Gutted. Disappointed. Frustrated. Not sure there are enough adjectives to describe what I forced myself to watch last Saturday. I can shoulder a loss, even last year’s FA Cup Final at Wembley, albeit 6-0. Thoughts ahead of this game, it can’t get any worse, can it? There was a thought that Pep’s City team was pissed off after dropping a 3-2 decision at Carrow Road the previous week and like circling sharks, they could smell blood, in the water.
If you were late, settling in after kickoff, it was already 1-0 on a great pass from Kevin De Bruyne to David Silva. We were less than one minute into the game, but the tone of the game was set, and Man City were going to dictate how it went. The numbers tell the story, as the Sky Blues posted a 68.7% possession, firing 28 shots with 11 being on target. Sadly, from my point of view, the score should have been about 11-0.
What went wrong? Let’s start with Quique Sanchez Flores post game comments, “Against Manchester City, they have very bad memories about every time we are playing against them…It’s like we’re scared to play against Manchester City.” Scared to play them? Bad memories from the final, I can understand, but being professional, how the hell do you go into a game scared of your competition? I put the loss at the feet of Sanchez Flores.
Let’s start with his lineup, which for the second week has featured a lone forward in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The other problem, starting players who don’t deserve to start and other out of position. Last Monday, Sanchez Flores spoke about City, “When you’re playing against the huge huge teams, they have a lot of ways to find the goal and score and everything…But this is not my mentality, I love to play against the big teams. If you take my history of playing against big teams, I love to prepare these kind of matches.”
Last season against City, Watford was respectable, a 2-1 loss at Vicarage Road, then poor officiating at the Eithad in the reverse fixture saw the final score, 3-1, but Watford was played well for 60 minutes of football. Javi Gracia set the team up in a 4-1-4-1 at home and a 4-2-2-2 away. Since taking over, he’s stuck to a 4-2-3-1 that doesn’t play to our favor.
The loss of Troy Deeney doesn’t give Watford a big target up front to hold up play. Andre Gary isn’t that type of player and while Issac Success has the build, he isn’t a starter. That puts more pressure on Gerard Deulofeu to get the business done. He’s got the speed and skill but hasn’t had much support going forward. He and Deeney partnered well last season, but at this point, we don’t have another forward who complements Deulofeu.
Up front Tom Cleverley played directly behind Deulofeu. While he put in a great game against Arsenal and probably deserved another start, he can’t complement Deulofeu and isn’t a big offensive presence going forward. Like Hughes, he can dictate attack and push the buildup, but attacking, he is not. It continues to be surprising neither Gracia or Sanchez Flores want to use Will Hughes in that support role, bench Cleverley and start Pereyra wide left.
We still have not received any viable information from Watford on the fitness level of Danny Welbeck. Understand, he was signed on a free transfer with no expectations, but where is he regarding starting? Not that one player will change our season, but we continue to see more of the same up front with Sanchez Flores playing a lone forward. While Deulofeu the speed, his finishing continues to be poor. Partnering Deulofeu and Welbeck could be a positive change for the Golden Boys, if and when Welbeck gains fitness.
Looking at the set up behind Deulofeu on Saturday was disappointing. Will Hughes on the left flank, again out of position. I have stressed this all season, as well as last year, when Gracia was playing him OOP on the right flank. He NEEDS to be a central playing and orchestrate play! We’ve seen him doing his best, cutting inside to be more effective, but that also requires the defenders to jump up and fill the vacated space created by Hughes. The only one who can do that well is Daryl Janmaat. Kiko Femenia has the speed and offensive prowess but is weak tracking back when he is caught out of position. Jose Holebas is proving he’s not able to be a box to box defender at age 35.
Dimitri Folquier? Really? Why? Where did this come from? To give the 26-year-old his first start against last year’s league champions? Poor player management QSF. It was no surprise when he was continually beaten down the flank, that he was replaced on just 33 minutes and five goals by Roberto Pereyra. Folquier is a defender, not a midfielder, while Janmaat and Femenia can play that role, why not start Ismaila Sarr? Jamaat? Even Pereyra.
Defensively, this team was supposed to be on par with last year, maybe with a slight improvement with the addition of Craig Dawson to the starting four. Unfortunately, through six games, Watford have conceded a league high, 18 goals, compared to just six at this point last season. There has been a big breakdown at the back, especially when they have only scored four goals, tied for worst in the league with Aston Villa.
Where is the problem? I’ve noted before there could be some complacency, not just in the defense but the team in general. The addition of Dawson should have strengthened a suspect defense, as he’d played with Ben Foster at West Brom in years past. We have yet to see that partnership grow. By all appearances, this defense has never recovered from the 6-0 defeat at the feet of City in the FA Cup Final.
Watford resigned Jose Holebas, while he delivered last season, he continues to look a liability this season. The relationship he has with Sanchez Flores was strained the first go around, I don’t see it improving going forward. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him benched. As it stands, we don’t have the talent or skill defensively to compete in the Premier League. While I am big supporter of Foster, we need to look to the future and Ponus Dahlberg. While he might not play this season, maybe we need to turn to Heurelho Gomes at some point.
I do feel Janmaat needs to be starting regularly, be it OOP at left back or in place of Femenia on the right. Haven’t been impressed with Christian Kabasele since returning from injury, but maybe you give the youngster a shot, as Craig Cathcart and Dawson aren’t getting it done centrally. No matter who starts, the Hornets are going to struggle. Giving up a goal, even two a game isn’t big problem, unless your attack isn’t scoring. Right now, as highlighted in the City game, we can’t do much at either end of the pitch.
Going forward, this 8-0 thrashing really calls into question the viability of our team. We don’t look like we can win a game this season. It’s been THAT bad! Sure, we can say, “hey it was City, be it 1-0 or 11-0.” A loss is a loss, but last Saturday hurt this squad. The outlook is bleak, and I don’t see a win in the deck the next six weeks. Maybe a draw or two, but unless there are some big changes made in personnel and formation, we will see “more of the same” from the retread that is, QSF.
Don’t kid yourself. NO ONE!