FA CUP THOUGHTS
Guess I fall under the heading of “fair weathered fan” when I say I missed the extraordinary comeback by my Hornets last Sunday at Wembley. The Raul Jimenez goal was frustrating to give up, both coming off excellent counter attacks and passes to end up behind Heurelho Gomes.
It would be four hours later, being congratulated by friends in the #FPLBeerClub on the come from behind victory. At that point, it was bewilderment and excitement rolled into one. Honestly, I did not think we would come back to score three and ride a big wave into the FA Cup Finals against Manchester City. Here are a few thoughts from the game.
First, Watford was the better team on the pitch. While unaccepting of Javi Gracia’s starting XI, his strategy paid off, as Gerard Deulofeu and Andre Gray swapped positions, as Gray partnered with captain, Troy Deeney up top. The move to put Roberto Pereyra was interesting and something we had not seen this season from Gracia. In my opinion, his form was severely lacking, and it could have been Will Hughes in that spot. Instead, Hughes started on the right of a midfield three, with Etienne Capoue and Abdoulay Doucoure.
Gray off the bench has been excellent this season. Since acquiring him from Burnley, he’s never achieved the sort of success Watford supporters have been looking for, unable to fill the shooting boot of Odion Ighalo, after his move to China. To play Deulofeu OOP with Deeney has been a stroke of genius by Gracia, but off the bench, how would the Spaniard perform?
The Golden Boys got their spark they needed from Deulofeu, when he came on in the 66’ for Hughes. Just 13-minutes later, from a standing still position, he picked out of the top, right corner of the net to give Watford hope. The rest, as they say is history.
I lost a considerable amount of respect for “The Mexican,” Raul Jimenez, as he taunted supporters with his best Lucha Libre impression, donning a yellow mask. That sort of celebration should have been grounds for a yellow card. Unfortunately, Michael Oliver let the celebration continue. That needs to stay out of the beautiful game!
There were two advantages Watford had over Wolves. First, team fitness. Even late into extra time, Watford looked fresh with strong legs, while Wolves struggled to keep pace. Nuno Espirito played his substitutes, taking out Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota and Joao Moutinho, the heart of the midfield, leaving them toothless in extra time.
The depth of squad also appeared to be an issue, as Gracia has used nearly 25 players on the season, he feels confident in slotting in players like Ken Sema and Adam Masina to come in and make a positive contribution. Didn’t see much the likes of Ivan Cavaleiro or Adama Traore when they entered the game.
WATFORD PREVIEW: vs ARSENAL
At home, Arsenal have been good, but not “invincible” playing in front of the Emirates faithful. However, on their travels, they have yet to secure a clean sheet on the season. The Hornets visited the Emirates last September that saw a late, freak own goal by Craig Cathcart burst the Watford bubble, as Mesut Ozil added a second just two minutes later, giving the visitors a 2-0 win.
Over their last 6 away games, Arsenal have conceded 12 goals, ranking near the bottom of the league without a clean sheets. The Gunners have midweek Europa League action against Napoli, so expect different line ups for both games.
The Hornets should return to their favored 4-2-2-2, as Gerard Deulofeu, after his brace in the FA Cup semifinal, back into the starting XI. His impact in that game cannot be understated, as he was that “missing piece” Javi Gracia needed. Against a shaky Gunners defense, Deulofeu should get some good opportunities this weekend. Injuries continue to plague the Arsenal defense, but Unai Emery is constantly changing formations depending on what he needs from his midfielders and forwards.
A win this weekend and Watford could jump back into 7th in the league table, as it’s getting quite congested with four teams vying for that all important slot and a chance at Europa League inclusion next season. More importantly, there is no way in hell Watford supporters want to see Marco Silva finish higher the Golden Boys.
Coming off the back of an emphatic victory last weekend in the FA Cup, Watford in front of the Vicarage Road faithful, have been playing very well. Defensively, they have conceded far too many goals, but have played Liverpool, Man City and Man United. Between the second half performance of the Fulham game and the excitement of the FA Cup, Watford need to come out and make a statement early, especially on the road. Controlling games and dominating possession hasn’t been a problem with the likes of Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure in the midfield. The transition play continues to be strong, with Jose Holebas and either Kiko Femenia or Daryl Janmaat down the flanks for support.
Ben Foster returns to the pitch, the leader of our defense will command a four-man defensive unit that has played consistent all season long. The Hornets will need to limit mistakes, much like we saw with the Cathcart OG last September and the counter attacks, as the Gunners have speed up from with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, both with pinpoint accuracy.
Avoid the mistake and control the game and I feel Watford can pull off an upset victory against the Gunners, 1-0. Our finishing, which has been an Achilles heel this season, but appears to be improving, as witnessed by the magic created by Deulofeu last Sunday.
Lots of question surround Watford players as many FPL managers have activated their second wild card ahead of DGW34. From a supporter’s point of view, here’s the short list of Hornets I am considering.
Gerard Deulofeu (£5.7/TSB 5.3%)
The Spaniard is my top target in the midfield, he’s in form and priced right to be a differential player. While his Premier League statistics don’t back him for inclusion, he’s coming off an amazing FA Cup game, scoring the most important goal of his career. Playing OOP and partnered with Troy Deeney makes him explosive and dangerous, especially on the counter attack.
Troy Deeney (£5.9/TSB 5.4%)
If there is one player on the Hornets playing in form, it’s Deeney. Continuing to wear the captain’s armband is the inspirational leader for the team. That doesn’t score you, as an FPL manager any extra points, but you can see it on the pitch. It’s been seven attacking returns in the last six game week, not including the dramatic 90’+3 penalty he scored to draw the Hornets level last Sunday. He’s priced right to be an impact player to finish the season.
Beyond these two players, I don’t feel confident recommending any other players. That doesn’t mean Ben Foster isn’t a good shout, he’s been a reliable goalkeeper on the season, but the Hornets have had a “bend don’t break” mindset, where they worry if they go down by a goal. Just seven clean sheets on the season isn’t enough to promote Foster. If you want to use him for DGW35, go for it, but there could be some stronger single game week plays.
Many FPL managers look at attacking returns when it comes to defenders, which leads you right to Jose Holebas. At 34, it’s yet to be seen how Gracia will manager him the rest of the way. He’s missed four out of the last six games from injury, but when healthy has held down the left back position. Ten attacking returns, on dead balls, corners and set pieces makes him interesting to consider.