LONDON • Mauricio Pochettino's men will spend the better part of almost two weeks stewing over the manner of Tottenham Hotspur's shock 2-1 English Premier League defeat at Watford on Sunday, with their manager's harsh words of a "wake-up call" ringing in their ears.
Going into the international break, the capitulation at Vicarage Road was the last thing Pochettino would have wanted, with Spurs' next league game against a high-flying Liverpool side who can boast a 100 per cent record this season.
In his post-match interview, the Argentinian conceded that Spurs must improve if they are to be taken as serious contenders for the league title and he was critical of his players' failure to hold on to the lead given to them by Abdoulaye Doucoure's 53rd-minute own goal.
Watford scored from two set pieces in the second half, leaving Pochettino to question his side's approach in the wake of their impressive 3-0 victory at Manchester United last month.
"Today, it's good to compare," he said. "Sometimes, people talk about the perception, but the reality was on the pitch and the reality is if you want to be a contender at the end, today you need to win."
He also hinted his side might have underestimated the Hornets: "We need to show more respect to this competition. You need to compete much better. It's difficult for me to understand after four years of us being contenders."
The 46-year-old also questioned whether Spurs had shown sufficient fight, and the way in which Watford skipper Troy Deeney then defender Craig Cathcart were able to head home unhindered from a free kick and corner respectively supported his view.
Premier League talking points
1 EVERTON LACK IDEAS WITHOUT RICHARLISON
When Richarlison picked up his red card at Bournemouth last month, Everton fans consoled themselves that he would only miss home games against Huddersfield and West Ham.
The implication was that Everton should be able to win those games without him, but the 1-1 draw on Saturday showed they have no alternative to the £40 million (S$70.7 million) Brazilian forward. The Toffees ought to spend the international break introducing their other attackers to each other because not one had any spark of creativity or understanding to really hurt the Terriers at Goodison Park.
2 MURRAY THRIVES ON JOURNEYMAN INSTINCTS
The time when he was being touted for an England place has now passed, but Glenn Murray continues to be a beacon of hope for strikers toiling away in the lower divisions.
The 34-year-old, who started his career bouncing between the likes of Workington, Barrow, Carlisle, Stockport and Rochdale only seems to be improving as his 35th birthday approaches. His brace rescued a point for Brighton against Fulham and with three goals this new campaign, he is continuing to uphold the unpretentious values of the workhorse lower-league forward.
3 PALACE CAN'T PLAY IN SECOND GEAR
The composed, athletic football that steered Crystal Palace clear of relegation last season was absent against Southampton, replaced by uncertainty and a lack of determination.
This was a reminder that they cannot expect to win if they do not play at their best. With a small squad, largely reinforced with rejects from other clubs, Palace do not have many options and others like Christian Benteke will have to step up to support Wilfried Zaha.
"Today, from the beginning, we needed to go there like a lion and try to score in every single action. The second half we scored and then they showed more strength (and were) more aggressive in the situation," he said.
With the season weeks old, he was keen to offer perspective and believes Spurs' first defeat of the term can be a turning point.
"It's a chance for everyone to say, 'Come on, we need to compete'. We need to talk about how to improve," he said. "And in March and April and the beginning of May, if we are there, then OK, now we are contenders."
His side announced yesterday they will play all their Champions League group matches (Barcelona on Oct 3, PSV Eindhoven on Nov 6 and Inter Milan on Nov 28) at Wembley, where they played their home matches last season.
They were initially scheduled to play their first game at the new 62,000-capacity White Hart Lane venue on Sept 15 against Liverpool but safety issues meant they switched the game along with the next home fixture to Wembley.
While Spurs were left deflated, Watford - who like the Reds and Chelsea have won four league games on the bounce - showed that their form was no fluke.
It is only the second time in Watford's history that they have won their first four matches of a league campaign - the previous time was in 1988 in the English second tier.
Manager Javi Gracia said: "It's a big moment for us. But we know it's only the beginning."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS