After a highly successful season that saw the Golden Boys rise to the FA Cup Final and finish on a team best 50 points, the 2019/20 Premier League season got off to a terrible start at Vicarage Road, as Graham Potter brought his new look Seagulls to town.
Last season, Watford took care of business on the back of a Maxi Pereyra brace and cruised to a 2-0 victory on the opening day. This time around, Watford was second best from the kickoff to the final whistle, as they were shut out, 3-0.
What went wrong in the opening day loss and is there concern for the Hornets this season? Manager, Javi Gracia said, “I think we need to improve, maybe it’s a good wake-up call for the rest of the season. It’s the first game and we have a lot of games and time to improve. Today there are no excuses. They played better than us and deserved the three points and got the result they deserved.”
This was the Watford team I expected to see last season, but this season we retained the services of Abdoulaye Doucoure, who signed a long-term contract last season, but was pursued by larger clubs (that doesn’t include Everton). Gino Pozzo and Scott Duxbury addressed out needs and deficiency and brought in central defender, Craig Dawson, winger, Ismaila Sarr and forward, Danny Welbeck to strength a solid foundation of players, who achieved great things last year under Gracia.
Just 28 minutes into the game Brighton took the lead on a Pascal Groβ cross that was diverted off the side of Doucoure’s foot, past a diving Ben Foster to give the Seagulls an early 1-0 lead.
Much of the first half, Watford was second best, described by Watford journalists as, “dispirited and disjointed.” Dawson was added to improve our center backs that had journeyman, Adrian Mariappa relegated to the bench in a move to strengthen the defense. That wasn’t the case last Saturday, as Dawson and Cathcart had communication issues and had not played enough to gel as a pairing. Rest assured, as the season goes on, this pairing should improve the Watford defense.
Out of the break, Javi made his first change, removing Gerard Deulofeu, who was nursing a muscle injury during preseason causing him to miss the final tune up games ahead of the opener. There was some question of his inclusion in the squad. What many did not expect to see was Deulofeu playing wide right, for the not yet fit, Pereyra, as summer wonder, Andre Gray got the start up front with Troy Deeney.
It’s my opinion, Gray is no longer a starter, he’s an impact substitute, power combined with speed he can break down defenses late in the game. We’ve see the lack of creativity when he starts up top with Deeney, one of the reasons why Gracia moved Deulofeu, playing him out of position as a forward last yeat with great success. Was it Gracia rewarding gray for a successful preseason? Probably, but I don’t expect this to last, another no return for Gray and he too, will be relegated to the bench, as Deulofeu regains fitness and Pereyra returns to the left flank.
Watford did generate 11 shots, doubling up Brighton with just three on target. None of them really challenging Mat Ryan or the Seagulls defense. After an opportunity to draw level on a Gray shot that wasn’t far away, just a minute after coming onto the pitch, substitute Florin Andone netted his first of the season to double Brighton’s lead, 2-0.
Gracia attempted to inject a spark in to the defeated Watford offense, introducing Issac Success in the 75th minute. Just two minutes later, Lewis Dunk carried the ball, uncontested up the pitch and found Neal Maupay, who put it past Foster to put the game away for Brighton, 3-0.
After the match, defender Craig Cathcart said, “I don’t think there’s a hangover from last season. In pre-season we got the results, we’ve worked really hard over the five weeks we’ve been back and it’s just one of those days where everything was against us – there was the own goal, they were clinical with their finishing. Perhaps we were a little bit unlucky at times as well.”
WATFORD FPL ASSETS
At £6.5, it appeared Gerard Deulofeu offered some good value. Coming off a 10 goal, 5 assist season that saw the Spainard score 133 points last season, anticipation was high headed into the start of the season. A muscle injury that wasn’t reported much saw him miss the final preseason games, with some question to his fitness level.
We saw what Javi Gracia had in mind when he started him on the left flank, replacing Maxi Pereyra, who was also lacking fitness from his participating in Copa Americana. This is not where I wanted to see Deulofeu used, based on his fitness, which was lack, Javi give him just 45 minutes before substituting him off in favor of Pereyra.
For GW2, there is some concern over his minutes. Does he get a half of football? Will he make 60-65 minutes? This is typically where Gracia pulls him in favor of Gray or Success. Watford visit Goodison Park, to faces Marco Silva’s Everton. Watford need Deulofeu up front, but there is some question to where his fitness is. We know how explosive he is, but after a dismal performance in GW1, I think FPL managers need to look elsewhere until he’s fit, playing up front with Troy Deeney.
There are no other assets to recommend currently for Watford. Defensively, the Hornets have a lot to sort out, consider them growing pains as Dawson and Cathcart improve in front of Foster. The midfield was lacking control, which is unlike Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure.