RECAP VS NEWCASTLE UNITED
After the game, boss Javi Gracia said, “I think it was closer than the (final) score line, but playing against this team, they’re a very good team and they’re able to do this.” I’ll echo his sentiments for 67’ and the action leading up to Mo Salah giving Liverpool a 1-0 lead. A goal that was tough to concede for Ben Foster, as he had position and had a hand to the ball. Unfortunately, the proximity, inside the 6-yard box made a save nearly impossible.
Ahead of this game, I had very little faith as a supporter that Watford would come away with a win, let alone a draw. Maybe that makes me a “fair weathered fan,” not a true supporter. As I wrote in my Watford Preview, I predicted a 3-0 loss and that was the final score, as a late Sadio Mane header was saved by Foster, who couldn’t recover quick enough to save a headed ball by Roberto Firmino. These were two goals that COULD have been saved.
While Foster was the star of the game, with some excellent saves, the only real goal that he couldn’t have prevented was the set piece from Trent Alexander-Arnold, which was perfectly placed in the upper left corner from 20 yards out. It was that goal 76’ minute that sealed the Reds victory.
Just six minutes later, Jordan Henderson picked up his second yellow, which saw Liverpool down to 10-men, but it was too little, too late for the Hornets. Much of their positive influence in the game, came during the first 45 minutes, as the Hornets were able to control the game in the midfield. As it has been for much of the season, the play of Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure continues to impress through the middle of the pitch.
The lineup saw two changes from the team that drew, 1-1 at So’ton, ahead of the international break. Troy Deeney, back from a hamstring started up top from Gerard Deulofeu. While Deeney is great to have on the pitch, in terms of leadership and presence, he saw just one penalty touch in 90 minutes. Deulofeu, continuing to play OOP up front with just four penalty touches. More importantly, neither had a goal attempt.
Continuing the stress, the fact, Watford is struggling through a period where their shots on goal and finishing is really lacking. Deulofeu continues to shine for the 60-65 minutes he plays, but the final piece hasn’t been there since his first and only goal against Huddersfield. His place, coupled with Roberto Pereyra cutting in from the left flank is important to the Hornets. None of our key attacking players have returns in the last three games. Difficult to win when you aren’t putting shots on target.
Next up for the Hornets, a visit to the King Power Stadium to face Leicester City, a team that hasn’t been overly impressive, just four goals over their last five games, drawing three and winning just one. This can be viewed as a “must win” game to kick off the festive period as Leicester currently sit on 18 points, in 10th place, just behind Watford.
Ben Foster: Foster continues to be our shining star on the pitch, even in a game that saw the Golden Boys go down to a 3-0 defeat. The score could have been worse, barring some excellent saves on the day. Even two of the goals conceded he was close, getting a hand on one of them. Unfortunately, from a fantasy perspective, I can’t recommend him.
Kiko Femenia: While I was a big Femenia fan to start the season, I just haven’t seen enough out of him since the injury to Daryl Janmaat. Going forward he’s looked good, but not to point that his £4.3 price would look attractive, compared to some cheaper options posted better returns. Defensively, he hasn’t been as strong as we saw last year.
Jose Holebas: While Holebas didn’t start this week due to a calf injury, I still can look past the Greek at other options for your defense. When you compare stats, he looks impressive compared to other defenders. His 4 assists and goal make him an attractive figure at £4.8. Watford does have some good fixtures, but he’s still a bit too pricey to keep on the bench as a spot starter.
Robert Pereyra: If you look up the word, “inconsistent” you will find the Argentine. On the season he’s scored 61 points, but his £6.4 price makes him a bit cost prohibitive. Four of his five goals have come at Vicarage Road. Call it the “Murray Syndrome” but he struggles in away fixtures.
Gerard Deulofeu: My pick of the group remains Deulofeu. Since returning to fitness and starting OOP up front, he looks hungry for goals. Never saw this when he was at Everton, maybe he was positioned on the right flank. Up top, he continues to look a dynamic force, partnering with Pereyra and Hughes to generate attacking chances. Still, much like every other attacker, can’t post any returns. At £5.4, he is a viable fourth or fifth midfielder.
Will Hughes: Javi Gracia continues to run out a 4-2-2-2, as he favors Hughes OOP on the right flank, with the freedom to come inside to bolster the attack. Hughes seems to be losing his viability as a fifth midfielder. His PPG is down to 2.7 and he isn’t contributing, may as well save £0.5 and go with a £4.5 player. He continues to play well, but until we see Watford netting goals, he isn’t worth it.
Issac Success: At £4.6, Success is still the ONLY viable option for managers wanting to save some budget in their 2-man forward formations. Success continues to get minutes every game, spelling either forward. While he only has one goal on the season, he is a perfect make weight player, who could potentially see spot starts and is good for that 1-point off the bench.
PREVIEW VS LEICESTER CITY
Neither team have been playing up to their potential recently. Leicester City escaped their trip to The Amex with a 1-1 draw, after Jamie Vardy converted in the 79’ minute from the penalty spot. To that point, it had been Brighton shutting down a Foxes team that managed just two shots on goal. Watford have outscored Leicester over the last five games, but continue a slow slide, picking up just a point in their last three games.
This game is a prime mid-table battle, as Watford sit 9th in the league table on 20 points, while Leicester resides in 10th just two points back. Of note this week, the unavailability of James Maddison, after being caught diving in the box for his second yellow. His play has been impressive for the Foxes over the course of the season, seeing a “light” version of Riyad Mahrez, unfortunately not posting attacking returns like the Algerian did. This will bode well for Watford.
The Hornets continue to show good form in the middle of the pitch with Capoue and Doucoure with a commanding presence on the pitch, which usually has them controlling the team and the game for the Hornets going forward. Watford have just six goals in their last five games, all but one coming from two games. The Foxes haven’t been lights out either, just four goals over that same period.
This game could come down to defense, which give Watford the edge. Compared to last season, Watford have played very well, led by Foster in goal. A big part, remaining healthy, as Craig Cathcart and Christian Kabasele have been very good shoring up the central portion of the defense. Out wide, Jose Holebas missed last game, but still provides some excellent deliveries on set pieces, but continues to be prone to the color, yellow. Kiko Femenia has tentatively won the starting job on the right, by Daryl Janmaat being injured (meniscus).
Look at this similar squad, if Watford can limit the counter attacks that Jamie Vardy can feast on, Watford should win this game. The Maddison injury hurts the attacking prowess the Foxes. Harry Maguire, the anchor on defense is still out with a knee injury, one is hopeful the Hornets could exploit that fact in the middle with Deulofeu and Pereyra.
Prediction: Leicester City 0 Watford 2