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OPINION - Reflecting on Everton and why this international break is important for Watford

09/11/2017 20:42

I don't know why, but I had a bad feeling about Sunday's match against Everton all week in the build-up to the game.


There was no reason why. Anyone who knows me personally will know that I'm always optimistic going into a match. But for some reason, I just had a horrible feeling something was going to go wrong at Goodison Park. Sadly, that proved to be the case.


Watford slipped to a 3-2 defeat to Everton at the weekend and whatever way you look at it, it's simply inexcusable to throw away a 2-0 lead like we did. It doesn't matter what league you're in, but if you're 2-0 up with 20 minutes to play, you really should be winning the game.


Once Christian Kabasele had put us 2-0 up, Watford should have been comfortable. With Everton on a poor run of form and with home fans getting increasingly restless, the Hornets should have been able to manage the game like they have done against Southampton and Bournemouth this season to gain the three points.


But the simple fact of the matter is we didn't. We capitulated.


I've seen some supporters pinning the defeat solely on the injury to Heurelho Gomes which I don't particularly buy.


There's no disputing that Gomes is a crucial figure for Watford and one of our most consistent performers. He's also a popular figure in the dressing room by the looks of things and a huge fan favourite among supporters.


I'm a huge fan of his too, but I wouldn't say that we lost simply because of his injury. Yes, substitute Orestis Karnezis does not cover himself in glory for the first two goals, but our defending as a team has got to come into question.


For the first Everton goal, a long hopeful ball forward by Ademola Lookman has cut our defence wide open and that should not be happening. Yes, Karnezis doesn't need to rush off his line like he did, but Jose Holebas should also be doing far better too for a man of his experience. He's been beaten far too easily by Oumar Niasse and then doesn't even bother to go with his man once Niasse beats Karnezis. The way we gave away that first goal is quite frankly, comical.


Then for the second goal, we've conceded from a set-piece once again. Marco Silva hasn't done much wrong since he's arrived at Watford, but he simply must consider dropping zonal marking as we're conceding too many sloppy goals from set-pieces. That's now five games in a row that the Hornets have conceded from a set-piece and it's clear that teams have identified this as a clear weak point of ours.


On Sunday, Dominic Calvert Lewin gets a simple free header at the far post and Everton are back on level terms just ten minutes after being 2-0 down. You can accept it if Everton had scored two world class goals to get back on level terms. But they didn't. If truth be told, they didn't have to work too hard to score the goals they did.


So, while some can point the finger at Karnezis' display, and I agree he doesn't cover himself in glory, it is not the only reason why we lost that game. Poor defending as a team has cost us again and it meant that despite playing well for 70 minutes, we've come away from Goodison Park empty handed when we really should have been talking about an excellent victory.


People can also point to the fact that Watford were without a number of influential players on Sunday due to injury. There was no Nathaniel Chalobah, Roberto Pereyra, Sebastian Prodl or Younes Kaboul among others and when you factor in that Troy Deeney was banned for the Hornets on Sunday, you could arguably say that we were without half of our first choice eleven. But this Watford team is far too good for excuses to be made when they don't perform.


We've seen before this season that we can win without some of our best players and we can dig in and grind out a result if need be. However, that hasn't been the case recently.


Ok, you can accept Watford throwing away a 2-1 lead away to Chelsea, given that we were facing the current Premier League champions and one of the best teams in the Premier League.


But, if we are targeting a top ten finish this season, as so many of our players have spoken about in the media, then fans have a right to expect the Hornets to get results from fixtures against Stoke and Everton given their recent poor run of form and our own performances this season. But if truth be told, we didn't do enough against either the Potters or the Toffees.


The international break, therefore, comes at a good time for the Golden Boys. Silva now has two weeks to work with the majority of the players and ensure they are ready for what now is a crucial match against West Ham United at Vicarage Road.


With West Ham and Newcastle to play after the international break, it is crucial that Watford pick up at least four points from those two games, especially as they face Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur after.


This, therefore, marks Marco Silva's first big test as Watford head coach. This is the first time we have recorded back-to-back defeats this season and if you look at the previous two campaigns, a series of consecutive defeats or games without a win in December and January have been the catalyst for a Watford capitulation after a promising start.  Heads have dropped and the team have struggled to regain form following these runs in the previous campaigns.


Now, while this, I'm sure, is a very different Watford side under Silva's stewardship this season, it's important not to underestimate how crucial it is that Watford get back to winning ways as soon as possible after the international break. Failure to win against Newcastle or West Ham and it's not inconceivable that Watford could go seven games without a win, given that they face Manchester United and Spurs after the fixtures with the Hammers and the Magpies.


I know the Hornets have got points off two big teams this season in Arsenal and Liverpool, but realistically, we can't be expecting to get any points from games against Jose Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino's men. That's coming from an ever-optimistic fan like me as well!

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of Silva's work at Vicarage Road so far and it has been an excellent start to the campaign. There have been many highlights so far and I think most of us would have bitten your hand off to be in 9th place in the table going into November.


But all of our good work could be undone if we don't pick up points against West Ham and Newcastle, which is why I feel that this international break is important not only for Silva, but this Watford side too.
 

I hope, therefore, that this series of defeats is just a temporary blip from the Golden Boys and not the start of the annual capitulation which we have seen in the last two campaigns.

OPINION - Five thoughts after Watford's 2-0 win over Southampton

12/09/2017 08:37

Watford secured their second win of the season with a 2-0 win over Southampton at the St Mary's Stadium on Saturday.


Two superb strikes from Abdoulaye Doucoure and Daryl Janmaat in each half secured the impressive Hornets all three points, in what was a dominant display from Marco Silva's men.


Having attended Saturday's game, here are five of my main thoughts:


1 - Silva is Watford's most important signing

While the likes of Doucoure, Chalobah and Richarlison have captured the headlines so far this campaign, it is Marco Silva who has been Watford's most important signing of the summer in my opinion. That was further evidenced on Saturday against Southampton.


This was a dominant display from the Hornets, who were in full control of this game right from the first whistle. There only looked like being one winner at the St Mary's Stadium and that was the men in yellow. While we didn't create many chances in the first half, we dominated possession and made things very difficult for Southampton. Abdoulaye Doucoure and Nathaniel Chalobah were controlling the game and the Saints couldn't get near them. Once Doucoure had put us ahead with a superb strike in the 38th minute, there was no looking back. 


From then on, the Hornets created a few chances and in the end, they could have scored more than two. Andre Carrillo fired just wide in the dying minutes, following a mazy run down the right, while Richarlison was almost played through one-on-one as well.


But one thing which has become increasingly clear for me is that Silva has transformed this Watford side and given us a new leash of life. It's like watching a completely different team compared to last season. He sets us up so well and ensures that each player knows their role, meaning that the Hornets are very difficult to beat. Not once do you see players pointing at each other or asking someone else to pick up a man, as was the case last season. This is a different Watford side under Silva now.


Some of the football we played was delightful to watch, too. Instead of playing long aimless balls up field, as we saw time and time again last campaign, we were patient in possession, playing some lovely slick football on the pitch. Nothing felt like it was rushed or off the cuff.


Playing slick football and with some genuine pace and power up front, I feel like the Hornets can cause any team problems on their day.


The most important thing though is that it's enjoyable to go and watch the Hornets play again. The enjoyment of going to a match has returned and that wasn't the case towards the end of last season, with the lacklustre football and increasingly poor performances meaning it was hard to feel positive about anything involving the Hornets.


It also feels like the fans, players and staff are together once again and that unity is something which will be key throughout the season. With fans signing out the catchy Abdoulaye Doucoure song among others in the stands and the players showing a real commitment on the pitch, it really feels like both the players and supporters are together. That wasn't the case last season either.


So, Marco Silva is really stamping his mark on this team and I love the work that he is doing,


If the Hornets can replicate Saturday's performance regularly throughout the season, then this is going to be a very exciting campaign for everyone associated with the club.


2 - Doucoure and Chalobah go from strength to strength

When you think Abdoulaye Doucoure and Nathaniel Chalobah's partnership in midfield can't get any better, they go and put in a performance like that. The most impressive thing about them is that they complement each other so well and they are now lynchpins in this Watford side. When one attacks, one sits back and covers, ensuring that the Hornets are not over run in midfield. Chalobah is the one who tends to have more licence to roam, getting forward at every opportunity and showcasing his excellent range of passing. He's not afraid to get stuck in either and I'm certain that he will be a regular in the England side sooner rather than later.


Now on to Doucoure. What more can be said about this man? Well, the song doesn't lie. He really does never give the ball away. This was another dominant display from him in the heart of midfield and Southampton could not get close to both he and Chalobah. Doucoure also scored a fabulous goal in the first half and kept possession superbly, completing 90% of his passes during the match. It's hard to think that the Frenchman was frozen out by Walter Mazzarri for the first half of last season. How did he not see Doucoure's natural talent?


The reality is though that we simply must enjoy the likes of Chalobah and Doucoure while we have them, because it is inevitable that they will both go on to play for big clubs in the future. They are top young players who have big futures ahead of them.


3 - Kabasele impresses once again

As I've said before, I've been critical of Christian Kabasele in the past. When I saw him against Bristol City in the cup recently, I thought he was poor and I was starting to feel like that he would never be good enough to start for us on a regular basis. But, boy, how wrong was I? The Belgium international was excellent against Brighton before the international break and he was immense against the Saints at the weekend. Both he and Younes Kaboul marshalled the tricky Manolo Gabbiadini very well, meaning that the Italian didn't have a sniff all game. Kabasele was particularly impressive though, pulling off a stunning block to deny Jack Stephens' potentially goal-bound effort during the second half, underlining his commitment in this impressive display. The Belgium international was dominant in the air and also pulled off some great tackles and interceptions as well. He never looked phased and made his job look easy. Kabasele was also comfortable with the ball at his feet and was very impressive for the Hornets on Saturday. He is certainly giving Marco Silva some food for thought and with more performances like these, there's no reason why Kabasele can't become one of our first-choice centre backs.


4 - Cleverley undroppable at the moment

Tom Cleverley just gets better and better every week. I've said it before, but he isn't a player who is going to get you off your seat. Nor is he a flashy player who is going to pull off a piece of skill to get past a man. That's not his game. But you can always rely on Cleverley to perform and that was the case once again on Saturday. He did not stop running all afternoon, with his pressing setting the tone for the rest of the team to follow. The former Everton man was also good in possession and linked up with the likes of Andre Gray and Richarlison very well. On top of that, he also has a good understanding with Chalobah and Doucoure and it also means that Watford have one of the most hard-working midfields in the Premier League. You know you're never going to get a moments piece with the likes of Cleverley, Doucoure and Chalobah snapping at your heels.


At the moment, Cleverley is practically undroppable for us and he has embraced that attacking midfield role so well. He is the player who really knits together our play and is something of an unsung hero in this Watford side. Many thought that Cleverley would perhaps be a substitute under Silva this campaign, but he has proved all his doubters wrong and is an early candidate for Player-of-the-Season behind Doucoure. Keep up the good work, Tom!


5 - Injuries to Kaboul and Femenia are the only negatives

The only negatives to come out of Saturday's game were the injuries to Younes Kaboul and Kiko Femenia. Both were having very good games and it was a shame to see them both limp off, especially given that we have a few injuries in defence at the moment. Kaboul in particular was having an excellent game at the back, as the Frenchman was dominant in the air and pulled off a number of tackles and interceptions. Along with Kabasele, Kaboul kept Gabbiadini very quiet and the Frenchman was also comfortable with the ball at his feet too. The Frenchman has divided opinion among Watford fans since he joined the club last summer from Sunderland, but in a back four, he has performed rather well and as such, it was a real shame to see him limp off. Femenia, on the other hand, has proven to be a good purchase, with his speed and energy making him a valuable addition at right-back. I thought he started the game slowly at the weekend and was beaten too easily by Sofiane Boufal at one point, but he grew into the game and was putting in another good performance until he limped off with an injury as well. We didn't see so much of him attacking wise, but defensively he did rather well. Fingers crossed that neither will be out for too long.

Referee for Southampton game confirmed

06/09/2017 10:08

The referee for this weekend's away fixture against Southampton has been confirmed by the Premier League.


Lee Probert from Wiltshire will be the man-in-the-middle at the St Mary's Stadium on Saturday and this will be his second Premier League match of the campaign.


Probert refereed the Hornets once last season, which came in the 1-0 win over Sunderland at Vicarage Road in April.


The Wiltshire official is well known among the Watford fanbase, given that he was the referee who sent off Gabriele Angella inside a minute against Bournemouth in January 2015.


Probert has refereed three matches in all competitions this season, one of which coming in the Premier League, handing out one yellow card and two red.


For the full appointment, please see below:


Southampton vs Watford


Referee - Lee Probert


Linesman - Andy Garratt and Daniel Cook


Fourth Official - Tim Robinson

Andre Carrillo - Can Silva get the best out of him once again?

30/08/2017 08:21

(Picture - soccer.ru)


Watford completed their eighth signing of the summer transfer window last week, with Peru international Andre Carrillo joining the Hornets on loan from Benfica.


Carrillo, who made his debut against Brighton at the weekend, will spend the season on loan at Vicarage Road, with the Golden Boys having the option to make the move permanent next summer.


The quick and skilful winger is someone well known to Watford head coach Marco Silva, as the duo worked together at Sporting Lisbon. It's fair to say that Silva got the best out of the Peru international winger, who played 46 games, scoring seven times and assisting 18 goals during the 2014/15 season, the last time the duo worked together.


Before moving to Portugal, Carrillo came through the ranks at Alianza Lima in his homeland and having spent five years with Sporting Lisbon, he moved to Benfica in 2016.


However, the 26-year-old's season with Benfica didn't go to plan, as he started just three games in the league and made a further 17 appearances as a substitute. He did, however, score twice, but Watford head coach Marco Silva will be hoping to get the best out of the 26-year-old once again this campaign.


As a result, I spoke to David Pritchett (Twitter - @dpritchett_SLB), Editor-in-Chief of Planetbenfica.co.uk, to find
out more about Watford's new signing and to see whether Carrillo could be a success in the Premier League. Here's what he had to say:


The Watford Blog (TWB): For some reason or another, it doesn't seem to have worked out at Benfica for André Carrillo, having arrived with such promise. Is there any particular reason for this?

David Pritchett (DP): "There are two main reasons. Firstly, Carrillo has faced huge competition for a starting place because Benfica have a ridiculous number of wingers on their books! Last season, the Peruvian was up against Eduardo Salvio, Andrija Zivković, Rafa Silva, Franco Cervi and Gonçalo Guedes (until he was sold to PSG in January). There's not a bad player amongst that group, so Carrillo was never going to walk into the side.


"The other issue is that he was frozen out at Sporting Lisbon for most of the 2015/16 season, after a bitter feud about a contract extension. Consequently, he arrived at Benfica in summer 2016 lacking both form and fitness. Most teams would have given him a run of games to shake off the rust, but with so many other wingers in the squad, Carrillo was never afforded that luxury.


"This summer, Benfica have added another two wingers to their ranks, with Chris Willock arriving from Arsenal and Diogo Gonçalves stepping up from the B team. That was the final nail in the coffin for Carrillo at the Estádio da Luz."


TWB: What are Carrillo's main strengths and weaknesses?

DP: "He is extremely quick and direct. Despite being pretty tall for a winger, he is very agile and able to change direction in an instant. His ability to slalom effortlessly between defenders has earned him the nickname "The Snake". His defensive workrate isn't fantastic, but it also isn't terrible. His main problem right now is a chronic lack of form and confidence, having gone two seasons with very little competitive football. Some questioned his attitude for the manner in which he left Sporting, but he didn't cause any problems at Benfica, even though his first-team opportunities were limited."


TWB - Watford have been looking for a right-winger all summer to seemingly replace Nordin Amrabat in the starting line-up. Amrabat's end product and form has dipped since the turn of the year. Could Carrillo make the right-wing position his own and have an impact in the Premier League?

DP: "It's very difficult to say. It may take him a while to find his rhythm, given how little he has played in recent years. Likewise, he needs to adjust to a new team, a new league, and life in a new country. It's always hard to predict how quickly a player will settle. The Premier League is undoubtedly a step-up from the Primeira Liga, so it won't be easy. That said, he has a decent amount of experience at continental and international level."


TWB: Marco Silva knows Carrillo well having worked with him previously at Sporting. Do you think he can get the best out of him again at Watford?

DP: "Since arriving in Portugal in 2011, Carrillo showed flashes of brilliance, but not much consistency. In was in 2014/15 - under Marco Silva's management - that he developed into one of the best players in Portugal, and genuinely looked like a €30 million player. The two men respect and understand one another, and you would expect that to aid Carrillo's acclimatisation. No disrespect to Watford, but I also feel that Carrillo may benefit from being a bigger fish in a smaller pond. The added responsibility of being a 'marquee' player could bring the best out of him."


TWB - Watford have really strengthened their forward line this summer. Could Carrillo forge a good partnership with the likes of Roberto Pereyra, Richarlison and Andre Gray in Watford's 4-2-3-1 formation?

DP: "He's played almost exclusively in a 4-4-2 at Benfica, but prior to that, he operated in both 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 formations at Sporting. He's a versatile player, having been deployed as a left-winger, right-winger and second-striker in the past, but I'd definitely say that he's most effective on the right. I don't know enough about his new teammates to predict exactly how they will combine, but I will definitely be following his progress with interest."


Thanks to David for answering my questions! Please do give him a follow on Twitter: @dpritchett_SLB!


In the meantime, welcome to Watford, Andre!

OPINION - Five thoughts after Watford's 0-0 draw with Brighton

27/08/2017 17:10

Ten-man Watford ground out a hard-fought point against Brighton with a 0-0 draw at Vicarage Road on Saturday.


The Hornets made a bright start to the game, but were always going to face an uphill task after Miguel Britos was shown a straight red card after 25 minutes.


Brighton hit the post twice through Tomer Hemed and Anthony Knockaert and were the better team after Britos' red card, but Watford showed great resilience to hold on for a hard-fought point.


After attending Saturday's game at Vicarage Road, here are five of my main thoughts:


1 - Battling Watford secure a point

We saw a different side to Watford under Marco Silva on Saturday. Against Liverpool and Bournemouth, we saw a free-flowing and attack minded Watford, who caused defences real problems and created numerous goal scoring chances. Against Brighton though it was different. While the Hornets did cause problems in the first 10-15 mins, the sending off of Miguel Britos completely changed the game. From then the Golden Boys were always going to be on the backfoot, given Brighton had a numerical advantage, but the Hornets showed fantastic grit and resilience to earn a point against all odds. Marco Silva's men didn't create too many more chances after the sending off, but that was to be expected given that we were a man light. Things were always going to be difficult and Brighton had their tails up after the red card. But the Golden Boys defended superbly, and showed fantastic grit and resilience to grind out a point. It would have been quite easy for us to lose our heads after the red card and I'm sure we would have done that under Walter Mazzarri last season. But Marco Silva has changed the mentality of this Watford squad and has instilled some resilience into this team. We didn't see a free flowing and attack minded Watford on Saturday, but what we did witness was a real team performance. You just had to look at Tom Cleverley and Kiko Femenia, both of whom played out of position for most of the game. Players were prepared to put their body on the line and play out of position and that is something pleasing to see as a fan. We saw on Saturday a group of players who really wanted to play for the shirt and you certainly couldn't fault the work ethic of any of the Watford team left on the pitch. So, we saw a different side to the Hornets on Saturday and it's great to see that we do have a bit of grit and resilience about us. When the going gets tough, we are prepared to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. As such, there were plenty of positives to take out of Saturday's match. Yes, I'm sure many supporters would have wanted all three points prior to kick off, but as soon as Britos was sent off, I would have taken a point all day long given the circumstances. I'm sure others will agree as well.     


2 - Britos' stupidity costs Hornets

I don't like digging out players, but I've got no choice here. What on earth was Miguel Britos thinking? It's a horrific challenge and a red card all day long. His stupidity cost us the game and I'm certain that if he had stayed on the pitch, we would have won that match on Saturday. For an experienced professional like Britos you expect so much more. But this isn't the first time that Britos has shown his naivety. On his last game for Napoli, he headbutted Alvaro Morata and on his debut for the Hornets, the Uruguayan was sent off for elbowing Preston's Bailey Wright. So, this isn't the first time that this sort of thing has happened. Against a better team, Britos could have cost us all three points. But what irked me even more was that there was no need for him to make the challenge at all. Anthony Knockaert isn't in a position of great danger. He's not running towards goal. If anything, he's running away from goal and towards the corner flag. So, there's no real danger and all Britos has got to do is stay on his feet and shepherd him out wide. If he does that, there's a good chance he sticks it out for a throw or a corner. There's no need to make that tackle whatsoever, as Knockaert is in a position of relatively little danger. For a player of Britos' experience, it's incredibly disappointing that he has made such a stupid decision. It now means Watford will be without him for three games, at a time where our defence is currently suffering from a few injuries. Hopefully though, we'll have Daryl Janmaat and Younes Kaboul back for Southampton in two weeks' time.


3 - Kabasele impresses at the back

I was highly critical of Christian Kabasele's performance against Bristol City in mid-week. I thought he was poor at the back and naïve at times during the game. On Saturday against Brighton though, it was a complete contrast. The Belgium international was immense for Watford at the back, as he pulled off some great tackles and interceptions during the match. He was also dominant in the air and he marshalled Brighton's Tomer Hemed particularly well during the game, restricting him to limited opportunities. Both he and Sebastian Prodl forged a good understanding at the back on Saturday, with both helping Watford keep a clean sheet against all odds. But it was the performance of Kabasele that was particularly impressive and I'd go as far as saying that this was his best performance in a Watford shirt since he signed from Genk last summer. He also read the game superbly well and has certainly given Marco Silva some food for thought after that performance. What a difference a couple of days makes, as against Bristol City, I was in two minds whether Kabasele would ever be good enough to become a permanent member of Watford's defence. But on Saturday, he showed just why he is a Belgium international and if he can replicate Saturday's performance, he'll certainly be putting pressure on the likes of Sebastian Prodl, Younes Kaboul and Miguel Britos for a spot in the team.


4 - What a legend Tom Cleverley is

Tom Cleverley isn't a player who is going to get you off your seat. He isn't a flashy player who is going to pull off a piece of skill to get past his man. That's not his game. But you can always rely on the former Manchester United man to perform and he was brilliant on Saturday. He played in about three different positions, starting out as an attacking midfielder, then being shifted out to right-midfield and then moved to right-back in the second half after Craig Cathcart's injury, but he was reliable as ever. That's what I like about Tom Cleverley though; put him anywhere in this Watford side and you can always rely on him to do a good job. You can tell that he will do anything for the good of the team and his work rate and desire can never be questioned. He's played an influential role in Watford's first three games and is turning into a crucial member of this side. If Troy Deeney and Heurelho Gomes were unavailable or to leave, then he'd certainly be my pick as captain.


5 - Too early to judge Andre Gray

I've seen a lot of criticism for Andre Gray after Saturday's game, but it was always going to be difficult for him after the sending off. Played up front on his own, he was feeding off scraps for most of the game and was isolated for large parts, as our midfield and wide players sat deeper to make it difficult for Brighton to break us down. A lot of long balls were played up to Gray as the match went on, which didn't work, but it's important not to forget that he's not a target man. He's a completely different player to the likes of Troy Deeney and Stefano Okaka. Gray is at his best when he's played in behind the opposition defence or when the ball is being played into his feet. He's not one that is going to win headers in the air, especially against two 6ft plus defenders. So, it's far too early to judge him. Saturday's game was always going to be tough for him after the sending off and I do sympathise with him. Saying that, his work ethic couldn't be questioned as Gray did not stop running all afternoon. There's certainly a lot more to come from him.

Scott referee for Brighton clash

26/08/2017 11:57

Graham Scott will be the referee for today's match against Brighton and Hove Albion at Vicarage Road.


This will be the Oxfordshire based official's first Premier League game of the season, having taken charge of eight top flight matches last season.


One of those matches was Watford's 3-1 defeat away to West Bromwich Albion in early December, where he sent off the Hornets' Roberto Pereyra for reacting angrily to a challenge from James McClean.


Scott took charge of 28 matches in all competitions last season, handing out 93 yellow cards and 5 red. His only game so far this campaign has been Nottingham Forest's 2-1 win over Middlesbrough last weekend in the Championship.


For the full appointment, please see below:


Watford vs Brighton.


Referee - Graham Scott


Linesman - Richard West and Derek Eaton


Fourth Official - Robert Madley


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!

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