Let’s start where I left off in the Clash of the Correspondence podcast on Planet FPL, Watford will lose, 3-0. Quique Sanchez Flores returns to Watford ahead of a tough three game stretch that will truly test the resilience of the club. Arsenal visit Vicarage Road this weekend, followed by away games at the Eithad and Molineux, not a welcoming situation to walk back into.
While there is some statistical truth to the “new manager bump” not sure that will be the case this Sunday when Arsenal step onto the pitch. Their form is good, and that attack is one that could scare any defense with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexander Lacazette and Nicholas Pepe. While the later has yet to find the net, he’s had 12 shots, that joint top for midfielders with Raheem Steling and Kevin De Bruyne.
Defensively, the Hornets have forgotten how to play as a cohesive unit, the addition of Craig Dawson hasn’t been since coming over from West Brom, where he played in front of Ben Foster. There have been some positive, individual performances but overall the defense has failed, when compared to last season. The hard charging, Kiko Femenia appears to a strong option down the flank, but second best when it comes to defending behind Daryl Janmaat.
Jose Holebas and Sanchez Flores need to come clean and settle their discontent for each other. Holebas arrived from AS Roma in 2015 when Watford was promoted, starting the first three fixtures before being benched in favor of Chelsea loanee, Nathan Ake. “I chose Holebas in the first match but his performance is not enough to keep him in the first XI. Holebas must wait, fight and try to force his way back into the team. He is an experienced player and he understands that, maybe, when he arrived at Watford it would be easy to play here,” said QSF in an interview back in 2015. The Greek has been a mainstay at the left back position, we will have to see what changed QSF makes, if any.
With Javi Gracia in charge, the 4-2-2-2 worked well last year, but this year with similar personal hasn’t been successful. With Sanchez Flores arriving, there could be a shift in formation, introducing Danny Welbeck up front, in place of the injured, Troy Deeney. Watford could look to stretch and widen the pitch pushing Gerard Deulofeu out to the left flank and giving Ismaila Sarr a start on the opposite flank, providing width, speed and skill to feed Welbeck. This could push Will Hughes out of the starting XI as Roberto Pereyra slides into a central role, behind Welbeck. Whatever the formation, I do believe QSF needs to shake up the offense and try something new.
The Hornets have done a good job controlling possession (52.5%) through the first four games. Their 55 attempts are 7th best in the league, while their shots on target (11) are second worst. Defensively, they’ve conceded 20 shots on target (16th worst) and 8 goals (18th worst). Numbers and statistics don’t lie, the Golden Boys have lost their luster and QSF needs to do some polishing to get this team headed in the right direction.
As I stated at the outset, I don’t see Watford being able to break down Arsenal this weekend, as we’ve been shut out the last three games, we’ve played them, conceding 6 goals during that time. I feel a 3-0 is a fair score, in favor of Arsenal, but this would be the sort of game to see former Arsenal forward, Danny Welbeck to pop up in and score a cheap, consolation goal.
While QSF has better players to work with his second time around, it will take some time to see how the players respond to some potentially big changes in personnel and the starting XI. Arsenal, City and Wolves are going to be challenging and could define how the remainder of the season shakes out. Two points from a possible six I feel is a bit of a stretch and could see this team 0-7 before they host Sheffield United in GW8.
Please don’t make me laugh, there are none. As I mentioned on the COTC, if you need a £4.4 defender, Femenia and Cathcart are options, but dial your expectations way back. Going forward, I still feel it’s worthwhile to continue to monitor Deulofeu, Welbeck and Pereyra. I will be curious to see more of Sarr, if he gets regular starts. All said, there are better options available out of the international break.