Son Heung-min celebrates his winning goal
Tottenham moved to to the top of the Premier League table and Nuno Espirito Santo became the first Spurs manager since 1949 to win their first three league games in charge as his side defeated Watford 1-0 in the Premier League.
Son Heung-min gave his side the breakthrough late in the first half at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium as his in-swinging free-kick from the left evaded everyone and curled into the far corner of the Watford net.
Dele Alli had a good chance to double Spurs’ lead in the second half following a cut-back from Harry Kane, who was making his first Premier League start of the season, before Daniel Bachmann produced a strong save to deny a Kane snapshot following a corner.
Watford struggled to create any chances with Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris untroubled, as the hosts continued their 100 per cent start to the Premier League season.
Here are five things we learned.
Test for Tottenham in breaking down Watford
Nuno Espirito Santo got his time at Tottenham off to the perfect start with opening wins over champions Manchester City and his former side Wolves, but a home fixture against newly-promoted Watford posed a new challenge for the Portuguese manager.
Tottenham were happy to be second-best in terms of possession against City and Wolves, and it worked in their favour as they played on the counter-attack effectively in securing the pair of 1-0 wins, but against Watford the onus was on them to take charge of proceedings.
Xisco’s side dropped into a 4-5-1 and looked to frustrate Spurs when not in possession and the hosts had over 60 per cent of the ball as the match approached half-time. Son’s free-kick shortly before the interval changed the complexion of the contest, but there can still be lessons learned from how Tottenham approached breaking down Watford’s low-block at 0-0.
Breaking down Watford’s defence proved challenging for Tottenham
Harry Kane, making his first Premier League start of the season, was not particularly involved in Tottenham’s build-up play, and there was only one example of the forward dropping into a deep position before spreading the play out wide. Instead, Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg was given a lot of the responsibility to play passes through the Watford defence, often looking for Japhet Tanganga’s runs on the outside, while Dele Alli took up some of the positions that you might associate with Kane from last season.
Watford looked as if they had done a good job in getting into half time level before Son’s somewhat fortunate set-piece gave Spurs the breakthrough they had been looking for. In short, Tottenham were unable to create a clear opening of their own through a pattern of their play and Son’s free-kick was enough in the end to secure the win. But with Spurs top of the league following an uncertain first three weeks of the season, that’s all their fans will worry about.
Kane and Son partnership returns
Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min broke records last season with their striking partnership and Sunday’s match against Watford was the first opportunity for the duo to combine from the start under Nuno.
With Watford dropping deep to start the match, there were few opportunities for Kane to play those trademark passes around the corner of defences for Son to run onto, and the pair hardly passed the ball to each other in the opening half.
That may have been down to Son’s positioning on the right, and it wasn’t until the South Korean made a run from outside to in that Kane was able to find him with a dangerous pass into the box, in what was their best moment of link-up play. Son was positioned on the left for the second half and was more effective, with Kane being able to pick out a couple of passes to find his cutting runs.
This wasn’t the pair’s most sparkling game together, but the good news for Spurs fans is that the partnership is here to stay, at least for this season following Kane’s recent commitment to the club.
Dier and Sanchez impress in defence
Davinson Sanchez and Eric Dier stood out for Spurs
Three games, three wins, three clean sheets. Tottenham have enjoyed a brilliant start to the new Premier League season and, while Kane and Son are still getting up to speed, Nuno has had a different partnership to thank.
Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez have had their low points while playing in the middle of the Spurs defence, both as individuals and as a pairing, but they have been reborn in the early days of Nuno’s tenure.
Their confidence has grown ever since holding on for an opening clean against City and the pair were completely assured against Watford on the rare occasions in which they were called into action.
Dier’s positioning seems to have improved considerably under Nuno and the former England international was often in the right place to make blocks or clearances, while he called the defensive line with authority.
It is still early days, but there are signs that this could be a defensive partnership for Nuno to build on.
Sissoko returns but Spurs happy to move on
With just four Premier League starts to his name in 2021, Moussa Sissoko was thrust back into the spotlight at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium. But, if you had been distracted by the other major Premier League transfer that took place on Friday, you may have missed Sissoko’s switch from Spurs to Watford and that the 32-year-old was lining up against his former side, less than 48 hours after the deal was completed.
Sissoko is a good fit for Watford and should offer Xisco’s side plenty of quality this season but under those circumstances, a storming performance on his debut was hardly to be expected from him. There were some good moments as he lined up on the right of Watford’s midfield three, and there was one promising moment early in the second half as he dribbled around the outside of Dele to set up a chance for Watford, but it was not enough to show Spurs what they were missing.
Sissoko was brought off after the 70th minute and received a good ovation from the home fans following his five-year spell at the club.
Watford show promise but away form must improve
Ismaila Sarr was again Watford’s chief threat but he wasn’t given the ball enough
This wasn’t a bad performance from Watford, particularly defensively, but a second consecutive defeat on the road points back to their poor record away from home during their last season in the Premier League.
The Hornets won just two matches on their travels when they were relegated to the Championship in 2019/20, losing 13 times, and they have now lost their first two visits this season without scoring a goal.
There are signs, however, that Xisco’s side are set up to be more successful on the road than they were two seasons ago. Their low block was effective in denying Spurs space in the first half and if it wasn’t for Son’s free-kick, Bachmann would have been untroubled heading into the break. With more testing trips to come, there is a solid foundation there to build on.
In attack, Ismaila Sarr was bright once again but he didn’t see enough of the ball in his battle against Sergio Reguilon, which he seemed to have the upper hand in. The worry for Watford is there attack was rather one-sided. Josh King’s impact was negligible while Dennis also had a quiet game out on the left.
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