Another massive result for Tottenham Hotspur and Pochettino in the grand scheme of things, at Vicarage Road, that has now opened up a breathing space between themselves and the rest of the chasing pack, in the competition for Champions League spots. Another win on Monday, testament to the never-say-die ability of the Lilywhites that has been slowly ingrained into a promising young setup by the Argentine manager, to end what has been a really positive 2015. Are Tottenham Hotspur actually the most consistent team in the league now?
Spurs started the game with three central defenders instead of two, which was quite an intriguing move from Pochettino, clearly influenced by Marcelo Bielsa himself, to counter the threat of two dynamic and mobile forwards in Deeney and Ighalo. It worked for most part of the game in that Spurs were able to recycle the ball with less pressure and almost always had an extra centre-back, which prevented an overload in dangerous areas. This also meant they had an extra man working closer to Kane to give him an extra option in the final third which always kept the Watford back four on their toes.
Tottenham created the first goal from the effective closing down by Alli in the middle that led to a chance that Erik Lamela converted to perfection, slotting the ball calmly past former Spurs goalkeeper Gomes.
Watford grew into the game as they were expected to and Odion Ighalo rewarded himself and his side with a goal, resulting from a piece of individual skill that involved him bringing the ball down when tightly marked by Eric Dier, turning on a six-pence with a nutmeg and toe-poked the ball into the goal, scoring his 14th goal this season and 30th league goal in 2015 – capping off a remarkable year on a personal level.
Tottenham Hotspur were provided a boost in the 64th minute when Nathan Ake was sent off after a reckless high-footed challenge but strangely it was almost 2-1 for the home side when Watson’s corner looped into the goal only to be denied by a combination of Hugo Lloris and goal-line technology. The numerical advantage proved to be beneficial at last when Spurs managed to score the winner from a turnover in possession late in the game when Heung Min-Son executed a clever backflick finish from a Trippier cross to the delight of the jubilant travelling fans.
On the back of that victory, their third on the bounce after a shock defeat at home to Newcastle, Spurs have found themselves in a great position ahead of the second half of the season, third in the league with the best defensive record so far – only 14 goals conceded and they are managing some important wins even whey they don’t seem to be at their fluid best. Pochettino, understandably, played all the title talk down, post-match, rather focused on the importance of keeping their heads down and working hard. He said,
“It’s very important to keep our feet on the ground, this is the key in football. Keep working hard. Behave in the same way that we started in the League six months ago. I think that the numbers reflect that it (the title) is possible, but the only important thing for us is to try to win every game and keep working hard. We are very young and you need to show your strengths in the whole season. But to speak about the title, it’s more important to keep working hard and showing our maturity.”
Talk of winning the league might have come too early but one cannot rule anything out this season either when every game is as unpredictable as the next. But as far as finishing in the top four goes, Tottenham Hotspur, being the embodiment of consistency and reliability in this first half of the campaign so far, are definitely firm favourites and I would be really surprised if they end up finishing outside of it.