Expectations this weekend as Quique Sanchez Flores takes his team to Molineux Stadium this weekend…none! “There’s no excuse for our performance,” said Adrian Mariappa after last Saturday’s defeat to Manchester City, 8-0. While many of the players have put this thumping behind them, it represented the worst defeat I can remember as a supporter. Watford rebound in the Carabao Cup at Vicarage Road on Tuesday, defeating Championship side, Swansea City, 2-1. Sanchez Flores after the win said, “The important thing was to win after the weekend.” While I agree with that statement, this win is rather insignificant when it comes to the reality this weekend against Wolves in the battle to avoid relegation.
As we saw last year in the FA Cup run with Javi Gracia, QSF started a very different lineup against the Swans, introducing six different players to the starting XI that included Danny Welbeck paired up front with Andre Gray. While I won’t read into this 4-2-2-2 formation, it appeared to be “more of the same” as we saw with Gracia when it comes to how we could perceivably set up this weekend.
Against Wolves, Sanchez Flores needs to go in with a confidence we haven’t seen this season from the Hornets. The loss of captain, Troy Deeney continues to hamper any sort of inspiration on the pitch, his physical style of play and “cajones” have been missed since his injury.
Last season, Watford and Wolves split their two Premier League games, as the Hornets won, 2-0 at Vicarage Road, but were defeated near the end of the season, 2-1 at Molineux. The bright spot against Nuno Espirito Santo, Watford’s added extra time victory in the FA Cup Semi-final, which saw Gerard Deulofeu take the team under his wing with a brace and the late game winning goal, 3-2.
Can’t stress the importance of this game, as these are the two worst teams in the league and three points could benefit both teams in their bid to climb above the relegation zone. For Watford, we need to return to a two-man forward line that showcases Welbeck partnered with Deulofeu. Gray posted a stink against Swansea City, as his touch was off during the night, as I’ve started all season, he isn’t a starter. His skill and attributes are more suited off the bench as QSF’s “super sub.” Welbeck picked up 90 minutes, for a player “lacking fitness” it’s questionable if Sanchez Flores will run him out for another 90-minute spell this weekend, but after the success against Swansea, Welbeck SHOULD be starting.
The Watford midfield is a jumbled mess with true wide players. Ismaila Sarr was brought in to stretch the pitch and added wide to Watford’s play. However, the youngster has been limited in his minutes and has struggled before settling into his role. There is skill and promise in what he brings to the pitch, but it’s yet to be seen how long it will take before Sanchez Flores as enough trust in him on a regular basis. Robert Pereyra appears to have his confidence back, as he’s scored goals in two of his last three games (all comps.), picking up the winning goal against Swansea City.
The team has been built around the partnership of Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure in the center, however both have struggled this season, which could mean a turn towards youth in Domingos Quina and Nathaniel Chalobah. Quina has been highly rated since signing for the Hornets and started, but like Will Hughes was started out of position on the right flank, while Doucoure and Chalobah started centrally. He played well enough to give Sanchez Flores to think about, but don’t feel he replaces Hughes going forward.
The problem becomes a midfield consisting of Pereyra, Capoue (or Chalobah), Doucoure and Quina does not give Watford that creator in the middle, which is what Hughes and Tom Cleverley possess. Pereyra and Quina give the Hornets speed and creativity down the flanks but continue to lack the width and crossing potential. What I don’t want to see is a defender playing in either of the wide roles against Wolves, when there are players who already fill those roles.
Defensively, the performance against Swansea was better, again they are a Championship, as QSF sent out a different back four, anchored by Heurelho Gomes in goal. Why there hasn’t been any negative press reported between Sanchez Flores and Jose Holebas, he was substituted last weekend, as Adam Masina started the Carabao Cup game. Daryl Janmaat also picked up the start at the right back position, while Christian Kabasele and Sebastien Prodl got the start. This was Prodl’s first start since 2018 and he played very well, given his time away from first team action. It’s possible this center back pairing will carry over into the Wolves game, hopefully giving Ben Foster a bit more stability in front of him.
Regardless of the starting XI, I don’t see the Hornets coming out on top at Molineux on Saturday. While Wolves have continued to struggle in the Premier League, they’ve gone on to score 19 goals in Europa League, as they suffered their first defeat last week, 1-0 against Braga. They are coming of a 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park, on a late Diogo Jota goal. Still a strong team offensively, Jota and Jimenez haven’t been as lethal to start this season, as they’ve combined for just three goals. Defensively, Wolves have been conceded 11 goals, near the bottom of the league, as they’ve kept just one clean sheet, back in GW1 at the KP Stadium.
I do look for Watford to actually play this weekend, unlike the performance we saw last week at the Eithad. With any luck, we will see a 2-man front for the Golden Boys, which should allow us more attacking prowess going forward. Yet, the bigger concern is the defense, as we are giving up an average of three goals per game and I don’t see that statistic improving this week. Wolves with the home support will get their first victory, 3-1.
You’ve got to be kidding, right?