It was very disappointing to see Quique Sanchez Flores roll out a 5-3-2 against a promoted team, Sheffield United on Saturday. A team that coming into the game at Vicarage Road had just seven goals on the season, but Sanchez Flores decided to play them as if they were Manchester City. Thankfully the Blades are struggling up front to create chances and goals, so the result appears positive for the Golden Boys but finishing the game with just two shots on target is reminiscent of last season.
However, the statistics don’t tell the entire story. Watford played two games in which they tallied 54 total shots, home against West Ham and Arsenal, but those are the “exception” games. You look down the results and see 8, 5, 6 and 8 shots on goals. This is the Hornets team we are more accustomed to seeing when going forwards. It’s disappointing to see the even lower percentage of shots on target and a league low, 3.5% goal conversion rate.
I do feel Sanchez Flores got one thing right against the Blades, starting two forwards, Danny Welbeck and Andre Gray. As I’ve said for a few years, Gray is not a starter with a big miss from close range and overall a very poor game for the Burnley cast off. I would have rather seeing Gerard Deulofeu partnered with Welbeck, but it still doesn’t give us that rough and tumble player, like Troy Deeney to hold up the attack. At this point, I am willing to forgo that for speed, dynamic interchange and skill going forward. Unfortunately, Deulofeu was benched making a cameo in the 59th minute.
The problem I continue to see in the midfield is lack of a creative force. Will Hughes, unless he wasn’t fit should be starting in a central role. I’ve stressed his importance previously. He’s the “maestro in the middle” who moves Watford forward, yet we continue to see Sanchez Flores deploy Hughes and Tom Cleverley, out of position on the flank. It’s frustrating, as that leaves Abdoulaye Doucoure the central figure in a three-man midfield. After the game Saturday, Doucoure said, “My own form is not too good, like the team. Of course, like the team, I want to improve and to be better. I need to do more for the team, take more responsibility.”
His primary duties against Sheffield United were more defensive, which didn’t work out to Watford’s advantage as we lost a bit of momentum in transition with Doucoure charging up the pitch. Roberto Pereyra got the call on the left and looked the best of the attackers on Saturday. In a few un-Pereyra like moments, he tracked back defensively to help that 5-man defense. Yet Cleverley, on the right appeared to play too deep, in more of a defensive roll than jumping into the attack. Like Hughes, he has no business on the right flank. Etienne Capoue missed the game with a lower back issue.
Defensive, QSF can tout the play on Saturday, “Okay it’s 0-0, we can improve on course, but the players at least have the feeling we didn’t concede and we had the best chances.” There were a number of clear cut chances at the attacking end, but defensively, it was the lack of a Blades attack, more then the defensive prowess set forth by Sanchez Flores. There needs to be balance in the Watford starting XI, something we saw early last season with Javi Gracia in charge. To date, Sanchez Flores has failed to show that. If we continue to roll out a defense minded starting XI, we won’t score goals and we won’t have the potential to climb out of the relegation zone.
Guess I can give them some accolades, headed into the international break, gaining a point at home. Looking ahead the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Golden Boys. Out of the break it’s a struggling Spurs side that got shut out by Brighton, 3-0. Last year, Watford posted a 2-1, come from behind win at Vicarage Road. This game against Spurs comparable to the game against City. Spurs will be out to prove something and like City, Watford will be the potential door mat.
As for QSF, I believe he needs to be concerned about his future at Watford. In my opinion, he was not the correct hire, will get less than a year before we see the Pozzos and Filippo Giraldi move on another managerial candidate. While Gracia was sacked just four games into the season, his downturn started during the middle of last season, something that he could not turn around. That downturn continues with Sanchez Flores, as I have yet to see any positive changes in the squad under him. QSF did say, “anything can happen” but has “no idea” on what his future at Watford holds.
None at this time but will reevaluate ahead of GW9.