Game week 29, the Hornets returned to Vicarage Road to welcome new manager, Brendan Rodgers and Leicester City. Rodgers last managed Watford in the 2008/09 season. He takes over the Foxes, who’ve been unimpressive after a successful stint at Celtic in the SPL. Ahead of Watford, Leicester had one win in their last four games and faced a Hornets team that was dropped, 5-0 at Anfield the prior week.
It was an important game for Watford, to see how they would rebound from a devastating loss, in which they played poorly and in the case of Adam Masina a few steps behind, to chase down Mo Salah. The Hornets got off to a quick start, taking just five minutes before they opened the scoring. Gerard Deulofeu has been a catalyst since returning from injury. While his form has been good, his finish, not including his hat trick performance had been quite poor. On a dead ball, he whipped in a beautiful ball that glanced off the head of Troy Deeney and past Kasper Schmeichel to give the Golden Boys a 1-0 lead.
After the first goal, Watford went into a defensive shell, not allowing the Foxes to run in behind them, something we saw from Liverpool the week prior. Jamie Vardy was the biggest concern, due to his speed and his finishing skills, however the talisman had two penalty touches and one shot on goal. While I would like to knock that off on the Watford defense keying on him, it appeared to be more of a failure on the part of Leicester to create. They had 14 shots in the game, but just two on target.
While the Foxes controlled the ball 61% of the game, their play looked like that of Claude Puel. Rodgers is attack-minded but has struggled to square away defense, as he went with three center backs; Johnny Evans, Wes Morgan and Harry Maguire, to shore up a defense that had conceded 11 goals in their last five games. Morgan continues to be a liability on defense and struggled. Watford were limited to six shots, however five were on target and the Foxes defense conceded twice.
The Foxes created, posting 14 shots on goal, but just two on target, one of which was Vardy’s break away goal, as he was played through my Youri Tielemans in the 75th minute. Vardy left the Watford defenders chasing, as Foster closed down the angle, but was unable to stop Vardy from drawing the game level at 1-1.
Javi Gracia turned to his bench and brought on Andre Gray in the 69th minutes for Deulofeu, who rarely finishes out a game. While his impact wasn’t immediate, I compare his role for the Hornets to that of Issac Success earlier in the season. In his last home game, against Everton, Gray came on at half time and netted the game winner in the 65th minute. Deeney connected with Gray on a beautifully lofted pass that he controlled and calmly slotted back Schmeichel to give Watford a 2-1 in injury time.
Deeney said, of Gray, “When it came to me, everyone said it was a great pass, but it was pretty simple because I knew where he was going, and it was a great first touch and a great finish.” For Watford, consistency has been a key word all season. While they’ve played a few poor games, overall Gracia has the Golden Boys playing very well and confident, regardless who the opposition is.
Are Watford players in our thoughts for FPL, as we can see BGW31 on the horizon? Over the next few weeks, there is no reason to consider any player from the Hornets. A trip to the Eithad in game week 30, followed by a blank in game week 31, only to travel to Old Trafford the following week. It’s going to be very challenging for the Hornets, where results are not expected. That made their game week 29 win very important.
Troy Deeney (£5.9) is the most in form player for Watford. Over the last 6 game weeks, Deeney has 26 penalty touches, 19 attempts on goal, 13 inside the box with 3 goals. He could be an option for DGW32 and DGW35, depending on how the games shake out after the quarterfinals of the FA Cup, where Watford hosts Crystal Palace on March 16. Deeney could potentially come in for BGW33 or possibly a wild card used in GW34, when the Hornets host Fulham in GW33 and Huddersfield away in GW35, which Arsenal in between.
Gerard Deulofeu (£5.6) is the only midfielder to consider. Much like Deeney, you must be willing to play him through some tough fixtures over the next 3 weeks and ride the blank out, or pick him up with the Free Hit Chip or Wild Card. His three-goal performance against Cardiff City is still fresh in our mind, as he’s been good going forward with 25 penalty touches but only 9 attempts on goals, 7 from inside the box.
Defensively, Ben Foster is still a strong option, if you carry two starting goalkeepers. While the fixtures against the top six could be very difficult, Foster continues to post excellent numbers, in what I feel has been his best season in the Premier League. The all-time saves leader will continue to post strong numbers and while they do have difficult games, he could post some big save totals over the next few weeks, if you can ride him out through the blank.
The other option, Jose Holebas, but the only caveat being, he must get forward and get attacking returns. Many FPL managers look at attacking returns when adding defenders, Holebas has a combined 10 returns, on 3 goals and 7 assists along with 7 clean sheets.
For me, I am not considering Watford options until GW33, where Deeney might be viable, it will hinge on how the doubles games fall into place.
Watford gear up to travel to the Eithad Stadium and Pep Guardiola’s Man City. The Sky Blues are undefeated in their last five Premier League games and top the league table by a point over Liverpool. Wins are necessary this time of the season, as City look to hold onto their lead. Looking at the last two games, City hasn’t impressed, a 1-0 win at Bournemouth and a 1-0 win against West Ham, both teams before Watford in the league table. Do the Hornets have a chance?
Bournemouth through everything behind the ball, playing a 5-4-1, something we won’t see Javi Gracia do, but Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure will be called upon to track back to contain a very active midfield for City. Kevin De Bruyne picked up a hamstring injury, which could see both David Silva and Bernado Silva playing through the middle, possibly giving Leroy Sane or Riyad Marhez a start. Sergio Aguero has played quite a few minutes between the League Cup final and Premier League, Gabriel Jesus is fit again but picked up only a minute at Bournemouth. Spot start? City play Schalke 04 just three days after Watford.
For Watford, Ben Foster is the key for Watford. His defenders must limit big chance opportunities and not allow Raheem Sterling and Aguero to get in behind the defense. Adrian Mariappa had a good game against Leicester but got lost when Vardy went right by him. The journeyman continues to put in good minutes, but I favor Christian Kabasele, who’s been out of form since his injury back in December. The wide men will be important, as Daryl Janmaat and Jose Holebas will be called upon to contain a team that is very dynamic down the flanks. Sterling always causes problem, regardless of flank.
The midfield is always important for the Hornets, as they key the attack going forward. Its going to be a big ask to get the ball forward on a very good defense. The loss of Aymeric Laporte could see Oleksandr Zinchenko start on the left and Vincent Kompany in the middle for the injured, John Stones. While not a makeshift defense, they will be called upon to start the Hornets going forward. Watford need to get Roberto Pereyra back into form, he’s been missing on the left flank, requiring the likes of Deeney, Deulofeu and Will Hughes to work harder to create.
In the reverse fixture, Watford picked up a late consolation goal, as City picked up a 2-1 victory. Not as close as the score reflects, Watford is playing much better of late, their loss to City came at then of a down turn in form at the beginning of December. However, if the Liverpool loss is any indication, the Golden Boys could be in for a long afternoon.
While I don’t favor a victory, I do believe we could give City a run. The Hornets need to limit mistakes, control the midfield and play strong defense, in hopes of getting a counter-attack, with the speed Deulofeu possess. Much like the previous two wins, I see City coming out on top, 1-0.