Kane and Alli find form for Spurs as league leaders lie on the horizon
The final instalment of English football's mid-winter madness at White Hart Lane on Wednesday promises to be the best yet, and there were long periods of Tottenham's demolition of Watford yesterday when it seemed to be uppermost in the minds of the away side at Vicarage Road.
Watford 1 Tottenham 4
Coming up: Chelsea at White Hart Lane, gunning for a share of Arsenal's all-time Premier League winning streak, which stands at 14. In Chelsea's way will be Spurs, one of the league's form teams who have scored four in each of their previous two games, both of them away from home and, in Harry Kane and Dele Alli, have their two big guns firing.
Mauricio Pochettino was able to substitute the pair, who split the goals between them, for the closing stages after the real work had been done in 20 explosive minutes across half-time. Playing a three-man defence and with Kieran Trippier contributing two assists and filling in nicely for the suspended Kyle Walker as a right wing-back, Spurs are hitting their best form of the season.
They were up against a Watford team racked by injuries, eight before the game and then Juan Zuniga in the warm-up when the Colombian had to be withdrawn with an ankle problem.
Walter Mazzarri's team folded badly after Kane opened the scoring on 27 minutes but you had to say that it was coming before then from a Spurs team with their tails up.
Pochettino was without Jan Vertonghen too, also suspended, and it will be interesting to see how he tweaks the formation to take on Antonio Conte's all-conquering version of the wing-back system.
The Spurs manager encouraged all concerned not to be too hung up on the formation in the aftermath, but every manager encountering Conte is being faced with the question of whether they match up Chelsea or go their own way.
Pochettino said that when his side play Chelsea he hoped they would do so with the good will of the masses behind them, as Leicester City had done on the way to their title last May.
"Chelsea are in a very good shape and having played a few games [over Christmas] it will be a very, very difficult match," he said. "It's a great opportunity for us to try to stop them and close the gap.
"It is important for the Premier League that we try to win. Maybe we will feel how Leicester felt last season. All the teams were with them and against us."
Among other things the Spurs support sang about Chelsea, there was the sentiment that their team were "coming for" the league leaders which, if nothing else, demonstrates the confidence currently at the club.
They did not even need to summon Mousa Dembele from the bench and Pochettino could also give some much needed game-time to Vincent Janssen.
No such luck for Mazzarri, who complained later that Watford's achievements in the first half of last season cannot be compared to this campaign because the league is, in his view, much harder one year on.
He may have a point there and he certainly did when he suggested that 13th place is no disaster at this stage of the season, even if results have been a concern of late.
This was the fifth defeat in seven games and that day back in September when they beat Manchester United at Vicarage Road is a distant memory. The worry was how easily Watford went under once Kane had scored the first, although Mazzarri remains confident that he retains the trust of the club's Italian owner, Gino Pozzo.
There was a late goal from Younes Kaboul, twice signed by Spurs over the course of his career, although he had been badly at fault for his former team's third. Tottenham's first came when Trippier played an intelligent ball to put Kane in behind Watford's defence where he finished confidently at Heurelho Gomes' near post.
Alli had already struck the bar by then and the England midfielder spread a ball out wide to Trippier for the second goal on 33 minutes. He delivered an excellent waist-high, right-footed cross into the box, and Kane emerged from a pack of defenders to guide it in with an outstretched boot.
For the third, Kaboul made a dreadful attempt at a clearance which fell straight to Alli who slotted in with ease. He scored again from Kane's back-post cross a minute into the second half and any hopes of a revival from the home side were well and truly over.
In the absence of any hope of a comeback, Mazzarri did at least give a senior debut to the full-back Brandon Mason, one of four former academy starlets on the Watford bench.
They eventually scored in time added on at the end of the game with Kaboul on his backside when he forced it over the line. There were still boos at the final whistle. (© Daily Telegraph, London)