On the back of two consecutive wins, Watford travel to St. James Park to face a struggling Newcastle squad, winless on the season.
A resurgent Hornets squad seem to be firing on all cylinders as they hit for three goals last week, as they have recorded 19 points on the season, their best start in the Premier League ever, as they remain 7th in the league table.
Watford has been a tough team to read this season from a FPL viewpoint. While they started the season 4-0, there was a four-game stretch, which looked as if this squad’s mental composition was that of last year, their early success nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
This season has been different under Javi Gracia. Two weeks ago, the Watford boss was forced into changes after Christian Kabasele and Jose Holebas both picked up suspensions. Up front, Troy Deeney was quietly nursing a nagging hamstring injury, which opened the door for Issac Success. Gerard Deulofeu had made a 16’ minute cameo in a 4-0 loss to Bouremouth, but was penciled in the starting XI the last two weeks.
Change has been positive for Watford, Gracia commented, “I am confident in all the players and the problem for me is that I have to choose only 11 to start the game. I think the players can feel that I trust them and if they do not start they can make an impact later.”
Ahead of Newcastle, with the success Gracia and the Golden Boys have had, I can see him running out an unchanged starting XI, rewarding the play of Issac Success and Kiko Femenia. Both players have shown something special for the Hornets in the last two games, as the two combined for Watford’s final goal in their 3-0 win against Huddersfield.
Success has featured in every game this season, usually in a late role, spelling Andre Gray and providing the Hornets with a big, strong and pacey forward. His movement, skill and hold up play has been excellent all season. As for Femenia, he was a surprise omission from the starting XI this season, as Gracia opted to play the more experienced Daryl Janmaat. After a knee injury requiring surgery sidelined the Dutch defender, Femenia has come on to pick up, where Janmaat left off.
Newcastle has conceded six goals in their last five games, while posting clean sheets away to Crystal Palace and Southampton. On the back of two clean sheets, Ben Foster and the Hornets defense will face an offense that’s scored just six goals on the season and are just two goals better than Huddersfield. These are the sort of games that the Golden Boys need to capitalize on, gaining three points.
It can be argued the Magpies defense, from a fantasy perspective are a worthwhile shout. On the season, they’ve conceded 14, just two more than Watford, but difference will came at the attacking end of the pitch this week. The play of in form, Roberto Pereyra, Gerard Deulofeu and Issac Success has been excellent recently, as all three have recorded attacking returns. Deulofeu has started in place of Deeney, while partnering with Success up top. This continues to push Will Hughes to the right flank with freedom to come inside, where he’s more effective.
This opens the right flank, a position from which Deulofeu scored from an improbable position. Femenia has been called upon to play an advanced role, jumping up to join the attack on the right flank. This strategy has worked for Watford all season. The interplay between Deulofeu and Pereyra has been interesting, combined with Hughes as they are highly active from flank to flank.
Watford look to remain focused, as they could be without the services of center back, Craig Cathcart, who picked up a knock and is still being accessed ahead of the trip to Newcastle. Gracia is already without the services of Janmaat and Sebastian Prodl, who limped off, coming in as a substitute against Wolves. If Cathcart can’t go, then Adrian Mariappa should partner with Christian Kabasele, who served his one match suspension, picking up multiple yellow cards against Bournemouth.
My final assessment, this should be one-way traffic for Watford. While Huddersfield did fire 12 shots against the Hornets defense last week, Newcastle doesn’t have the players or form to put forth that sort of an offensive showing, as they come off six shots against a weak So’ton squad. The game will hinge on the midfield, as Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure have been instrumental in Watford success. They have controlled play through the midfield, providing possession, linking play going forward and dropping deep to help defend. Too much offense for the Magpies to handle this weekend, see Success, Pereyra adding to their tally, with Hughes playing a key role.
Prediction: Watford 3 Newcastle 0
Many questions have popped up the last few days, “what do we do with Watford assets?” Last week, in my Premier League: GW10 Transfers, I touted Ben Foster (9 pts.), Etienne Capoue (6 pts.) and Issac Success (6 pts.) as potential starters, all returned! Watford have a good two game run in the lead up to the international break, as they travel to St. Mary’s in game week 12. I do like Femenia (£4.2), as he could provide another clean sheet this week, providing form and attacking potential. Deulofeu (£5.4) is still gaining match fitness, while I expect him to start, I think he features for no more than 75’ but had strong attacking statistics last week. Tough to read Pereyra (£6.4), is the Argentine back in form? Showed excellent skill and ball control, for a great individual goal last week, but tread with caution, as he’s got just one attacking return since with Watford, that was two weeks ago. He had just two attempts on goals last weekend but played very well.
I continue to back Foster (£4.5) for another clean sheet, as he showed excellent positioning and skill in making 7 saves last weekend. While Andre Gray had been playing well, I do think Success (£4.5) is making it very difficult on Gracia to leave him out of the starting XI and should get a third consecutive start with a great chance to add an attacking return. Finally Capoue (£5.1), saw a price increase this week, but looks to have the attack form we saw in 2016/17, he could be in the middle of a short run. That said, I do favor Doucoure (£5.9) a bit more going forward to provide attacking returns, he’s posted 4 assists on the seaso