The Hornets have had a flying start to the season and their team, full of pace, are finally striking a bond with supporters that was missing last term
15 September ~ Manchester City’s previous visit to Watford saw Walter Mazzarri’s reign ended in comically bad fashion. Mazzarri was greeted at the stadium by a fan holding a poster that featured a medley of encouraging messages such as “Goodbye – we don’t want you” and “Don’t get off the coach”. The Italian responded with a show of defiance, fielding a revolutionary line-up that featured a back three with no centre-backs and two goal keepers on the bench.
City won 5-0 and, as is tradition, Mazzarri was sacked, and a new manager sought. Marco Silva was a popular choice and, while fans were hoping for a positive start under him, the first four games have exceeded expectations with two away wins, two draws, and three clean sheets.
City will pose by far the hardest challenge yet but they have just been in midweek Champions League action and Watford are enjoying their best start to a Premier League season. If there is a good time to play City, this is probably it. Previous results should be discounted, as this is already a very different Watford team to the one that was blown away last May.
First, they have a midfield. Last year it often looked Valon Behrami was the only Watford player occupying the middle of the pitch. Behrami has gone but replacements have arrived, and Abdoulaye Doucouré, Nathaniel Chalobah and Tom Cleverley have all been excellent under Silva.
Secondly, this Watford team have pace. Richarlison, the young Brazilian forward deployed on the left, Andre Gray who is currently the main striker, and Andre Carrillo, the Peruvian winger on loan from Benfica, would all command decent odds in a head-to-head with Road Runner.
Finally, the squad appears to be building some old fashioned team spirit. There is less moaning on the pitch and the general attitude of the players, and the fans, suggests a bond is forming that bodes well for the season.
The big question mark of Silva’s early selections hangs over the future of club captain Troy Deeney, who is yet to start in the Premier League this season. It remains to be seen if Deeney – the only constant figure during the past five seasons of change – will become an integral part of this Watford team.
He certainly has his work cut out to force his way back in after picking up an injury in pre-season. But Deeney’s experience and ability to hold up the ball could yet prove crucial against the better sides in the league when Watford cannot expect to dominate the midfield for long periods.
There will undoubtedly be set backs and injuries over the course of the season, and the morale and confidence of the squad will be tested. But this side are much improved compared to anything seen under Mazzarri. Victory against City and the challenge will be keeping expectations in check. Michael Moruzzi