Watford continued their winning ways after a 2-1 victory against visitors, Crystal Palace. Javi Gracia took the Hornets to 3-0 (9 points) on the season, outplaying the bookies odds, as they were predicted to be battling relegation. While it’s just three games, these have been very important wins, as they have been a perennial mid-table team, looking over their shoulder in a chase for the coveted, 40 points.
Roy Hodgson and the Eagles have enjoyed much success at Vicarage Road in the past. While Palace dominated play early, it was two clutch saves by Ben Foster off the head of Christian Benteke and the foot of James McArthur that set the tone and determination level for the day. The partnership between Craig Cathcart and Christian Kabasele is looking to be a formidable one in front of Foster, as they played at a different level on the day. This is what is needed with top six teams to come in successive weeks.
Offensively, Gracia named an unchanged team, as Andre Gray and Troy Deeney partnered together, with Will Hughes playing out of position on the right, as Gerard Deulofeu is still lacking fitness. However, it was the play down the left from Roberto Pererya and Jose Holebas that was the key for Watford.
After a scoreless first half, Watford came out with a vigor and determination to make the Vic their fortress. On 53’ Etienne Capoue took a ball from the Watford half, through the middle of the pitch, finding Pererya, who cut back to his right foot, placing a bending shot past Wayne Hennessey into the back corner to put the Hornets up, 1-0.
About 20 minutes later, it was an encore down the left flank that saw Holebas send a wrong-footed cross to the far post, which was so well placed it floated into the top corner of the goal, doubling Watford’s lead, 2-0. That lead lasted just seven minutes, as Palace introduced Max Meyer, who played a give and go with Wilfried Zaha, slotting the past under Foster, to cut the Hornets lead to a single goal.
Another outstanding performance for the Hornets, as they defeated Palace, 2-1 moving into a share of the lead at the top of the table, on seven goals for the season, while conceding just two. It could not have been written better for Gracia and the Hornets, picking up valuable points against mid-table teams we could be battling with at the business end of the season.
Player Report Card
Ben Foster | Grade: A
This was the first true test for Foster since his arrival at the Vic. As he had been in the previous games, Foster made some good, commanding decisions as a defensive leader, the experience at the back. He was tested often and early by Palace, as Benteke sent a glancing header wide, but followed up a few minutes with a headed attempt from inside the 6-yard box. Palace followed up this attempt on goal with McArthur firing a shot point blank at Foster, who came up with his second big save to help set the tone for the Hornets defense.
Fantasy: After three games, Foster (£4.5) has proven himself in goal, while he’s scored just 10 points over three weeks, he hasn’t had much to do. I am still hesitant to recommend him with Spurs (H), Man United (H) and Arsenal (A) coming in the next four weeks. Starting GW8, if Watford are still playing well, I would recommend him
Christian Kabasele | Grade B
By the numbers, Kabasele put together his best showing on the young season, leading all Watford defenders in CBI (12). While Cathcart carries the experience, Kabasele has partnered with him very well, becoming stalwarts in the middle of the Hornets defense. He played a key factor in clearances winning 9 out of 12 aerial duals and won all five tackle opportunities.
Fantasy: If you are looking for a £4.5 defender, Kabasele could be a target, as he carries an 8.2 baseline bonus, while not the highest of the Hornets, he’s outplayed Cathcart and will continue to be an integral part of the defense moving forward. It’s his position to lose.
Roberto Pereyra | Grade A
For the second game of the season, Pereyra (£6.1) was the most dominating player going forward for the Hornets, as he added his third goal on the season to give the Hornets a lead, early in the second half. Andros Townsend appeared to slow the Argentine in the first half, limiting his touches down the left flank.
Fantasy: With Everton’s, Richarlison on a red and suspended, Pereyra could make a solid replacement over the next two gameweeks, even facing Spurs and Man United. Both games are at Vicarage Road, where Pereyra seems to do all his attacking. At £6.1, you could have a bit of money ITB, if you decided to switch back to the Brazilian.
Will Hughes | Grade C
This was a tough call for Hughes, out on the right flank, in place of Deulofeu, but did put together one of his best games to date. Aggressive in getting the ball forward and winning tackles, he’s still at his best in a central role. It will be interesting to see how Hughes fits in when Deulofeu returns.
Fantasy: While Hughes is still on my watch list, I can’t move on him at this point because of how Gracia is playing him, OOP on the right flank. If he could move into a central position behind Deeney and Gray with Pererya on the left and Deulofeu on the right with a real defensive midfielder, I do feel the offensive and transition game would greatly improve.
As a Watford supporter, I couldn’t ask for anything more to start the 2018/19 season. Three wins, in three games, at the top of the table as we carry 9-points into Gameweek 4, facing Spurs at the Vic next week. Spurs were not all that convincing in wins over Newcastle and Fulham. At home, I feel we could potentially give Spurs a good match.