After a preseason of remarkable transfer activity on top of a new manager coming in, it’s tough to fully assess where Watford are headed at this early juncture. But despite going into the international break without a win in any of their four games, there seems to be a solid foundation upon which to go forth.
Three draws against Everton, West Bromwich Albion and Southampton represented a solid beginning, while the Hornets can probably claim to have done the best job of shutting down Manchester City to this point, even if they lost at the Etihad Stadium, 2-0.
But without a goal in their last three games, Watford are the lowest scorers in the Premier League, and still without that elusive win. Here’s a look at why Quique Sanchez Flores’ side have struggled in that facet so far and how they might remedy those issues in the months to come.
Best Player – Etienne Capoue:
After never really getting a fair crack of the whip at Tottenham Hotspur, Etienne Capoue has rocked up at Vicarage Road intent on proving a point. Up to now, he’s been a key factor in Watford’s organized start to the Premier League. He is quickly beginning to showcase the kind of qualities which made him so highly-rated during his time with Toulouse.
At his best, Capoue can do it all. He’s a multi-faceted midfield man who can tackle, pass, read the game and carry the ball forward into dangerous areas. Alongside Valon Behrami, he’s helped lock down midfield battles and give the Hornets some purchase in what are so often frantic Premier League encounters.
Most Improved Player – Craig Cathcart:
It must be tough for a player like Craig Cathcart, who was a central figure in this team’s promotion push last season. Either side of him are new defensive partners, while Behrami and Capoue have been forming a new midfield axis just in front. Yet he’s gone about his business superbly and adapted well to the Premier League.
As aforementioned, Cathcart was a very strong performer in 2014-15, but there’s an increased maturity about him at the heart of the defensive set-up. As the team’s most longstanding player, he’s relished his role as a leader, and as this much changed Watford side being to strike up relationships, he will only get better in a critical segment of the field.
In: Etienne Capoue, Jose Manuel Jurado, Matej Vydra, Obbi Oulare, Steven Berghuis, Valon Behrami, Jose Holebas, Victor Ibarbo, Rafael Romo, Sebastian Prodl, Miguel Britos, Giedrius Arlauskis, Allan Nyom, Mathias Hartwig, Alessandro Diamanti, Nathan Ake, Adlene Guedioura
Out: Fernando Forestieri, Matej Vydra (Loan) Lewis McGugan, Vujadin Savic, Marco Motta, Luke O’Nien
Lloyd Doyley, Joel Ekstrand
Manager Analysis – Quique Sanchez Flores:
Any Hornets supporters hoping that Flores would bring a renewed flair to their team may have been disappointed by this start. Indeed, up to now the former Atletico Madrid manager has looked to instill defensive rigidity at the expense of free-flowing soccer; in fairness, with so many new faces coming through the door, that’s probably a wise move.
But it’s important Flores doesn’t lose sight of what Watford were so good at last season. Troy Deeney, Odion Ighalo and Matej Vydra banged goals in for fun on the club’s way to promotion, but the tactics deployed so far have left the former looking isolated, Ighalo out on the wing, while Vydra was been shipped out loan just weeks after joining on a permanent deal.
If Watford can add a spark to complement their sound defensive structure, they’ll be fine. And Flores will be hopeful that one of the new recruits like Ibarbo, Oulare or Berguis can settle quickly and add some zest. It’s imperative they lend some attacking support to Deeney, who is a useful forward, but one that will quickly lose confidence if his scoreless run continues.
The fact Flores has amalgamated these new faces into a strong defensive structure bodes well for months to come. But it’s vital this team shows their attacking qualities in the next four games — which are against Swansea City, Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth — secure that first victory and build from there.
Overall Rating – 2.5/5
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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