Can any head coach save the Hornets Premier League status?

Watford FC Season 2019-20 Pic Alan Cozzi 19/10/2019 Tottenham Hotspur v Watford Watford's Abdoulaye Doucoure with head coach Quique Sanchez-Flores after draw

With 22 matches to save their Premier League status, Watford find themselves in uncharted territory. For the first time in 5 years they not only find themselves flirting with the relegation zone but they are truly in the mire with just 1 win in 17 games and 6 points adrift of survival. It is not a great moment to be supporting Watford Football Club, disappointment has become a constant and for a squad so capable as shown as recently as the last campaign, it is hard to take to watch the club spiral into disarray.

While it feels like no club deserves something to cling on to with just 1 win in 17 matches, there is still that element of hope that Watford fans can believe in when it comes to Premier League survival. The Hornets are somehow just 6 points behind their 17th place competitors which is where they’ll be aiming to finish come the end of May. They also face a fresh reverse set of fixtures which means they have an equal chance for redemption providing they make a swift turnaround. There is no doubt the club’s third head coach already this season in Nigel Pearson has lifted the club in the last couple of weeks however I believe he faces one hell of a task. He may well have a more uplifting stance than fans saw with Quique Sanchez Flores but is it too late, are the signs there that the damage is done?

The common theme

It doesn’t take a genius to work out where the Golden Boys are lacking. They have by far and away the worst goals for in the Premier League with just 9 goals in 17 matches. Anyone who has watched the side compete this season will know that has not been through a lack of opportunities. As ever the head coach is the one to fall on these fine margins but the common theme is the lack of incision in front of goal from the players. Think back to Hughes’s open goal miss vs West Ham under Gracia, Welbeck’s 1 v 1 against Sheff Utd under Flores and Sarr’s sitter vs Liverpool under Pearson as examples.

Quique Sanchez Flores will always take most of the heat having taken charge of the majority of games (10) and his defensive style has drawn in a lot of criticism but it is easy to forget just how poor defensively we started out this season. This simply had to change if we were to give ourselves a chance in matches and Flores gave us this platform in my view. Chances may not have been relentless but they were available most notably in home games vs Sheff Utd, Bournemouth and Burnley where a tighter balance was obtained. When results don’t go your way the style of play is highlighted more than ever and this was the case under Flores, I could certainly appreciate being in more tightly contested games but he did not get the rub of the green. That being said our football was restricted and not a style suited to our personnel but I recognised if it meant winning games in the short term so be it, unfortunately the lack of quality in the final third combined with some horrific VAR decisions cost us important points and Flores his job.

For me it was a case of the right man at the wrong time, I believe QSF initially added what was needed but we have moved on as a squad since his previous tenure and this is not a squad that wants to suffer without the ball. I don’t see how his ideas would’ve lasted the season successfully anyway but I don’t attach his results with him being a poor coach, in the same way I didn’t with Gracia’s awful start. More importantly we have seen the exact same trend in the 3 games since he left, with a more expansive approach under Mullins and Pearson we have scored 0 goals with poor finishing and decision making proving costly yet again. No matter how encouraging the performances it feels like Watford aren’t getting over the line, one way or another.

Goals For, Goals Against.

Pearson will now have to achieve the all important balance between attack and defence. It’s clear he has a good squad at his disposal but he does not have a natural goalscorer to rely on. Whilst this is vital it has to be noted that guilt edge chances have fell to varied members of the team and it isn’t simply a case of finding a new striker come January. All the head coach can really do is encourage the levels of performance we saw at Liverpool. Equally important it’s imperative that the defence do not find themselves in a mess that they so often do. Pearson has a challenge keeping both Deulofeu and Sarr disciplined with their defensive duties as there is no point putting an emphasis on attack if we are to expose our weaknesses in defence which we could clearly see with Gracia. He also must work on improving the set pieces taken, which is effectively starting from zero based off what we’ve witnessed up to this point.

We can’t, can we?

Being clinical the clubs chances are very slim and I have very little belief that we can pull something out of the bag. They still have plenty of opportunities to turn this around but 7/22 of the remaining games are against the top 6 and we will be looking for roughly 3o points from this amount of games which looks a steep task. To go from just 1 all season it would have to be a staggeringly good turn around. I know we are capable of obtaining wins but we’ve put ourselves in a position where 1 win will have to be backed up by another. It must be noted that the mentality of the players as a whole is one that tends to lose games, only time will tell if Pearson can shape that for the better. It’s not over until it’s over.

What you make of these thoughts? Are Watford already destined for the drop? Let us know in the comments below!

featured image credit watfordfc.com