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Five thoughts after Watford's thrilling opening day draw with Liverpool

13/08/2017 08:11

Watford kicked off their Premier League campaign with an entertaining 3-3 draw with Liverpool at Vicarage Road on Saturday.


Having led at half-time, Watford looked like they were heading for defeat in Marco Silva's first match as manager, thanks to two quickfire goals from Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah at the start of the second half, but Miguel Britos' injury equaliser secured the Hornets a deserved point.


Silva named just one new signing in the starting line-up, with Nathaniel Chalobah lining up alongside Abdoulaye Doucoure in the two holding midfielder roles. Richarlison, Andre Gray and Kiko Femenia were all named on the bench.


The Hornets started brightly and took the lead after just eight minutes, as Stefano Okaka nodded home Jose Holebas' corner from close-range.


The Golden Boys had largely kept Liverpool at arm's length for most of the first half, but the Reds equalised just before the half-hour mark, as Sadio Mane finished off a superb team move.


But Jurgen Klopp's men weren't on level terms for long, as the Hornets re-took the lead a few moments later. Tom Cleverley's cross into to the box bounced out to Doucoure following a defensive mix-up, and the French midfielder powered the ball home from close range to put Watford 2-1 up.


Following an excellent first half from the Golden Boys, the match was turned on its head within 15 minutes of the second half.


In the 54th minute, referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot after Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes brought down Salah inside the area, with Firmino calmly slotting the ball home to level the scores up. Moments later and the Reds took the lead, as Salah bundled the ball home from close range, after Firmino had lobbed Gomes.


The Reds looked like they were heading for three points as the game entered injury time, having been comfortable for most of the second half, but they were hit with a late sucker punch as Watford equalised.


Holebas' corner once again caused problems and after substitute Richarlison's effort hit the woodwork, the ball bounced down to Miguel Britos, who nodded the ball home from close range to secure a deserving point for the Golden Boys.


Having attended Saturday's match at Vicarage Road, here are five of my main thoughts:


1 - Draw a fair result after a promising performance


A draw was a fair result I felt following this thoroughly entertaining game. I don't like too many clichés, but this was a match of two halves. Watford bossed the first half, but Liverpool were the better team in the second. Overall though, this was a very promising performance from Watford. The Hornets were very impressive during the opening 45 minutes, as they hassled Liverpool in possession and caused Jurgen Klopp's men problems whenever they were attacking. The Golden Boys worked so hard throughout the first half and their commitment could not be questioned. They never quite lived up to those heights in the second half, but their performance deserved at least a point in what was a thoroughly entertaining game at Vicarage Road.


What I liked about this Watford performance though is that we kept going throughout. You couldn't fault the commitment of any of the players on the pitch and when we had the ball, we always looked to get forward when possible. It really felt like the team was united and that's certainly not something we saw too much last season. On too many occasions last season, it seemed when the going got tough, Watford crumbled easily. Not under Silva though, as despite being knocked back by Liverpool, we didn't give up. We kept going and we got the equaliser our performance deserved in added time.


There are, obviously, still things to work on. Our defending still needs work and Silva will be disappointed by two of the goals we gave away on Saturday. However, this was a very promising performance from the Golden Boys and one which left me feeling very encouraged. From delight, to agony, to ecstasy in the matter of 90 minutes; boy, I'm glad football is back!


2 - Doucoure is quality


This time last year, Abdoualye Doucoure was sitting in the stands. Unwanted by then manager Walter Mazzarri and nowhere near Watford's squad, the Frenchman would have spent last season on loan at Lorient had a last-minute glitch not prevented his deadline day move from going through last summer.


Fast forward a year, and it's remarkable to think that Doucoure was so far down the pecking order. The Frenchman is now one of the first names on the team-sheet and he was excellent for the Hornets once again on Saturday. Doucoure worked hard all game and was disciplined in his role in the engine room in midfield. He got stuck in and made some good tackles and interceptions, but was also calm in possession, too. The 24-year-old was always available and controlled possession for the Hornets. Everything that Watford did well went through him. He showed great composure to calmly sweep the ball home from close range and has also forged a great partnership with Nathaniel Chalobah in midfield. The duo complement each other so well and they pressed
Liverpool all game while also controlling possession for the Hornets.


Doucoure, though, was the standout player for the Hornets I thought and he also showed some great skill in the second half, as he confidently turned past two Liverpool midfielders as he launched another attack. The Frenchman was superb throughout and if he maintains this form over the season, then I have no doubt that he will earn a move to a big club in the near future. He's quality and Marco Silva should build his team around the 24-year-old.


3 - Okaka bullies Liverpool defence


I can't lie, I was honestly surprised that Okaka was starting over new signing Andre Gray when I saw the team-sheet before the game. When you pay more than £18m for a striker, you instantly expect them to start and given Silva's praise for the former Burnley man in the build up to the match, I honestly felt Gray was going to get the nod up front. Instead though, it was Okaka who started and he really gave the Watford manager some food for thought. The Italian striker led the line brilliantly during the game, holding the up ball and bringing others into play really well. He played a great ball to release Pereyra early in the first half and from the resultant corner, the Italian fired the Hornets in front, as Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet couldn't keep out the striker's bullet header.


One thing I like the most about Okaka though is his work rate. During his time on the pitch, he didn't give Liverpool's defence a moments piece, hassling and harrying them while they were in possession and he wasn't afraid to put his foot in when he needed to as well. With Troy Deeney set to return from injury in the coming weeks, many thought that Okaka would make way for either Deeney or Gray in the starting line-up or perhaps even in the match-day squad. But on this evidence, Okaka won't be going anywhere for the time being.


Surprisingly, Okaka seems to divide opinion among the Watford fanbase, with a few fans always messaging me to say that we should sell him if we get a good offer. But I think Okaka's an important player to have. He's, by no means, the best striker in the world, but he always causes defences problems and he can nick a goal too. We should definitely keep Okaka around I think.


4 - Janmaat and Pereyra so unlucky with injury


There's no questioning that Daryl Janmaat and Roberto Pereyra are very good players. We saw glimpses of what they could both do against Liverpool, but in a matter of minutes, they were both off injured, which is a terrible shame.


Both have endured rotten luck with injuries since they joined the club. Last season was a stop start one for Janmaat, as he picked up niggly little injuries throughout the campaign, while Pereyra's first year with the club was cut short against Manchester City in December after picking up a ligament injury. There's no doubting that both are excellent players and that Watford play better when both are playing. In Pereyra's case, when he's playing well, he really makes Watford tick. He showed glimpses of what he could do and started brightly as he was played through on goal by Okaka. Janmaat also started well, as he bombed up the right-hand flank and created an early opportunity, but after fifteen minutes, he was off injured. Half an hour later, and Pereyra was following him down the tunnel to the injury room as well.


It's a frustrating and also a great shame, as both are clearly talented players who we've never really seen the best out of due to injuries. Fingers crossed that neither injury is serious and that they will be back in the starting line-up soon.


5 - New right winger is needed


Now, I just want to make clear, I really want to like Nordin Amrabat. He works so hard for the team when he plays and his commitment can never be questioned. However, for a winger, one of the important aspects of their game is their end product; can they beat a mean and put a cross into the box? Can they pick out a man from out wide? Unfortunately, though, Amrabat fails this test and that is why he is a frustrating player to many.


The Moroccan's end product is often poor. He'll beat a man or get into a good position only for the final ball to be poor and that will be the end of a promising opportunity for Watford. There was one particular moment in the second half which got me, as new signing Andre Gray was completely unmarked and crying out for an early delivery into the box, but Amrabat took too many touches and his cross was dealt with easily by the Liverpool defence. The chance had gone within a matter of seconds. Certainly against the big teams in the Premier League, we can't afford to be wasteful when we have the ball and we simply have to make the most of the opportunities that come our way.


It's important, therefore, that we sign another right winger before the end of the transfer window. Whether that be Aaron Lennon or Andre Carrillo. We simply need a new right winger, as I'm afraid Amrabat simply cannot be starting in the Premier League in a couple of months' time.  Yes, I know new signing Richarlison can play out on the right, but his preferred position is on the left-hand side of midfield.


Personally, while I feel the signing of a right winger is needed, I wouldn't mind seeing Isaac Success being given a go out wide. Silva experimented with him out wide during pre-season and I think his pace could frighten opposition full-backs. He can also deliver a good cross as well, as we saw against Southampton last season, when he put in a great ball into the box which was turned home by Okaka. I was surprised that he was left out of the squad for the game against Liverpool myself, but that is another discussion for another day. Amrabat though, is just not good enough I'm afraid and he will always remain a frustrating player if he wastes opportunity after opportunity. He's our Ikechi Anya of the Premier League.

Ricahrlison signs for Watford: Just how good can he be?

09/08/2017 14:05


Watford have made their fifth signing of the summer transfer window, with Fluminense winger Richarlison joining the club on a five-year-deal.


The Hornets have reportedly paid a fee of around £11m for the winger, who moves to Vicarage Road after being granted a work permit.

Richarlison has been heavily linked with Watford recently, with reports last week claiming that the Hornets had agreed a fee for the winger, subject to him being granted a work permit. The 19-year-old was at Saturday's friendly with Real Sociedad at Vicarage Road and could now make his debut against Liverpool this weekend, having been granted a work permit.

The 19-year-old is a talented young player and has been touted as one of Brazil's brightest young prospects, with his form seeing him linked with the likes of AC Milan, Chelsea and Ajax among others. 

The young Brazilian is a winger who is two footed, but he is most comfortable out on the left hand side. He can, however, play on either flank and he will be familiar with Marco Silva's 4-2-3-1 formation, given that this was the system which Fluminense used. 

He came through the ranks at America Mineiro and has also scored three times in 10 appearances for Brazil's U20s. 

To find out more about Watford's latest signing, I spoke to Fluminense fan Daniel Burman. This is what he had to say: 


The Watford Blog: There's been conflicting reports in England about Richarlison's best position.  Some say he's a striker, some say he's a winger. So where is his best position?

Daniel Burman: "Richarlison is a winger. His manager at Fluminense tested him sometimes as a striker, but it didn't go too well. All of his best games happened when he played as a winger."


TWB - What are his main strengths? Any weaknesses?

Daniel Burman: "He is very fast and strong. He was the strongest winger, in terms of fitness, in Brazil and he is only 19 years old. He is good at winning plays by his speed. In terms of his weaknesses, he has problems with his final touch sometimes but he was improving every game with Fluminense."


TWB- He scored 19 goals in 67 games for Fluminense. How important has he been for you and are you sad to see him go?

Daniel Burman: "Richarlison was a key player for Fluminense. Weeks ago, a club in Brazil (Palmeiras) asked to buy him, so he asked not to be played in the game against that club. Flu fans became angry with him. When the offer was refused, Richarlison returned and played with the same dedication as always and that is one of his strongest strengths too. So the Fluminense crowd will miss him a lot. He was playing as a left winger for us.


TWB - Big clubs like AC Milan and Chelsea have been linked with him. Just how good can Richarlison be?

Daniel Burman-  "Richarlison is much better than Kenedy, our last winger that was signed by an English club (Chelsea). He has all that it takes to be a success in the Premier League.


TWB- Watford look set to play a 4-2-3-1 formation in the Premier League this season. Where could you see him fitting into that formation?

Daniel Burman - "It was the same formation that he played at Fluminense. He can play as either a left or right winger. I prefer him playing on the left though, as that is the position that he can cut into the middle and cause problems. I think he can form a great partnership with Deeney and another winger.


TWB - Do you think he can be a success in the Premier League?

Daniel Burman: "Of course. He reminds me a bit of Gareth Bale in terms of his strength and speed."


Thanks very much to Daniel for answering my questions! You can follow him on Twitter (@DKBurman) and if you've got any more questions, he'd be more than happy to answer them!

In the meantime, welcome to Watford, Richarlison!

Chalobah returns to Vicarage Road - How has the midfielder developed since we last had him?

16/07/2017 09:57

A familiar face returned to Vicarage Road earlier this week as Chelsea's Nathaniel Chalobah rejoined Watford, with the midfielder signing a five-year-contract with the Hornets.


The midfielder joins for an undisclosed fee and Watford fans will remember Chalobah fondly, as he impressed during a loan-spell with the Hornets during the 2012/13 season.


Despite being a teenager at the time, Chalobah proved himself to be a real talent and played a crucial role as Watford finished in third place in the Championship.


He made 42 appearances for the Golden Boys that campaign, scoring five goals, the last of which being a stunner against Leicester City, a strike which is still one of my favourite Watford goals to this day. A month  doesn't go by without me re-watching that effort on YouTube.


Since leaving Vicarage Road, Chalobah has had loan spells at Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Burnley, Reading and Napoli, but it was last season where he really made his breakthrough at Chelsea.


The 22-year-old midfielder made 15 appearances in all competitions for Antonio Conte's men as they won the Premier League title. His first league start actually came against Watford during the Hornets' 4-3 defeat to the Blues at Stamford Bridge in April.


The midfielder has also racked up 97 caps for England at youth level and he played a pivotal role in England U21's European Championship campaign recently, where they reached the semi-finals.


To see how Chalobah has developed since we last had him on loan, I spoke to Chelsea fan @CarefreeYouth, to find out more about Watford's latest signing.

 

The Watford Blog: Watford fans are familiar with Nathaniel Chalobah after we had him on loan during the 2012/13 season. How has he developed since then and what sort of player can we expect to see this time round?

@CarefreeYouth: "Since you had him on loan at 17, his all-round game has come on. He is still the same type of player as before, but a lot more experienced and I'm confident that he will be a massive success for you."


Chalobah made 15 appearances for Chelsea last season. How did he perform when given the chance by Antonio Conte?

"When Chalobah played he did really well and as a fan, I'm disappointed he wasn't given more game time. Check out his assist for Victor Moses against Leicester if you get a chance. Conte seemed to trust him more than the other youth players in the first team but not enough for his or my liking and most Chelsea youth fans."

 

Marco Silva looks set to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation at Watford this season. Where could you see Chalobah fitting into that formation?

"In the 4-2-3-1 formation, I could definitely see him playing in one of the two defensive midfielder roles. He can break up play, has a great pass on him and is very tactically aware. Also, I expect him to get one or two goals from corners or free kicks, because he has a great jump on him, so I expect you will be trying to pick him out when he goes up."


Lastly, lots of Chelsea fans have been disappointed with the sale of Chalobah. Do you think he can be a success at Watford and could he be an outside bet for the England squad at the World Cup next summer?

"Most Chelsea fans love him and are very upset to see him leave. After what he did to Sergio Aguero against Manchester City last season, he went from a youth player to one of our own in one moment and will always be remembered for sticking up for a player on his own team. I very much expect that game time is one of the main reasons he left, because he knows if he gets minutes, he has an outside chance of making the World Cup squad.


"I don't think that senior England call-up is too far away after racking up 97 youth caps already and he is ready for that next step up. That's why a lot of Chelsea fans are unhappy that he has left because a Chelsea youth player who isn't too far away from breaking into the England senior team, has been allowed to join you for pennies in this market. However, that being said, Chelsea fans know this move and leaving Chelsea wasn't easy for him and see that he has made this decision to push on in his career and to get more games. We all wish him the best and he will be missed."


Thanks to Chelsea fan @CarefreeYouth for answering my questions!


I for one am delighted to see Chalobah back at Vicarage Road. The midfielder was one of my favourite players when we had him on loan and who can forget that goal against Leicester?


During his time with the club, he proved that he was one of England's brightest young talents and he impressed at Chelsea when given the opportunity last season as well.


At £5m, the signing of Chalobah is, quite frankly, a steal and if he performs well, the 22-year-old has an outside chance of making the England squad for the World Cup next summer.


I for one am excited to see what exciting young talents like Chalobah and Will Hughes can do for us this season and I am delighted to see the 22-year-old back at Vicarage Road.


Welcome back to Watford, Nathaniel!

Watford sign Kiko Femenia: Get the lowdown on Watford's third summer signing

01/07/2017 11:49

(Photo - Alaves)


Watford have completed their third signing of the summer transfer window, with Alaves full-back Kiko Femenia moving to Vicarage Road.


The Spaniard, who can also play as a winger, has penned a four-year contract with the Golden Boys and is the Hornets' third new addition, joining Will Hughes and goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann at Vicarage Road.


Femenia was a key player for Alaves last season and made 31 appearances, as they secured a ninth-place finish in La Liga under new Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino's stewardship.


The season beforehand, Femenia helped Alaves secure promotion to La Liga as champions of the Segunda Division. He made 77 appearances in all competitions during two seasons with the Spanish club, scoring five times.


Femenia came through the ranks at Hercules and has also turned out for Barcelona and Real Madrid's B teams. Prior to his move to Alaves, Femenia spent a year with Alcorcon in the Segunda Division and he has also been capped up to U20 level by Spain.


To get the lowdown on Kiko Femenia, I spoke to Alaves fan Iker (Twitter - @GTworld02F1) to find out more about the Hornets' new signing. Here's what he said:


What sort of player is Kiko Femenia?

"He is a right back and is really fast. He was a right winger last year in the Segunda Division but our right back got injured and he then started to play there. That's why he is so attacking but he can deal with all opponents really well, although he is primarily an attacker. He had to play against Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Yannick Carrasco last season and did really well. He will definitely be a success in the Premier League."


How important was he for Alaves last season?

"He was really important. He played all the matches except the ones which were less important because of the Copa Del Rey. He did not attack as much as he can because Mauricio Pellegrino wanted a defensive team
but he can."


What are his main strengths?

"His main strengths are his speed and his dribbling as I've said, but I'd also add his tactical intelligence too. He knows where he has to be at every moment and his crosses are quite useful. The other full-back we had was Theo Hernandez and it was difficult to score from his crosses sometimes, but Femenia did well."


Are there any areas of his game that he needs to work on?

"He has to work on general defence concepts because as I said earlier, this has been his first year as a defender. He could also become more confident in himself and attack more but I suppose with Watford he will probably be able to attack much more."


Thanks ever so much to Iker for answering my questions. You can follow him on Twitter on @GTWorld02F1!


In the meantime, welcome to Watford, Kiko!

Will Hughes signs for Watford: The lowdown on our first summer signing

25/06/2017 19:33

(Action Images, via Reuters)


Watford secured their first summer signing at the weekend, completing a deal for Derby County and England U21 international Will Hughes.


The Hornets will pay £4.5m according to reports for the midfielder, with the fee potentially rising to £8m.


In six years with Derby, Hughes proved himself to be a crucial player, making 187 appearances in all competitions, scoring 12 times.


He won the club's Player-of-the-Season award at the end of the 2014/15 campaign and was also selected in the Championship's Team-of-the-Year the season beforehand.


The 22-year-old is currently away on international with England's Under 21 team at the European Championships, but he will link up with Marco Silva's men upon his return.


Hughes has always been a player who has impressed me when I've seen him play and has been a player knocking on the door for a move to the Premier League for some time now.


A player with great technicality, Hughes has great feet and an eye for a pass, establishing himself as one of the Championship's brightest young talents. From what I've seen, he also has a great work ethic and isn't afraid to get stuck in either. It says a lot that he was linked with a £15m move to Liverpool a couple of years ago.


However, to get the lowdown and an expert opinion on the Hornets' new signing, I caught up with the chaps from the Derby County Podcast (Twitter - @dcfcpodcast). Here's what they had to say:

 

Watford FC Blog: What type of player is Will Hughes? What is his favoured position?

Derby County Podcast (DCP): "Hughes is a technical ball playing creative midfielder. His best position is in the centre of midfield and is at his most influential with the ball."

 

What are his main strengths? Anything he needs to work on?

DCP: "His technical ability stands out and the way in which he reads the game is also impressive. He has a creative brain and his weight of pass is superb. He has a wonderful ability to control and run games and his tackling is somewhat underrated.


"In regards to what he needs to work on, he isn't particularly physical and he's quite slight in build so can be overrun at times. His goal tally should be better, but at times with Derby he's played more centrally than further forward."

 

Derby fans seem disappointed to see Hughes leave Pride Park. How important has he been for the Rams in recent years?

DCP: "Fans are disappointed because he has been one of our best players over recent years and is probably the best player that the academy has produced. He's been key at times but his form was patchy throughout last season, which wasn't helped by a constant carousel of managers and he spent the previous season out with a knee injury."

 

I have to admit, I was surprised to hear that Gary Rowett was prepared to let Hughes go. Would Derby fans have liked to have seen him remain and are they happy with the fee?

DCP: "Hughes was looking for a new challenge, Rowett is in need of funds to strengthen the squad and Hughes can obviously command a decent fee. It sort of all fell in to place. Make no mistake, we're disappointed to
see him go but there's an argument to say that it had gone a bit stale for Hughes at Derby, so I think the move probably suits everybody.


"The fee has disappointed some and it was expected that the club would get a higher fee up front. Fact is though, there seemed to be only one club in for Hughes. The ideal situation is that two or three are interested and the club can start a bidding war, but that wasn't to be and probably says more about Hughes' standing outside Derby than anything. I actually think the fee is fair and the sell on clause was an absolute must because he has the potential to improve and move on."

 

I've heard a few comments that Hughes has struggled since picking up a serious injury at the start of the 15/16 season. Would that be something you'd agree with?

DCP - "Hughes struggled for form and consistency last season. To my mind this was down to the continuous changing of manager at the club, which in turn lead to different styles/philosophies etc. Hughes became a victim of that."

 

Hughes has been touted as a talented young midfielder for some time now. Could he make the successful step up to the Premier League?

DCP: "He should do. He's proved himself in the Championship over the past four seasons and was widely regarded as one of the best midfielders outside of the Premier League. He deserves his chance and it's quite possible that the Premier League will suit his style more so than that of the Championship. It'll certainly be interesting to see how he develops."


Hughes has been linked with a £15m move to Liverpool in recent seasons. If he performs well for Watford, could you see bigger clubs coming in for him?

DCP: "Of course. He's 22, has plenty of potential, but he's untried in the Premier League and that was perhaps why some clubs were put off. Providing he has a good season, he's an outside bet to make it into the England squad for the World Cup. He was a player identified at under 21 level as one who could make the step up and now he's playing in the Premier League he'll have the stage to showcase his skills. Should that happen, then there's no reason why a bigger club wouldn't come in for him."


Thanks ever so much to the chaps from the Derby County Podcast for answering my questions!


In the meantime, welcome to Watford, Will!

OPINION - Why it was right to bring Mazzarri's time at Vicarage Road to an end

17/05/2017 19:21

Here we are again. Almost a year on from Quique Sanchez Flores' departure from Vicarage Road and another managerial change has been made by Watford.


I was at university studying earlier today when I heard that Walter Mazzarri would be leaving Vicarage Road at the end-of-the-season and I could hardly say I was surprised.


Many from the outside will say it is another crazy decision, like they did when Sanchez Flores left last summer, given that the Italian has kept us in the Premier League for a second consecutive season. 'What more do a club like Watford want', 'You'll be relegated next season' and 'You're owners are stupid' many from the outside have since cried. Many said the same thing last season as well.


However, for supporters, news of Mazzarri's departure is of no surprise. In fact, it was what many were hoping for.


Mazzarri was labelled as the man who was going to take us forward. The man who was, in time, going to lead us into the top 10 of the Premier League.


To be fair, the Italian started well, with memorable wins over West Ham and Manchester United making it a fantastic start to September. By the end of October, Watford were in the top half of the table.


But since then it has been a downward spiral and if anything, Mazzarri has taken us backwards on the pitch. Yet he was the man that was supposed to take us to the next level, and ultimately, he has failed, so I firmly believe that Gino Pozzo has made the right decision to part ways with the Italian after this weekend's game against Manchester City.


Firstly, our performances have been pretty-poor for most of the season. Even in the first few months of the season the Golden Boys were unconvincing in some games. Look at the first 45 minutes against Arsenal in August, our performance against Burnley at Turf Moor and our games against Swansea and Hull, to name four, which were all warning signs of what was to come if tweaks to the side weren't made.


Two months later and things really started to go down-hill. Just look at this: Watford have won six times in the Premier League and have accumulated just 22 points since the start of December. Whatever way you look at that, it's incredibly poor. Relegation form so to speak.


We've also lost our last five in the league, scoring just three goals, and haven't won away from home since we beat Arsenal in January. Add to that disappointing defeats to Gillingham and Millwall in both the League and FA Cup and you can understand why many are so disappointed with Watford's season.


We could have been mathematically safe weeks ago, but instead we've had to rely on others to slip up and our poor form has since taken us down to 16th place in the table.


Added to Watford's poor form, errors which were being made back in August have never been fully addressed. Defensively we've been poor all season, especially from set-pieces, yet Mazzarri has tried and failed to address the issue. Going into the last 10 minutes, I've had little faith in Watford being able to retain their lead or keep the score level, because defensively we've been so poor. Yet Mazzari has never resolved this.


That brings me on to my next point, as the players have looked confused and unsure of their roles. They have looked unsure over who they are marking, the positions they should be in and the tactics that Mazzarri
has put in place. As Head Coach, none of this should be happening, as he is the one who is meant to be organising this team. Yet, the Golden Boys have looked anything but organised, with many looking unsure of their roles and devoid of ideas.


Additionally, week after week you'd see players aimlessly pointing at each other to go and pick up someone from the opposition, but instead of going to mark them or close them down, they leave it to one another to do it. That indicates to me that the players are unsure of their roles.


Another gripe among Watford fans is that the team have lacked a clear style, identity and game-plan all season and that is something which has irked me too. Injuries haven't helped him, but some of Mazzarri's team selections have been surprising and it's like he's just pulled eleven names out of a hat and thrown them on the pitch. It's no coincidence that we've looked like a team full of individuals in certain games as well.


As such, fans have never quite known what formation Watford have deployed and the football has been pretty tough to watch for large parts. We've lacked a distinct cutting edge in the final third and barring one or two games, have largely looked to hoof it up field to Troy Deeney or Stefano Okaka to chase which hasn't worked and never will do.


The fact Mazzarri can't speak English has also played a part in Watford's poor season, with members of his background staff often having to translate his message to the players. It has also made it incredibly difficult for fans to form any sort of rapport with the Italian, and Mazzarri has done himself no favours either by heading straight for the tunnel when the full-time whistle has blown.


Some of his comments in his press conferences have also been surprising, increasing the discontent among fans. For example, saying it would be normal if Watford lost their last six games this season. I'm sorry, but losing six in a row is far from normal in any league. It's alarming.


On top of this, Mazzarri would also moan about the performance of the referee or say that Watford deserved a draw or to earn all three points in his post-match comments. Yet, if Watford had earnt all the points that they had 'deserved' according to Mazzarri, then we wouldn't have been too far off of Antonio Conte's title winning Chelsea side.


In the end, Mazzarri's excuses wore thin among many, as the Italian seemed to blame everything else apart from himself for Watford's short comings.


I could ramble on here for ages, but I'm sure you can all see that I firmly believe it was the right decision for Watford to part ways with Walter Mazzarri.


So, as the Italian leaves, the rumour mill will inevitably link a host of names to the vacant Watford hot-seat.


In my opinion, it is imperative that Gino Pozzo makes the right appointment this time round. We need some stability off the pitch and we aren't going to get that from changing the manager each year.


It is not healthy for a club of Watford's stature to have continued questions over the head-coach, especially if we have aspirations of breaking into the top 10. We need someone to be in charge for more than one-season to allow them to build, otherwise we will just be back to square one every year.


It is crucial, therefore, that we get the next appointment right in what is set to be a huge summer for Watford. Gino Pozzo and Scott Duxbury have some huge decisions to make, starting off with appointing a new head coach.


Summer recruitment also needs to be correct, as it was not good enough last summer. How many of the players that we signed last summer can we genuinely say improved the squad? Aside from Roberto Pereyra, Daryl Janmaat and probably Stefano Okaka, not many.


Okay, Isaac Success is a bright prospect who has been plagued with injuries this season, but how many of the other players can we say improved this squad? Not many.


When we add to the squad this summer, we need genuine quality rather than quantity. We need more signings like Pereyra, Janmaat and Tom Cleverley rather than more Juan Camilo Zuniga's if we want to progress as a club. Getting the right head coach in is one thing, but it's also important that we give him the right squad as well.  

This is a huge summer for Watford FC and one which could define the future for this club on the pitch.

OPINION - Five thoughts after Watford's 1-0 win over Sunderland

04/04/2017 09:10

Watford secured their first win in the league since February 4th, as a Miguel Britos goal secured a 1-0 victory over Sunderland at Vicarage Road on Saturday.


The Hornets had been the better side for large parts of the game, and they could have won by a greater margin had Isaac Success taken a glorious chance which came his way.


In the end, the Golden Boys had to settle for just the one goal, which came in the 59th minute through an unlikely source in Britos, who had never scored for the Hornets prior to Saturday's match.


After Stefano Okaka's header was diverted onto the crossbar following a corner, Craig Cathcart nodded the ball back across goal where Britos was waiting at the far post and the Uruguayan got above his marker to nod the ball home from close range.


Having attended Saturday's match at Vicarage Road, here are five of my thoughts:


1 - Deserved win for the Golden Boys

Score-lines can't often be deceiving. If you weren't at Vicarage Road then you might think the game on Saturday was a rather close and tight affair. However, you'd be wrong if you thought that. In truth, Watford were comfortable winners and were fully deserving of their win. After a nervous first ten minutes, the Golden Boys grew into the game and were asking the Sunderland defence plenty of questions by the second half. In truth, the
Hornets had plenty of chances to add to the score-line but a combination of poor finishing and excellent goalkeeping from Sunderland's Jordan Pickford meant that Walter Mazzarri's men had to settle for just the one goal. Defensively, we were rock solid, something we haven't been able to say too much this season, meaning that Sunderland's talisman Jermain Defoe was a spectator for large parts of the game. The Black Cats, also, didn't have many chances all game either. We even kept a clean sheet which is practically unheard of this season! I mean if you can't score against our defence then you might as well give up and go home! We rarely ever keep clean sheets! Joking aside, it was a good performance and a deserved victory from the Golden Boys in what was a crucial game for the club. However, we can't rest on our laurels now. Saturday's victory won't mean a thing if we can't follow it up with a decent result against West Bromwich Albion tonight.


2 - Doucoure steps up to the plate in the middle of the park

There were a few good performances from the men-in-yellow on Saturday, but there was one player who particularly impressed me and that was Abdoulaye Doucoure. The Frenchman has had to bide his time at Vicarage Road since linking up with the Hornets last summer, but after performances like Saturday, it's easy to see why the former Rennes man has been linked with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in the past. I thought the midfielder was fantastic during Saturday's game and he was my man-of-the-match. He was full of energy over the course of the ninety minutes and always looked to get us moving forward. The former Rennes man forced a good save from Pickford during the first half and was calm in possession as well. He didn't shirk his defensive duties either, with both he and Tom Cleverley putting in an excellent shift in the engine room to protect our back four. He also put in some excellent tackles as well. It's fair to say we looked a lot better with Doucoure as part of the midfield and I for one hope he's given more starts by Walter Mazzarri during the rest of the season.


3 - Cathcart and Britos superb at the back

Defending hasn't been our forte this season. But on Saturday, we were rock solid at the back, something we haven't been able to say too much this season, and that was partly down to the performances of Craig Cathcart and Miguel Britos. Cathcart slotted into centre defence after Younes Kaboul's injury and the Northern Irishman was back to his imperious best. The former Manchester United and Blackpool man has had a difficult time with injury this season and has been shunted out at right-back by Walter Mazzarri since his return. It's been hard to criticise Cathcart as he has done an adequate job out wide and I'm sure he'll be the first to tell you that he isn't right-back. However, following Kaboul's injury Cathcart returned to the centre of defence and he was superb for the Golden Boys. He was excellent in the air, pulled off a number of good tackles and interceptions, in what was a brilliant display from the Northern Irishman.


His partner at the back Miguel Britos also had a very good game as well. After a slow start, where Britos sloppily gave the ball away on a couple of occasions, the Uruguayan barely put a foot wrong all game, with both he and Cathcart marshalling Defoe superbly all afternoon. It was great to see Britos score his first goal in a Watford shirt and the former Napoli man was dominant in the air throughout Saturday's game. Given their performances on
Saturday, Cathcart and Britos should be our centre-backs for tonight's game against West Bromwich Albion.


4 - Okaka has a decent game up top

With no Troy Deeney up front, I was worried we wouldn't have much of a threat in attack on Saturday. I didn't exactly buy Mazzarri's excuse that Deeney wasn't fully fit and I personally thought he should have started, given the magnitude of Saturday's game. Yes, Okaka has done ok when he has played before, but that has been with Deeney up top alongside him. Could he play up top on his own? Well in one word, yes. After a slow start, the Italian held the ball up well and showed a good touch for a big man throughout, playing a superb through ball to release Success one-on-one during the second half. The former Roma man worked hard up front all game and could often be seen chasing back to help the Hornets defend. He still needs to be more clinical, as he spurned a decent chance in the first half, but this was still a good performance from the striker, whose injury problems look now to be behind him.


5 - Yet another injury

One of the few negatives to come out of Saturday's game was the injury to Younes Kaboul. Now I know the former Tottenham Hotspur man has divided opinion among Watford fans, but personally I think he's been solid at the back since the turn of the year and looks far more comfortable as part of a back-four. The Frenchman was having another good display at the back on Saturday before he pulled up with what looked like a hamstring problem, shortly after he won the ball back and popped it over Jermaine Defoe's head. It's since been confirmed that the Frenchman could miss the rest of the season, which would be a shame as he's been solid at the back since the turn of the year. He's been a commanding and dominant figure at the back and has probably been our best defender since the turn of the year. If we still use four-at-the-back next season, then I hope Kaboul sticks around because he's a good player to have in this squad.

OPINION - Why Saturday's game against Sunderland is huge for Watford

31/03/2017 11:08

I was hoping we wouldn't be in this position going into the final month of the season back in August, given the squad we have.


But heading into the final month of the 2016/17 Premier League season, Watford are by no means safe. With ten games to go, the Hornets are just seven points from the drop zone. You might think I'm over reacting because as some have said, a couple more wins and we are safe.


But this is a Watford team who have won just three times in the Premier League since the start of December. The last one of those came over a month ago against Burnley. Even then, we still nearly managed to throw our lead away, as we became nervous in the final ten minutes and Heurelho Gomes pulled off some decent saves to preserve our win.


Whatever way you look at it, this weekend's game against Sunderland is huge. We simply have to win. With the Hornets also facing West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday night as well, it's fair to say these games are season defining. Win both or get four points and we're pretty much safe.


Lose them both and we're right at the heart of the relegation scrap.


Seven points might seem like a comfortable gap, but defeat this weekend and we could be just four points from the drop zone and we would be right at the heart of the relegation battle. Yet, this was a season where we were meant to be pushing on, following a 13th place finish in the Premier League last season. A relegation scrap wasn't in the mandate as far as I'm aware.


This has probably been the first season in my time as a supporter that I've not really enjoyed. I feel disconnected to the team and the manager, with this season being full of more lows than highs. Wins against Arsenal and Manchester United seem like a distant memory. The only thing you can say about this Watford side is that we've been consistently inconsistent.


Like many others, I'm very unconvinced about Walter Mazzarri and feel totally disconnected from him. The language barrier has been an issue, but Mazzarri hasn't done enough to endear himself to Watford supporters. He rarely recognises the fans and it feels like he hasn't done enough to immerse himself into life at Watford.


I'm also fed up of seeing a team set up with seemingly no game-plan and a lack of style. That comes across in the players, who look lost and don't know what to do at times during matches. But I won't go on too much more because the discussion over our head coach is for another time and another day.


Back to this weekend's game. While Sunderland might be rooted to the bottom of the Premier League, they cannot be taken lightly. In Jermain Defoe up front, they've got a clinical striker who, despite being aged 34, is still one of the best strikers in the Premier League. With 14 goals to his name this season, making him the second highest English scorer in the Premier League behind Harry Kane, Defoe is Sunderland's talisman and the Black Cats will always have a chance of scoring with the England international up front.


As a result, they can't be taken lightly and with West Brom to come on Tuesday night, four points should be the absolute minimum we are targeting from these next two games. Anything less isn't good enough, especially with the Hornets still having to face the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Everton between now and the end of the season.


Fixtures like Sunderland, like Hull, like Swansea to an extent, represent a perfect opportunity for Watford to take all three points, so it's crucial that we win games like Saturday's.


Therefore, it's time for no more excuses. No more poor performances. It's time to roll our sleeves up and be prepared to put our bodies on the line.


I, like many others, am sceptical about head coach Walter Mazzarri. But given the magnitude of this weekend's game, it's time to leave all our negative thoughts at the turnstiles outside the Rookery, Graham Taylor, Elton John and Vicarage Road stands.


We need to be the 12th man on Saturday and get right behind the Golden Boys, because losing simply isn't an option.

Referees for Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion games confirmed

29/03/2017 20:39

The referees for Watford's upcoming matches against Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion at Vicarage Road have been announced by the Premier League.


For Saturday's game against David Moyes' Sunderland, who currently sit bottom of the league, Lee Probert from Wiltshire will be the man-in-the-middle, in what will be his first Premier League match for two years.


Probert missed the whole of the 2015/16 season due to injury and he has been making his comeback this season in the lower leagues, taking charge of matches in the Championship, League One and League Two.


The Wiltshire official last took charge of Watford during the 2014/15 season, when he was the man-in-the-middle for the Hornets' 2-0 defeat to Bournemouth and the Golden Boys' 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday on the final day of the season. Against Bournemouth, Probert sent off Gabriele Angella after 26 seconds, a decision which was later rescinded.


This season, Probert has taken charge of 25 matches in all competitions, handing out 50 yellow cards and four red.


After Saturday's game, Watford will then take on West Bromwich Albion at Vicarage Road in the Premier League on Tuesday night and Paul Tierney from Lancashire will be the man-in-the-middle.


Tierney has taken charge of the Hornets once this season, which came in the Golden Boy's 0-0 draw with Swansea City in October. He also took charge of the meeting between the Hornets and the Baggies at Vicarage Road last season as well.


The Lancashire official is one of the relatively newer top-flight referees, having been promoted to the select group list of referees, who officiate matches in the Premier League, ahead of the 2016/17 season.


This season, Tierney has refereed 26 matches in all competitions, eight of which coming in the Premier League, and he has brandished 90 yellow cards and four red.


For the full appointments, please see below:


Watford vs Sunderland.

Referee - Lee Probert

Linesman -  Andrew Garratt and Adrian Holmes

Fourth Official - Roger East


Watford vs West Brom

Referee - Paul Tierney

Linesman - Marc Perry and David Bryan

Fourth Official - Mike Jones

Referee for Crystal Palace match confirmed

15/03/2017 09:36

The referee for this weekend's Premier League fixture against Crystal Palace has been announced.


The match, which will take place at Selhurst Park, will be refereed by Martin Atkinson from West Yorkshire.


Atkinson has refereed the Hornets twice already this season, with the Golden Boys having contrasting fortunes in both matches. He was the man-in-the-middle for Watford's sensational 4-2 win over West Ham earlier this season in the Premier League, while he was also in charge of the Hornets' dismal defeat to Millwall in the FA Cup in January.


Coincidentally, Atkinson was also the referee when both Watford and Crystal Palace met in the Play-Off Final at Wembley in May 2013.


The West Yorkshire official is an experienced top-flight referee, having taken charge of matches in the Premier League for the past 12 years. He was also one of two English officials who refereed at Euro 2016 in France last summer.


This season, Atkinson has taken charge of 31 matches in all competitions, handing out 109 yellow cards and 2 red.


For the full appointment, please see below:


Crystal Palace vs Watford


Referee - Martin Atkinson


Linesman - Jake Collin and Gary Beswick


Fourth Official - Keith Stroud

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