There are times when you wonder whether Jose Mourinho might fancy himself more as the manager of Watford, a team of physically-imposing, hard-running types with a point to prove and clearly open to the ideas of a manager who wants to keep them in the Premier League.
Watford do not, alas, pay Mourinho wages, but they have a super-coach all of their own in Nigel Pearson whose remarkable seven-game record in the league now stands at four wins and two draws after the Liverpool defeat in his first game in charge. It took Paulo Gazzaniga saving Troy Deeney’s penalty in the second half to prevent Watford capturing all three points as they executed a gameplan that worked almost to perfection.
Spurs had worked their best tricks on Watford in the first half, but to little effect. The longball from deep on the right to Heung-Min Son on the left wing was attempted a few times. Dele Alli broke from deep later in the half with a sweet touch to take him clear and then a ball into Lucas Moura that the forward should have done better with.
In all, Pearson’s side let Spurs throw their punches. They allowed them the ball, in particular Harry Winks in the quarter-back position ahead of the midfield. But the home team were very solid in the central positions and comfortable with the prospect of crosses given that it was the diminutive Moura in the centre. As Spurs failed to make an impression so the confidence of the home side grew.
They had been fortunate when Etienne Capoue caught Japhet Tanganga’s leg with his studs. In the aftermath referee Michael Oliver had his ear-piece checked over, suggesting that it had not been working in his conversations with the video assistant referee. Later Capoue would hurl himself at Giovani Lo Celso as he embarked on the counter-attack and finally get the booking that he deserved earlier. The Frenchman was a reckless but excellent performer.
Watford were much more assertive after the break, and yet the chances passed them by. Abdoulaye Doucoure and Ismail Sarr both had opportunities but not the composure required. Down the left side the teenager Spurs full-back Tanganga was struggling to contain Sarr and it was from there that the penalty came. A cut-back to Gerard Deulofeu and his shot struck the hand of Jan Vertonghen, sliding in with exactly the wrong body-shape.
This was the moment that Watford needed to seize, but Gazzaniga anticipated well and saved Deeney’s shot low to his right-side. Still Watford persevered and the late introduction of Roberto Pereyra in place of Nathaniel Chalobah suggested that Pearson believed he could win the game.
As for Mourinho it was less clear. He switched Tanganga over to the right to try to protect him from Sarr. He brought Christian Eriksen on again, this time for Dele, who was unimpressed. There was a debut for the Benfica loan signing Gedson Fernandes. Ignacio Pussetto, Watford’s new Argentine winger also made his debut for the club.
Ignacio Pussetto made sure Watford secured a point on his debut for the club ��— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 18, 2020
As close as you can get �� pic.twitter.com/CcWY8BBUj7
It was Pussetto who scooped the ball off the line after Serge Aurier’s cross was turned goalwards with Erik Lamela’s help in time added on at the end of the game. The home team, as Mourinho will know, were well worth their point.
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Both teams share a point. I'm not sure who's happier about it. Is anyone? Does anyone come out of this looking good? Too ultra safe teams a bit worried by the threat of the opponent... and it's not been great to watch. At least it's done!
90 min+2 - Watford 0 Spurs 0
SPURS MUST SCORE! There's a bit of a rammy in the box, Spurs forwards try to force the ball over the line, and the Watford sub Pussetto clears it!
That is absolutely ridiculous.
hahahahahaha look at it!!!! Amazing.
89 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
The game is like cola left over from a party. There's a bit of fizz in it but it's at room temperature and you don't really want to drink it. But here you are, doing exactly that because you've paid £50 for it and dammit you'll get your money's worth.
88 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Lamela tries a pretty stupid shot while off balance inside the area from an angle of about 25 degrees. "You're not scoring from there," says Glenn Hoddle. Mourinho applauds it.
Watford push up the other end, the ball drops to Capoue and he launches a rocket on his left foot that hits bodies.
Tanganga does really well to intercept a pass inside the area, rides two tackles but then doesn't put enough on the pass to Eriksen and the move breaks down.
Sarr has gone down with a hamstring injury.
85 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Eriksen spots a little chance to L1-triangle the ball to Son but he's offside. Watford go long from the free-kick. And it's a goal kick.
82 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
- Gedson Fernandes is the fifth Portuguese player to make a Premier League appearance for Tottenham, after José Dominguez, Pedro Mendes, Hélder Postiga and Ricardo Rocha.
Great trivia for pub quiz fans.
80 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Gedson Fernandes is about to come on. That noise you can hear is Spurs fans everywhere getting excited. A shiny new signing. Lo Celso is off.
Chalobah comes off for Watford and is replaced by Pereyra, which is definitely an attacking change.
77 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Really frustrating game to watch here. Lots of clumsy fouls spoiling moves, both teams not totally unhappy with a point.
74 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
- Troy Deeney has missed three of his last six penalties taken in the Premier League; he had only missed one of the first 13 he took in the competition before this.
73 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Eriksen on, Alli off. Could be his last ever Spurs game if Inter Milan complete the transfer this week.
72 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Deeney's penalty wasn't great but Gazzaniga guesses the right way and blocks with strong hands. Watford are buoyed though and throwing the ball into the box.
Brilliant block by Gazzaniga!
Hmmmm. Very very very harsh. Vertonghen goes sliding in with his arm up, the ball batters into him from a shot and it's a penalty! Watford can take the lead.
68 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Deeney's great, isn't he? Like trying to man mark a human tank.
65 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
You can sort of see the problem Spurs have in this average positions chart:
Watford have a clear spike at the top of their team in Deeney, but Spurs are flat. You can't puncture something with a dull surface - this is like trying to burst a balloon with a spoon.
63 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Spurs break quickly, Alli is offside but Son isn't and he moves like Lewis Hamilton to make up the ground and speed beyond the defence. He takes the ball into the box, looks up to see where Foster is and batters a shot at the near post which flies over the bar. Decent effort.
61 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Rumble! Watford and Spurs players come together with lots of pushing and shoving, Vertonghen holds his mouth. Doucoure and Winks get in each other's face, then Vertonghen ends up being throw to the ground. Doucoure is the one who'll be in trouble if VAR review it and say it's a red... but a yellow is shown to both Doucoure and Winks.
59 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Watford have a free-kick 30 yards out, Spurs head it away and then break quickly but within seconds there are a million yellow shirts back defending to cut out the danger. Spurs don't look like they can create in any other way than counter-attacking or pulling a rabbit out a hat.
56 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Deeney shoots, gets a deflection and it ends wide. The corner is easily cleared. At least we're getting some entertainment now! Both teams opening up a little bit.
53 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Sarr is beating Tanganga one on one every single time, I'm not sure how much longer Mourinho can keep him on. It's going to end in a red card or a goal for Watford unless he gets some support.
Spurs try to break, Son is wide right and hooks a brilliant cross to the back post for Alli.... who heads over the bar!
51 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
- Spurs have failed to score in the first half of any of their last six Premier League games - their longest such run since December 2012 under Andre Villas-Boas.
Watford look more likely to make something happen here. Deeney heads a high ball on and Sarr has a glorious chance to score. Lo Celso dives in and puts him off just enough to prevent the goal, as Sarr scuffs it wide.
48 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Slow tempo to the start of the half. This is such a nailed on draw. OR IS IT?! Sarr bursts past Tanganga and Watford have a two v two, the ball is hit low into the area, it's flicked on and Doucoure runs onto it, into the six yard box but he shoots wide! Some Watford fans think it's in as the ball comes off the boards and hits the back of the net.
KICK OFF 2
Please be more exciting. We're back!
Watford maybe the better team here? But Spurs have had most of the ball. Just give them both a point now. Bit of controversy at the end of the half as only two minutes of time are added on despite the referee taking nearly four minutes to get his communication device to work.
45 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Chalobah lets the ball drop rather than shoot, then clips a cross to Deeney - an L1 and triangle pass - who heads at goal but can't get the power to beat Gazzaniga. Watford pressing high.
42 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Spurs aren't great at building play and creating chances through it but Watford are dropping deep behind the ball to prevent them going through the lines quickly. It's completely undoing Mourinho's style of play.
40 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Moura is threaded in behind the Watford defence but has to shoot at an angle and Foster blocks well. Spurs' centre-backs drop really deep to offer a safe backwards pass but they're struggling to find a forwards option.
38 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Sarr gets the better of Tanganga again, who isn't enjoying the battle and might not survive the entire of this match. The left-back is on a yellow card too and doesn't look entirely comfortable.
35 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Deulofeu goes to ground like a fish returning to water and Aurier is the culprit of the foul. Watford have a free-kick, Tanganga heads it away.
33 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Son tries another shot from outside the area and it takes a deflection! It's going in! Foster reacts well and is able to save. That could easily have bamboozled the goalie and gone in, one of those annoying mis-directions that often decide these tight games.
Sarr is really taking on Tanganga on the right wing but the youngster is doing alright, revealing a lack of experience by not dropping to the floor when outmuscled to win a free-kick.
Watford growing ever more into the game, creating chances and getting the ball in the box.
30 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Michael Oliver wastes some time by having his 'communication device' replaced, or the battery changed or something. Just use iPhones mate, they work really well. Oliver can hear his pals talking about referee chat now, which will definitely help.
28 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Capoue catches Tanganga with raised studs, a really dangerous looking tackle but one which I don't think is bad enough to warrant a red card. VAR are checking... and they reckon it's fine. I'm OK with that.
26 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Spurs with most of the possession but they just don't look at all capable of creating anything. Watford blocking everything near their box and without a striker to aim towards, there's just a lot of tapping round the area with no penetration.
23 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Watford more in the game these last few minutes, almost as though they started the match as the away team trying to quieten the fans down.
20 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Deulofeu tries to dribble through about five Spurs bodies at once but unsurprisingly doesn't manage it. Tanganga tries to head the ball away, it hits Sarr in the chest and this is a great chance! Sarr takes a couple of steps but his heels clip and he goes down. Free-kick on the edge of the area and a fairly harsh yellow card for the Spurs youngster.
18 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
A mistake by Winks! Watford steal the ball on the left, Doucoure cuts it back to Sarr on the edge of the box and the ball just doesn't sit right for him as he shoots, leaning back and lifting it over the bar.
15 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Watford go on an adventure in the Spurs half and set up for a long throw into the box. Deeney has Winks and Alderweireld looking after him but it goes short, then backwards, then sideways and eventually is given away. Lo Celso does superbly to control and wait til the last second to pass while regaining balance, starting a dangerous Spurs counter.
12 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Aurier links play nicely on the right but Watford aren't able to counter and get out of their defensive shape when the tackle is eventually made. Son is staying really wide on the left to offer a long switched pass - the space is either side of the Watford block but without a striker poaching in the area.
10 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Watford are dropping quite deep against Spurs, enticing them to open up and attack before winning the ball and trying to break. Spurs are doing well to keep possession though and working hard to win it back when there is a turnover.
7 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Spurs move the ball forward quickly, Aurier overlaps on the right and wins a corner. Lamela curls it in, punched away, Spurs win possession back in the final third. Lamela carries it across the pitch but then hits a poor shot well wide of the target.
5 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Son has had a few opportunities to come inside off the left and shoot but isn't being given the angle he wants to bend one at goal. A tame effort is hit towards the near post and easily saved.
3 mins - Watford 0 Spurs 0
Watford win the ball near their own box, counter quickly and Deulofeu dances into the final third but doesn't connect properly, booting the ball well wide. Spurs were distracted by a ridiculous handball claim that VAR thankfully doesn't bother doing anything about.
Watford get the game started and launch it up the pitch.
Here come the players
Lots of "COME ON BOYS!" and other shouts that I don't think actually serve any real purpose. It's more just something you feel obliged to entertain, doesn't suddenly waken you up or anything. Ahhh. Lads.
Jose Mourinho pre-match interview
If I focus on the last two matches I have to be happy with what we did so let's hope we can follow that direction. We were intense, played well, were organised, defensively we didn't have problems and we create a lot of chances, play very nice quality football.
What we have in this moment let's see if we can follow.
In this moment we don't have some of our attacking players, we have to play in a different way so we try to bring more creativity because we don't have that striking power.
It's not going entirely to plan for Mourinho so far. That plan is of course: he starts by 'being calm', in the second season Spurs are amazing and win something, it unravels in season three.
Here is a visual version of that journey.
I am not an artist.
Troy Deeney on Pearson
He was just good, he held the floor. He got everyone in - people who do the pitches, the laundry - he got them all in.
He's going to tell you the truth whether good or bad, talk it out like men. Sometimes you just need that straight forward manager who oversees everything. He's fun when he needs to be fun, he's firm when he needs to be firm.
You'd have to say no looking at what happened. It's a shame but in hindsight you probably lost 10 games through nostalgia. We were rock bottom.
Massively under achieving this year. We're on the right track, if we continue the right form who knows where we end up?
Joe Cole's analysis of Watford is great
The boy wonder Joe Cole, king of Championship Manager 3, is stripping apart the difference in pre-Pearson and post-Pearson Watford, focusing on defensive shape in the high press. It's a huge improvement with where the team wins the ball, how they block it, how they're organised to block passing lanes and make curved runs to cause problems for teams playing out from the back. The good news for Spurs fans is that their team plays long a lot of the time so Watford's Pearson pressing shouldn't cause too many issues, except for the times they do try and pass out.
Nigel Pearson interview
Spurs will know we're a difficult team to play against, we need to make sure our team ethic is very strong to allow us to convert at key moments.
Hello! And welcome to updates and analysis of Watford vs Spurs, the early kick off in Saturday's exciting Premier League lineup. Spurs are the favourites but it's a weird one and a resurgent Watford could quite feasibly come away with a win today, a result that wouldn't be a surprise. About five weeks ago you'd not have given them a chance but that's the effect Nigel Pearson has!
Spurs have been a little out of sorts of late and the loss of Harry Kane, potentially for the rest of the season, is huge. New signing Gedson Fernandes is on the bench today and should, according to Jose Mourinho, make an appearance at some point. Here are the teams:
It's a 4-2-3-1/4-4-2 for Watford and a 4-1-4-1/4-2-3-1 for Spurs. I reckon Tanganga starts wide left and the defensive shape will be a back four, but going forward I'd imagine that it becomes a back three with Aurier pushing high up the pitch. Son will probably start wide left to give width and pace, Lamela might be wide right and tuck inside to support with Dele Alli and Lo Celso while Winks will float around behind them all, recycling play. My Spurs supporting colleague Ali Tweedale has his doubts this team is good enough to win.