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23 Aug 2018

Watford: Have we underestimated the Hornets?

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Ominous ending to last season

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Amazing Gracia?

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Don't get too excited

REUTERS/Andrew Yates

Before a ball was kicked this campaign, Watford were among the favourites for relegation. However, two wins from two Premier League matches have silenced the Hertfordshire side’s pre season critics. 

Not only is it the fact that the Hornets won their matches that has bolstered their reputation, but also their manner in doing so. Some finely worked finishes have led to Javi Gracia’s side bagging five goals in their two matches - impressive when you consider that they only scored just 44 last season.

A home win against Brighton may not be the biggest of upsets, but the Seagulls showed what a good result it was when the Amex witnessed a taming of Manchester United. The win away at Turf Moor was something more of a surprise result thanks to Burnley’s impressive home form last year.

Now that relegation is not being discussed, how far can Watford go this year?

Ominous ending to last season

In Watford’s last nine games of the 2017/18 campaign, they scored only five goals and took five points, it was fair to say that Gracia’s side looked bereft of ideas in attack, and clumsy in defence. 

Much of the blame for this lay at the feet of the manager as fans accused him of negative football and playing on the back foot, even at Vicarage Road. 

Earlier in the season, the feeling around the team was a complete contrast. Newly appointed manager Marco Silva was heading an exciting style of play, with Brazilian winger Richarlison at the heart. 

REUTERS/Andrew Yates

The new signing scored three goals and assisted another three in his first nine appearances and Watford found themselves in the top half of the table.

Then, a managerial sacking changed everything. It was not even at the helm of the Hornets that the change came, but at Everton as they showed Ronald Koeman the door, and Silva found himself at the top of the Toffees’ wish list for a new manager. 

Results at Vicarage Road swiftly deteriorated, and Silva was coy about his future, refusing to deny any interest or contact with the Merseyside club.

Finally, Everton appointed Sam Allardyce, but Silva was out of a job by January owing to the manner in which he conducted himself, and, according to Watford, the poor results on-field.

Results continued to push Watford further down the table under Gracia, and the club eventually finished 14th. 

Amazing Gracia?

This season has seen a complete turnaround in Watford’s fortunes and they’ve already won twice as many games in 2018/19 than they did in the back end of the last campaign and looked good value in doing so.

Troy Deeney has embodied the changes in form as he has looked to recreate his early Premier League form where he reached double figures consistently and was a constant thorn in opposition defences. 



REUTERS/Andrew Yates

Last year, due to poor form, his play time was greatly reduced as Deeney started only 20 games in 2017/18 and scored just five goals.

Javi Gracia has placed his faith in the club captain, though, and reinstated him to the first team permanently. With a goal and an assist already to his name in two starts, Deeney is looking to rediscover his best. 

The star player for Watford this season is Roberto Pereyra and Gracia’s persistence in playing the Argentine attacking midfielder has paid dividends with two goals against Brighton. 

Pereyra has to be one of the first names on the team sheet now as he provides a layer of trickery and skill that his colleagues do not. Losing Richarlison seems to have handed him the perfect opportunity to step into the limelight.

Don't get too excited

While Watford have shown us what they're capable of, it's important to remember who they've faced so far this campaign. A home victory to Brighton was no major upset, and Burnley have looked very poor this season due to their Europa League commitments. 

REUTERS/Andrew Yates

Their next five games should give us a more realistic idea of how Gracia’s side will fare and their home match against Crystal Palace looks like a must win with Tottenham and Manchester United paying a visit to Vicarage Road in September. Watford will then go to the capital twice to play Fulham and Arsenal. 

A win against Roy Hodgson’s team would settle a lot of nerves and provide a good cushion for the Hornets while A loss suddenly puts the team on the back foot and brings their results this year into question.

For now, it looks as though we were all hasty in writing off Watford, but they’re a long way from safe yet.