Watford opened their Championship campaign with a 1-0 victory inside an empty Vicarage Road stadium on Friday night. A Craig Cathcart header in the 11th minute separated the sides as Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough had no reply during what was a slow spectacle. Here are three things we learned from the match from a Watford perspective.
- Continued chaos
It was anyone’s guess what starting XI Vladimir Ivic would select for the opening game of Watford’s new campaign. The club currently possess an array of players who’s future is uncertain with the squad very much in transition, the list of talent is highly likely to decrease as the weeks go on before the October 16th deadline. I think as the line up was announced I was somewhat deflated, not because it was a bad set of 11 players on show but it was not as emphatic of a group as the club or neutrals were suggesting.
The game itself showed that Watford will be in for a dogfight this season and will have to work very hard to get the results they want. The lack of continuity makes Ivic’s job an extremely tough one, having to find a system and getting the most out of the players he has available at present. The club and as fans need to get through the opening weeks of the season with a steady points return during this unsettling time. The performance lent itself to a side still needing work on the training ground as Ivic himself stated from an offensive point of view. We have no idea what the squad will be come the transfer deadline so really we have learnt little when it comes to the squad’s strength to tackling this division thus far.
2. Experience pays dividends
A game of low quality meant that the hosts had to grind out the win despite a lacklustre fight from Middlesbrough. I thought Tom Cleverley and Craig Cathcart were the pick of the bunch as they rarely put a foot wrong in the spine of the team. Cleverley was frequently offering for the ball and took great care when in possession, his tenacity off it meant this really was a captains performance from the former Manchester United man. Cathcart was the most assured defender, where his teammates in Kabasele and Wilmot had shaky moments during the 90 minutes.
Whilst players like Joao Pedro showed flair and promise, it was the older heads that steered Watford to victory. Their experience is absolutely massive for the club right now and it’s important that the club give Ivic this blend of young and old to work with. Young starlet Domingos Quina had a particularly poor outing which just shows how important it is to have those 7/10 players while giving the likes of Quina that freedom to express himself knowing that consistency isn’t necessarily a given but we must now put faith in these types of players.
3. A shift in mentality
Watford’s losing culture simply has to be addressed if they are to return to the Premier League and a shift of players is an important start but Vladimir Ivic will be hoping to install a team that can fight for the badge and show pride in their work, something that was pathetically short last season.
From this point of view fans should be thrilled with this opening result. It was an ugly win but we are not in a position to turn our noses to any result like this after recent months. A hard battled and scrappy win is something Watford have lacked for years not just months. They’ll be countless challenges to cross where we will really find out what mental strength this group have but at the very least we need to see players who want to be here and want to put in the hard yards. I could see plenty of desire and focus out on the pitch, there was certainly mistakes and nerves on show but this is far more easily forgiven when you see players wanting to prove themselves. I thought Ngakia got out to the wide man sharply and Wilmot was always looking to be on the front foot as an example.
There is undoubtedly a culture where players have down tools and allowed the head coach to get the sack for their lack of responsibility and this needs to change from within the dressing room. So often we see Watford get bullied and picked apart by teams with less ability so a gritty win will do very nicely.
What do you make of these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image credit tellmysport.com