As a long time, supporter, which I believe I can call myself even though I have never viewed a game from the stands at Vicarage Road, this is the worst I have seen out club. We’ve got to look back to 2006/07 when Aidy Boothroyd was in charge, gaining promotion to the Premier League with a club that won just 5 games on the season, being relegated on just 28 points. Yet, this season has started worse, as the Hornets have recorded just two point through seven games. Under Boothroyd, it was seven point through seven games, and they would taste victory until Novermber 4th, game week 11 at home against Middlesbrough, 2-0.
Looking down our player roster, it’s a very solid team with a combination of experience and youth, deep enough to keep Watford in the Premier League but the lackluster form on the pitch has many deeply concerned. Looking at the next few games, I am not quite sure where our first win will come from. This week, it’s the upstart, Sheffield United coming to the Vic, the same club that suffered a difficult 1-0 loss last week at Bramall Lane. The Blades are on 8 points for the season, 12th in the league table.
Relegation is beginning to look like a reality, and it could come as soon as December. No supporter wants to stare at leaving the Premier League, but without direction and inspiration, which the team isn’t getting from Quique Sanchez Flores, I don’t see this club surpassing five wins on the season. I’ve point to the fact, the Hornets are “lacking cajones” without their captain and inspirational leader, Troy Deeney on the pitch. Sure, he can be controversial, and others don’t necessarily like his style on or off the pitch. His absence has seen the Hornets without much sting on the pitch and no direction in the hive.
Tom Cleverley has pointed to the competition recently, with defeats to Manchester City and Wolves, teams better than Watford, “We’ve been poor in the last couple of games,” said Cleverley, which is nothing short of an understatement! As a support it was embarrassing to concede eight goals to a championship squad like City, as I honestly thought it couldn’t get worse after the 8-0 defeat last season in the FA Cup Final.
There is no confidence on the pitch at either end. The defense is stuggling, conceding 20 goals through seven weeks, while the offense still hasn’t got started, netting just four goals for a -16, worst numbers in the Premier League. It’s getting to the point that we won’t recover. Why do I say that? Look at the team’s record over the last few years through November and December, we’ve struggled. Since 2016/17, we’ve lost 16 out of 27 games during that period. If we lose 5-6 in that stretch this year, we look at offloading out talent in January in preparation for the Championship League next year.
I’ve been avoiding pointing fingers, but Etienne Capoue hasn’t been good. Abdoulaye Doucoure hasn’t been good. Capoue has been lazy in his game under Sanchez Flores, which is very different to how he played under Javi Gracia, who seemed to push him. His passing this season has been laterally and backwards, not vertically up the pitch to kick start the attack. It’s that “possession without performance” we’ve seen in the midfield from this pairing. Maybe it’s time to drop Domingos Quina and Nathaniel Chalobeh in the middle of a 4-4-2 or 4-3-1-2 and see what they can do. Honestly, can it be any worse than what we have seen this season?
QSF needs to do two things. First keep players like Cleverly and Will Hughes (knock) playing in a central role not on the flanks. Second start with two forwards. Doucoure and Capoue aren’t that sort of creative midfielder who can manage a game, creating opportunities going forward. Both have been instrumental the past two seasons in Watford success, this year has been a downturn in their play.
We can’t overlook the fact that Craig Dawson wasn’t the saviour we thought he would be. After nearly 9 years with West Brom, he made the move in the offseason to a side in dire need of an upgrade at centre back. Adrian Mariappa was a solid performer the last few season, but until 2017/18 hadn’t been a starter, picking up 48 games over the last two season. Dawson walked into the starting XI, having a rapport with goalkeeper Ben Foster. However, Dawson and his central pairing partner, Craig Cathcart haven’t provided much in the way of security.
Making matters worse, resigning 35-year-old Jose Holebas has proven to be a poor decision by Watford management. The Greek has played his age, slow to react, unimpressive at the attacking end and no longer a box to box defender. Kiko Femenia showed promise last year, but his defence has been terrible this season, as QSF has turned to Daryl Janmaat to strengthen the right back position. Maybe we see Adam Masina step in for Holebas, not that he will provide much of an upgrade, but it’s something different. At this point, I will take anything I can get.
As for this weekend, I don’t see Watford making many inroads against Sheffield United on Saturday. Chris Wilder knows how to set up his team, as witnessed by last week’s defence set up against Liverpool to limit the Reds to a single goal. That sort of organization will cause Watford probably, especially if we see a lone forward in Danny Welbeck again. Partnered with Gerard Deulofeu up front, we could see more creativity and support that we saw when Deeney was fit.
If we roll out “more of the same” in the midfield, it will be another long 90-minute match, watching Sanchez Flores struggle to break down a Blades team, that on paper is more comparable to Watford than Wolves or City. Regardless of personnel on the pitch, I feel Watford will struggle. Danny Welbeck showed signs last week but is still a bit out of form. Deulofeu, still skillful isn’t making the best decisions and new boy, Sarr hasn’t been all that impressive as he too is attempting to find match fitness. Attacking problems aside, we will leave some big holes in defence and even one goal could be enough to defeat us this week. Final score, Watford 0 – 2 Sheffield United.
It’s getting to the point I don’t even need to include this section in the preview any longer. No assets should be on your starting XI or under consideration.