GW14 – Saturday 30th November vs. Southampton
Disgusted. Disappointed. Down right upset with how Watford continues to [mis]managed by Quique Sanchez Flores. This was quite possibly the last game I intend to watch this season, as their performance was dismal. Dismal in the second half. Sadly, supporters knew damn well what we were getting when the Pozzo Family and Scott Duxbury signed Sanchez Flores for a second time, yet the results aren’t much better then what we saw when he came onboard in 2015. After 14 games, Watford has slipped back into 20th place on just eight points, looking up at Norwich City and Southampton, who defeated the Hornets 2-1 with two goals in the final 12 minutes of the game.
Bright spots? Honestly? NONE! Yes, colored me jaded, I am aware Ismaila Sarr got his first goal of the season. However, it came as a result of a defensive error from the Saints, on a wayward back pass towards the goalkeeper. Sarr picked it up and fired up home the first goal in the 24th minute. The Hornets, I can give them their due credit for the remaining 21 minutes and extra time, as they were able to stay compact and in control of the game, even though they had just 14 minutes of possession in the first half. How the hell does ANY team win posting that amount of possession in a half of football?
The second half was a completely different game, as Watford was a team out of control, better known for their kickball skills rather than their footballing. It was very disappointing to see long balls played up top with no one able to run on those balls or control them. The Hornets had one, just one shot on goal in the second half, even with a few more defensive errors from the Saints. Yet, the Hornets were not able to capitalize on those mistakes to double their lead.
Sadly, Watford supporters could feel it coming on. To me, this felt like the Norwich City game, one in which the Canaries played well offensively, but just couldn’t break down the, do I dare call our defense, stalwart, defense? However, the addition of Shane Long and Sofiane Boufal just before the hour mark changed the direction and feel of the game. Unfortunately, Watford couldn’t counter with their changes.
Sanchez Flores hasn’t made the best decisions when it comes to his bench options. Now, in his defense, can’t believe I am defending this clown, but Watford still has six starters injured, which shortens the bench. That aside, playing from behind in a previous game, Sanchez Flores swapped Kiko Femenia for Daryl Janmaat. Why? His moves today were questionable at best, as he replaced Gerard Deulofeu with “super sub” (and I use that term loosely now) Andre Gray. Deulofeu had been quite ineffective in front of goal but was continuously complaining to the referee and any time he didn’t get the ball. That’s not to say he didn’t put in a good shift, but he’s not a forward and partnered with Sarr up top, it was another case of either player trying to make something happen in front of goal.
In a defensive move, which was destined for failure, he took Will Hughes off for Nathaniel Chalobah. This move sealed our fate, as the Hornets were no longer going to look for that second goal and let Southampton run at them for the next 16 minutes. Needless to say, that move backfired, as just four minutes later Moussa Djenepo on a great individual effort, from the end line was able to get the ball to Danny Ings, who made Watford pay, finding the equalizer. It was written in Hornet Heaven, the Saints were marching in and killing Hornets. In my opinion, Kiko Femenia was quite pedestrian on ball played into Djenepo, as he was replaced by Dimitri Foulquier.
What? Another WTF substitution on the part of Sanchez Flores, as Foulquier was the only defender on the bench. At that rate, I think I would have kept Femenia in, as Foulquier hasn’t been impressive in limited minutes this season. Just five minutes later, Sarr fouled Ryan Bertrand just outside the 18-yard box, to the right of Ben Foster. No surprise to see James Ward-Prowse take control of the situation and sadly, Watford supporters could feel their hearts sinking, as Ward-Prowse went short side on Foster, as he moved to his right, getting a hand on the ball, deflecting it into the goal. Credit, where it’s due, it was a well-placed shot.
The final score, 2-1 in favor of Southampton, as team that had only come back after trailing at halftime in one of the last 43 games. That equates to failure on the part of Watford no matter how you review the game. Just 36.5% of possession and 6 shots on goal, with five in the first half and no shots on target in the second 45-minutes. At this point, it’s Sanchez Flores out. I have lost all respect for this guy, as he’s come in and settled a defense, but have not found an answer to the lack of confidence this team has on the pitch, as well as lack of goals. Both of which take center stage when you’ve won just one game on the season.
Who to bring in? Watford legend Tommy Smith said, “The owners don’t waste time. They often make a decision before fans and pundits even see it coming. They know Quique – it’s his second stint at the club. and they brought him in for a reason.The main reason was to tighten things up and reduce chances against their goal which was the real issue with Javi Gracia before.”
GW15 Wednesday 4th December vs Leicester
So, Watford stays internal, replacing the failed experiment with retread, Quique Sanchez Flores with academy coach, Hayden Mullins and U-23 coach, Graham Stack. Yet, the result on the pitch at the KP Stadium was no better then what supporters have seen the first 14 games. While the interim manager changed up the formation, rolling out a 4-4-2, it took until the 94th minute…94th minute to FINALLY get a shot on target. Defensively, the Hornets seemed to have all 10 field players behind the ball for much the game, struggling to keep up with the pace and flow of Leicester City.
Much like previous games, I don’t see much in the way of improvement or takeaways for the game. Thankfully, captain Troy Deeney got the start and by virtue of his leadership, it was a refreshing change up top. Yet, the attack was as woeful as we’ve seen all season long. Very little creativity and excitement going forward. Ismalia Sarr looked sharp going forward, but as we had seen in the past, just not much help on counter attacks.
Watford played resilient through the first 45 minutes, taking a 0-0 score into the break. Again, it was another case of Watford conceding most of the possession to the Foxes (63%). This has become far to prevalent this season, as Watford have struggled to maintain any possession. This wasn’t the case last season under Javi Gracia with Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue, looking to push the ball forward, rather than playing back passes and sideways balls. It was Will Hughes deployed to the left, with Sarr on the right. Neither had much in the way of good decision making in the final third, which hurt Watford.
Adrian Mariappa fouled Jamie Vardy in the 38th minute, which appeared to be a penalty kick, but after referee, Craig Pawson went to VAR, it was given as a yellow card to Vardy for simulation. Vardy would get his revenge in the 55th minutes, when Adam Masina caught Johnny Evans across the face and Vardy converted to give the Foxes a 1-0 lead. This would be all Leicester City would need but did pick up a consolation goal in the 95th minutes by James Maddison.
Where does this leave the Golden Boys? On the road to relegation to be completely honest, as they have taken just 8 points on the season with a league worse -21 goal differential and a league low, 9 goals. Much of this season has been defined by defense, as Ben Foster has played well at times, but his defenders have let him down. Going forward, there is a big lack of confidence going forward, as Watford continue to play the long ball and counter attack game, which just doesn’t work with the personnel Mullins has. This is virtually the same team that set team records last year, finishing 11th and scoring 50 points.
Somewhat surprised to see Gerard Deulofeu talking about “character” when I feel his is one of the players with a questionable attitude on the pitch. “We have to improve our football, our character. We can have lots of coaches and system but the most important thing is the players change our attitude and try to get points every week,” said Deulofeu.
The Hornets have five games to round out 2019, a potential 15 points. Next week at Vicarage Road against Crystal Palace is crucial, then again, I feel I’ve been saying ALL points are important for far too long. The following week it’s away to Liverpool and home to Manchester United, before visiting Bramall Lane and finishing the year with Villa at home. Realistically, seven points? Wins against Palace and Villa, possibly a draw against the Blades. However, if Watford is not out of the relegation zone, I feel they move on selling their players; Doucoure, Sarr and Deulofeu in preparation for the Championship League.
Just can’t get excited for what we’ve seen from the sidelines since the departure of Gracia. I understand the team wasn’t getting it done on the pitch, but as we continue to see the problem doesn’t lie on the sideline, it’s the personnel and the lack of conviction on the pitch.