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