From the opening whistle and for 90 minutes of play, Watford dominated visting Brighton & Hove Albion at Vicarage Road. Some would see the Hornets play as unlucky, controlling the tempo and creating good chances. The scoreless game was broken in the 35th minute as Jose Holebas delivered from a short Abdoulaye Doucoure corner, the defender sent in a beautiful arching cross that was volleyed home by Roberto Pereyra. Even at 1-0, Watford continued to press Brighton into mistakes; misplayed balls, ill-timed passes.
Watford would extend their lead in the 52nd minute, through Pereyra again, pushed forward down the left flank, Pereyra cut inside and sent a bending shot toward the far post, out of Mat Ryan’s reach. It would be all Watford, as they controlled the ball and dominated the game from start to finish. Questions still remain, as their defence was untested by Brighton, with just 6 shots, none found the target.
Player Report Card
Ben Foster | Grade: B
Appeared to be in good form, a commanding presence in goal locked up the clean sheet, but realistically wasn’t tested by Brighton. Good movement in and around the box and positive decision making, coming for balls he improves the Hornets defensive prospects.
Fantasy: Hold. If you have him, great as you should get some more opportunites at points away to Burnley and home to Crystal Palace the next two weeks, but the run gets much challenging at that point facing Spurs, Manchester United, and Arsenal. I wouldn’t go out and get him, but if you have him in a rotation, play him while the going is good.
Jose Holebas | Grade: A
As a supporter, I was somewhat suprised to see the 34-year old Greek start the game, as I thought Javi Gracia would opt for the young, Adam Masina. Holebas had an excellent game at both ends of the pitch. His free and corner kicks were well taken into dangerous areas. Due to his play, he recorded two assists on the day.Fantasy: Hold. This was his best attacking return game since GW15, 2016, when he recorded two assists in a 3-2 win over Everton. While many want to be bullish on the left wing back, I would not be chasing him down for my starting XI. Like Foster, the defence was untested and he won’t be on track for weekly offensive returns. At 34, I do believe he will be displaced by Adam Masina.
Will Hughes | Grade: C
Of all the players I proped up before the season, Hughes was one of them. However, it was surprising to see him on the right flank in 4-4-2, which isn’t his normal position. Not known for his crossing, his game is better controlling the game from a #10 spot. In fact he didn’t really do much, having one wrong footed shot that wasn’t close to the goal.
Fantasy: Hold. I beleive the formation Gracia presented worked, but not with Hughes on the right. Don’t expect to see him there with the return of Gerard Deulofeu, but there could be some doubt he returns to a central position with the play of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue. Give him one more week and see if he can produce away to Burnley.
Roberto Pereyra | Grade: A
Pereyra was another player I was high on during the preseason, as he slotted into the spot vacated by Richarlison. At the end of last season, Pereyra was in excellent form and that has carried over to the start the season. This is great news for the Hornets, as he played well with Andre Gray and Troy Deeney from front. Pereyra netted two beautiful goals on the day as he looks to be one of the current £6.0 midfielders to own.
Fantasy: Buy. He’s a streaky player, but if the going is good, he’s going to provide returns. Watford have two more favorable fixtures, away to Burnley and at home to Palace. If you don’t want to start him against the top 6, he can easily hold a spot on the bench for a week. However, if the Hornets run out a similar formation, he could be prize for all fantasy managers.
Andre Gray & Troy Deeney | Grade: B
I list them together because they are a complete player in a 2-forward formation and complement each other very well. While neither scored, they were highly active in the attacking end of the pitch. Deeney played very well in holding up the play, winning countless balls or long passes out of the back from Foster. Gray on the other hand was continually pressuring defenders and looking for any opportunity to break in on goal. Together they opened up the play for Pereyra on the flank.
Fantasy: Hold. Didn’t see enough to warrant considering either forward as an option moving forward, especially as fixtures stiffen in GW4. Having two weeks before that match against Spurs, I can see both players getting on the scoreboard, early in the season but it’s not compelling enough of an issue to chase their points. Show me the returns and I would consider investing.
It clearly looks as if many of the players purchased in the transfer window will be used as back up, as the starting XI today, minus Foster all played during the back end of last season. Ongoing injuries to Tom Cleverley, Nathaniel Chalobah and Gerard Deulofeu will only strengthen the team upon their return. I look toward GW6, when the FDR benefits the Hornets. Regarding the 4-4-2 formation, Gracia was quoted as saying, “I think it’s a very good option for games like today.”