Watford winger Ismaila Sarr now free to dish out Arsenal punishment to Tottenham

Simon Collings
Getty Images

If Tottenham defenders want to know about the threat Ismaila Sarr could pose on Saturday, they should look at the torrid time he gave neighbours Arsenal.

When the winger was playing for Rennes last season, before joining ­Watford for £30million in the summer, he terrorised the Gunners as the French side won their Europa League clash 3-1.

It was a superb display, which he capped by scoring a brilliant diving header, but until the arrival of Nigel Pearson at Vicarage Road he had not performed to a similar level for his new club.

Instead Sarr cut an anonymous figure at times and did not even feature against Tottenham earlier this season.

Pearson said: “I never underestimate how huge a step it is for a lot of these young men to come into a different ­culture. The Premier League is a really tough league to be a success in and add to that the fact we have struggled this year as a side.

“All those things put together would suggest it is going to be even harder for an individual coming into a new environment to be able to shine.”

Sarr, however, has started to sparkle under Pearson and since his arrival he has had a direct hand in four goals in six Premier League games, while before that he had scored just once and ­delivered no assists.

A tactical change has helped the ­Senegal international, who often watches videos of his idol, Liverpool winger Sadio Mane, before matches and he now has licence to express ­himself on the pitch.

Sarr gave Arsenal a torrid time while playing for Rennes last season (AFP via Getty Images)

Under Quique Sanchez Flores, Sarr was shackled in a 3-5-2 system but Pearson’s 4-3-3 set-up has unlocked his true potential.

As Pearson explains, Sarr is ­effectively a “wide striker”, with Gerard Deulofeu doing the same job on the left flank — and the moves have worked ­wonders.

“Geri is a different player to Ismaila and they have both got different strengths but it is great to have pace and talent in wide areas,” said Pearson.

“The attacking players need to have a certain licence to play to their strengths and that’s what we try do.”

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