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Watford 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1 (05/09/2020) 05/09/2020

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- So everything’s new.  And everything’s weird.  And we know why… we know how we’ve gotten here but those things don’t bear any more dwelling on really.  This is “get on with it” time.

Thing is, the sands haven’t finished shifting yet.  The pieces are still moving and nobody quite knows how and where it’s going to end up.  Off the pitch the club are dealing with these uncertainties as much as anyone and trying to make it work and trying to make it fair.  No, there aren’t supporters in the stadia and yes it would be much better if that were possible. But no, waiting until that’s OK again before we start again isn’t an option, not if you want the game to survive in anything like the state we left it.  More to the point if we want the number of clubs that we left to be similar to what return as and when…

You get the picture.  Get on with it, in short.  And the club have done a pretty decent job of doing that… not stiffing people for season tickets as others have, trying to fast track a means of presenting TV streams that isn’t complete bobbins, trying to make everything fair.  They won’t get everything right, but they’re trying  to do it right and they’re not trying to fleece anyone.

2- On the pitch, at least, there is a point where the music stops.  There are a dizzying number of pieces still to fall into place until that happens so for now, Ivić is having a look at what he’s got and trying to mould it into shape.  Most obviously we have a very large number of senior players absent from today’s fixture.  Holebas has gone, Doucs has all but gone.  Cathcart and Sema are on international duty, Will Hughes is injured (but subject of unwelcome interest from Spurs themselves if the papers are to be believed) as, presumably, are Janmaat, Success and Deulofeu.  That leaves Troy, Caps, Sarr, Welbeck, Pussetto, Masina, Pereyra, Femenía, Mariappa, Suárez and Foster all missing in action.  Oh, and all the U23s that were brought in last summer, apparently superceded by other kids on the bench.

A lot of these guys will move on, and that’s why they’re not involved.  As an aside the fact that we have  players wanted by top flight clubs, clubs who have at least some money to spend might prove a good thing.  It might afford us some control, the ability to exercise some choice over who goes and therefore who stays.  It’s unlikely, after all, that they’ll all move on.  Ben Foster, for example, is plausibly absent to give the new man a proper look at Daniel Bachmann.  But the others…  as I say.  Many will leave.  But some will stay.  And in the meantime we’re building foundations on sand.  But not doing too bad a job of it on this evidence.

3- First off, it’s relatively easy to look good at wing-back.  You have licence to rampage forward, you can get away with quite a lot defensively that you wouldn’t with only two behind you.

Nonetheless, given that, our two “new” wingbacks do look very good indeed.  Ngakia and Estupiñán were both absolutely tremendous here, hammering forward at every opportunity and providing decent service and width (indeed, we could perhaps have done without the Ecuadorian giving Mourinho such a close-up of his talents).  Spurs had had the early possession, moved the ball around but not gotten terribly far with it.  As soon as we wrested possession we broke and cut through, often from wide.  A scything move from the right ended with Quina shooting high and wide.  We broke down the left and put a low, hard ball across which Gray was an inch from connecting with.

Of the other three at the back… Tim Sherwood lookalike Wilmot had a couple of awkward moments but generally took responsibility, sometimes looked elegant and sometimes ungainly but invariably got the job done.  Kabs, in the centre of the three, quietly effective.  Dawson, on the right, sulky, unfocused and aggravating.  As my brother texted, “he’s never just ‘meh’ is he?”, and here in a performance that was intense and punchy his apathy stood out in stark contrast, much as the team’s vigour contrasted with much of what we had seen since lockdown.

4- Another startling development was the amount of aggression on display.  Four bookings is pretty remarkable for a pre-season friendly;  of these the bulldog-like Dan Phillips earned what is unlikely to be the last of the season if he gets many more minutes and if these minutes involve him getting as compellingly in the face of the opposition as he did here.  João Pedro picked up his for a revenge hack on the cumbersome Dele Alli, who had the temerity to appear briefly affronted despite his own initial hench-job being well worth a card of a different colour, pre-season or no, minutes earlier.

Elsewhere in the midfield Tom Dele-Bashiru looked tidy and controlled, Nate Chalobah  had a couple of rusty moments but far more on which he looked like the omnipotent metronome of our mind’s eye. Tom Cleverley looked and played like a captain, and Domingos Quina was the effervescent box of tricks we want him to me, the climax being a vicious dipping drive from 25 yards that fooled Joe Hart.  More frequent from Quina was a trademark pirouette to find space whilst shovelling the ball with him in a circumference with the outside of his foot.  More of this and he’ll be a nailed on starter.

Up front, Andre Gray was relatively quiet but every Watford fan, wherever they are on the Andre Gray spectrum, will have uttered the phrase “he really needs a goal” at some point since lockdown.  He got that goal, albeit from the spot, and then burned brighter…  the move that lead to what looked like a hamstring pull saw him anticipate Spurs losing possession and put the burners on to stretch the space facilitating the pass that put him through to screw wide under pressure.  On came João Pedro who again looked hugely encouraging,  balletic but far more robust than his slight frame and eighteen years suggests he ought to be.  More to come there, one suspects.

5- The pieces are still moving, but this didn’t half look bad in that context.  We could perhaps do with some more heavyweight options to counterbalance the promising kids, who are going to need to be more than promising pretty damn quickly if they’re going to be playing many games.  To this end the recruitment of Murray looks hugely sensible, if only to provide that leadership (any bullying physicality off the bench a bonus).

And we beat Spurs.  No, not a full-strength Spurs, yes, a pre-season friendly and no, I’ve not spent too long dwelling on the detail.  It’s a pre-season friendly after all, and if you cared you probably watched it yourself.  But we beat Spurs, with a thing that has fun bits and gnarly bits and sparkly bits but is fundamentally a thing that isn’t fully formed yet.

We may need to be patient.  But the signs are good.  The indicator lever that will surely flip-flop between “We’re going to rip the league a new one” and “we’re going down, sack everyone” is in the former position.  For now.

Bring on the Boro.  Bring on football.


Bachmann 3, Ngakia 4, *Estupiñán 4*, Dawson 1, Kabasele 3, Wilmot 3, Dele-Bashiru 3, Chalobah 3, Cleverley 4, Quina 4, Gray 3
Subs: João Pedro (for Gray, 52) 4, Sierralta (for Dawson, 59) 3, Phillips (for Chalobah, 59) 3, Murray (for Dele-Bashiru, 64) 3, Peñaranda (for Quina, 64) 2, Navarro (for Estupiñán, 70) 3, Crichlow (for Wilmot, 89) NA, Stevenson (for Cleverley, 89) NA, Agyakwa, Parkes


1. Ray Knight - 05/09/2020

Thanks Matt for the balanced report as usual. Less than a week and we should know alot more on several different fronts. A time of inevitable change but necessary.much to be hopeful about on the pitch. Hard to be patient at this stage of course.

2. Adam Cummings - 06/09/2020

Dies anyone what the Hughes “non football related injury” actually is? Could be anything from dropping sauce bottle on foot to a euphemism for something far worse. Just strange that no one has mentioned it.

3. Harefield Hornet - 06/09/2020

Whatever will be will be regarding all the pieces falling into place and players moving etc .. but….how refreshing just to see the ball moved around the pitch with such pace, albeit under friendly conditions against a dozy looking Spurs. As you say the wing backs and Quina really stood out. Just to see them play without the stench of relegation in air made it enjoyable again .

4. John Parslow - 06/09/2020

The starting squad shocked and concerned me but the performance was a delight . Whatever happens I’m confident we will be okay – it just might make time to settle the sands and build the foundations.
The scary thing is that the transfer window closes on October 17th !! If we sell everyone that is rumoured to go we would of course have enough to buy out the Messi contract.

5. David - 06/09/2020

Yesterday’s team plus one or two from Foster, Capoue, Hughes, Cathcart, Suárez, Sarr & Kiko should be enough for a top 10 finish which for any hornet over the age of 12 is good.

Can’t wait.

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