If Jurgen Klopp referred to his squad as the ‘mentality monsters’ then Watford’s squad could very well be referred to as the ‘mentality mice’ as they showed their soft core yet again away at Turf Moor. The Hornets were defeated 1-0 Burnley in a game that showed their mental frailties and were taught a very hard lesson about what will be required if they are to survive relegation this season.
Taking a lesson from Burnley
Burnley will not be everyone’s favourite side, their direct and very physical nature doesn’t make them easy on the eye. You feel reluctant to dish out any praise when a Sean Dyche teams visits your club and uses every game in the book to spoil your day and walks away with 3 points, having played some very ordinary football in the process. While I’m sure the former Watford boss isn’t particularly bothered about gaining many admirers along the way, you simply cannot argue with the job he has done for the Clarets. He has found a formula to compete with a limited budget and got the maximum he can from his group of players.
Following a 5-0 thumping away at Man City, Sean Dyche future remains in the balance following problems with the board. Combine this with the absence of key players Chris Wood, Ashley Barnes and Jeff Hendrick and on paper you couldn’t dream of a better time to play Burnley. Yet once again they were up and at it from the first whistle to the last, as they are in every game. This is not to say every pass was calculated or of genuine quality but their attitude and application from every player was first class and it really does make you sit up and admire what they give to the cause.
With or without fans their players show resolve in every circumstance, they take responsibility as an individual and as a collective group. To me they appear to be a team of leaders on the field and don’t let the circumstances involving off the field matters or a league table influence whether they have an off day. Players will always have good and bad games but they can always put themselves in the best position to find that consistency with a tough mental approach and they do just that. They’ll no doubt have a proud fan base who can certainly get behind their team and excuse any bad games of football they might see knowing full well their management staff and players are doing the best they can.
Watford under pressure
Looking at the game in isolation and this was as bad of a showing from the side as we’ve seen since Watford returned to the Premier League. The tactics on show were simply horrendous. Pearson deployed somewhat of a 4-4-2 to match up with Burnley which he changed after the first drinks break. Anyone with half a brain knows that the moment you start playing into Burnley’s hands knows you are in for a difficult game. The fact Watford continued to go long and seemed incapable of trying to play with possession showed that they are not only brain dead as a management team and bunch of players but it is the exact reason why they find themselves near the foot of the table. The intent from the word go was limp and you’d be confused for thinking Watford were the team that had nothing to play for, having really been given a huge chance to bolster their survival odds with positive results elsewhere before Thursday evening.
From a tactical and technical point of view, it was as inept of a performance as you would hope to see again from Watford but sadly this is not in isolation and it is all too familiar of a squad that runs dry when the pressure is really on. It wasn’t long ago that Pearson’s side wiped the floor with the current league leaders and they did it in style. This is a talented group of players who have been comfortable in the league before the 19/20 campaign and they should have followed suit this season despite a big setback in the FA Cup Final.
This group of players seamlessly got rid of what is I’m sure Watford fans favourite manager in recent times in Javi Gracia. While the Spaniard may not have been on the top of his game, the opening day defeat was as complacent of a performance as you will ever see and the carry on cost him his job. It is tiresome to keep the blame pointed at the head coaches, the players are the constant and their over reliance on the man in charge to keep them interested has resulted in spells throughout the Premier League where it is painful viewing from the stands, particularly when you know what they’re capable of.
It is hard to know why this squad constantly cracks under pressure, even in its greatest moment in the FA Cup Semi-Final they produced a comeback when it looked all but gone. Playing a more fluid style can generate days of frustration, even more so when the opposition clearly look to disrupt that. The team have badly failed at breaking down sides with this intention and I don’t want to highlight the mental in-capabilities as the sole reason for not beating these types of opponents.
But in the same way Watford failed to beat Crystal Palace when there was an opportunity to pull clear of their rivals yet again, they choked and they just appear to come across as a bunch of losers who will never seize the opportunity to stand up and be counted. This goes beyond this season where the club managed to turn a European push into an 11th place finish and finished 17th two seasons prior despite never being in relegation turmoil.
You could point to a lack of leaders among the players and a blame culture in the club where the head coach falls if he is not popular but it is hard to know from the outside. What is clear though is that the club could take a lot to learn from Burnley, the Hornets now face 7 huge games to survive the drop. My confidence in those chances took a huge hit following the defeat, if they aren’t the bunch of losers that I still passionately support, then it’s time to prove it.
What do you make of these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!
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