By 90Min
October 20, 2019

Watford's start to the Premier League season has been nothing short of horrific. But their performance at Tottenham on Saturday shows they aren't dead and buried yet.

Abdoulaye Doucoure opened the scoring early on, exploiting some terrible defending from the hosts, but the game was marred by some controversial VAR and refereeing decisions, and Dele Alli's equaliser certainly could have been ruled out on another day.

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The Hornets are still yet to secure their first win of the Premier League season and were only four minutes away from grabbing three points until Alli snatched that late leveller.

The away side showed that their first elusive win isn't far away and there are several reasons why Watford can battle themselves out of the position they currently find themselves in.


Dominant Doucoure

Abdoulaye Doucoure ran the show from midfield and looked like the player who was linked with £40m moves last season and during the summer transfer window.

Not only did he open the scoring after only six minutes for the Hertfordshire club, but he dominated Spurs' Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko in the centre of the park. Along with Nathaniel Chalobah and Tom Cleverley, Watford's midfield three out-played the Spurs duo. 

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Doucoure, like many of his colleagues, was awful at the start of the season but this game showed just how good the Frenchman can be.

He pushed for a second goal and led numerous counter attacks in the second half as Watford tried to the see game out. He was a powerful force in all areas, winning back possession a total of 12 times - more than any other Watford player on the pitch.

Doucoure is instrumental to Watford. When he plays well, the whole team tends to follow suit - and if he can continue this form over the next few weeks then Watford will find themselves climbing off the bottom of the table.


Quique Sanchez Flores' Tactical Nous

Watford were criticised heavily when they sacked Javi Gracia after four games and brought back former gaffer Quique Sanchez Flores.

Pundits questioned whether the changing of the guard was too early in the season and why Watford would go back to the man they sacked three years earlier.

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However, this performance showed why it looks like the Watford hierarchy have got the decision correct. Watford fought hard for the point and that was down to the Spaniard's tactics.

He has switched from Gracia's 4-2-2-2 formation to a 3-5-2 with a solid back three of Christian Kabasele, Craig Dawson and Craig Cathcart. This saw them keep their first clean sheet of the season against Sheffield United prior to the international break. 

They were so close to seeing the game out  before Alli's equaliser. Watford need to stop conceding goals if they are to get out of the mess they find themselves in - and Sanchez Flores seems to have that high on his list of priorities.


Decisive Defence

Watford conceded 20 goals in their first seven games of the Premier League season and to say the defence looked atrocious would be an understatement.

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However, the back three in particular looked steely on Saturday. Kabasele, Dawson and Cathcart were so solid as a back three and kept Tottenham's front two of Harry Kane and Lucas Moura very quiet. 

Spurs only managed two shots on target all game - one being Dele's equaliser in the 86th minute. There were a series of defensive blocks and headers that meant Tottenham couldn't break through earlier.

The only moment of defensive hesitation came before the Alli goal, as miscommunication between Ben Foster and Daryl Janmaat saw the ball drop for the England international.


Missing Men

Not much has been made of the injuries Watford have at the moment - and there are some key men currently out.

Club captain Troy Deeney had knee surgery and is out for a least another month. Everyone knows how important he can be and Watford have certainly missed their talisman leading the line.

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Deeney is not the only player on the sidelines currently. Etienne Capoue, arguably the Hornets' best player this season, missed Saturday's game with a back injury. He has often commanded from midfield when others have been absent.

Yet, without those two key men - and an early hamstring injury to Danny Welbeck (surprise, surprise) - Watford almost secured their first win of the season away at one of the 'top six'.

Deeney and Capoue will have a huge impact on the team when they return from the treatment room. They are leaders in the squad and on the pitch - Watford's squad can only get stronger.


Final Words

There is so much hope that can be taken from Watford's 1-1 draw. Admittedly, Tottenham are not at their best and are vulnerable, but nevertheless Watford showed the sort of form that got them to the FA Cup final last season.

With a relatively straightforward string of fixtures coming up in the next few weeks, Watford will be expecting to get their first three points of the season and climb up the table towards safety. 

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Flores is the right man for the job. He kept Watford up in their first season back in the Premier League and Saturday's performance shows that he can do it again. He's got Watford playing with passion and fight again - and that's what they will need if they are to remain a Premier League club.

After suffering the demoralising 8-0 away loss at Manchester City, Watford looked like a team destined for relegation. But this performance should put the league on notice that the Hornets haven't lost their sting. 

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