager should have been delighted by his side’s 3-0 victory at Old Trafford but he brought his players down to earth with a bump on Friday. He stated in his news conference that he had been “disappointed” with the performance, that it could easily have gone the other way and that if his players believed the hype around the victory, they would “crash” at Watford.
Those fears were realised in full. Spurs were largely toothless in the first half, failing to test Ben Foster once, and it took an own goal from Doucoure to give them the lead in the second period. After that, Watford seized the initiative and punished a Tottenham defence that’s looked shaky for much of the early part of the season. Although they kept a clean sheet at Old Trafford, Pochettino made the point this week that Manchester United could have been at least one goal up at half-time.
Having taken the lead at Vicarage Road, Spurs were lucky not to quickly return the favour as Toby Alderweireld headed against his own crossbar. But their luck didn’t hold for long and the hosts scored from two set-pieces, Deeney heading in from a free kick and Craig Cathcart doing the same from a corner.
Again, like against Fulham, Pochettino will rue the fact that his side gave away a lead despite having three centre-backs on the pitch. This time Spurs were unable to dig out of trouble and win the match.
3. Lucas Moura’s form gives Spurs something to cheer about
The main consolation for Tottenham was the liveliness of Lucas, who had scored three goals in his previous two matches and been nominated for the Premier League’s August Player of the Month award.
The former Brazil international looked the likeliest to produce a moment of magic for Spurs with his quick feet and pace, and it took a combination of Christian Kabasele and an onrushing Ben Foster to stop him from reaching Dele Alli’s first-half through-ball and giving his side the breakthrough.
Lucas also contributed usefully without the ball, winning the ball three times inside Watford’s half during the first period alone. It was little surprise, then, that it was the January signing who forced the breakthrough even if there was a large slice of luck involved as his cross into a packed penalty box hit Doucoure in the chest and bounced past Foster into the bottom corner of the net.
Pochettino’s decision to continue deploying Lucas up front alongside Kane in a genuine strike partnership seems to be getting the best out of the former PSG forward and Spurs could have been 2-0 up if Kane had managed to find his fellow forward with a low cross; it would turn out a key moment in the match.
It will be interesting to see where Son Heung-Min might fit back into this side when he returns from international duty. If Pochettino persists with playing two out-and-out strikers and relying upon the full-backs to supply the width, there is surely only space for Lucas or Son in the side.