Written by David Robinson
Watford recorded their first win of the season under Walter Mazzarri at the weekend. It did though look very bleak in the opening exchanges and when Michail Antonio found the net within the opening 6 minutes, it put the Hornets on the back-foot. More problems at the back and Antonio headed in another meaning it again looked like we were going to be left empty handed in what was the first visit to the London Stadium.
However a remarkable comeback was ignited following some shoddy defending by the Hammers, when Ighalo’s deflected effort went past Adrian and then a moment of brilliance from Deeney, capitalised on a shocking mix up between Adrian and James Collins. The Golden Boys never looked back from their and firmly secured an important 3 points. I look at 3 positives and negatives from the game.
credit Anders Henrikson
The 3-5-2 formation by the Italian boss is his favoured one and while it does have its benefits like being able to play two up front, it has plenty of vulnerabilities if the structure isn’t built very well. Again this was a massive problem as the wing-backs were isolated and the defence in general collapsed in the opening half of the game. There is a worrying lack of cohesion that has seen eight goals shipped against us in just four games. Following last season when the defence was very secure and the personal is of similar quality, it’s worrying how poorly we are defending and I put that down to a lack of organisation and being able to execute this system. When the formation was tweaked again by Mazzarri, it proved inspired and a massive increase in performance was shown in the second half. However West Ham did present Watford a way back into the game, something most of other clubs on their day will not do. A really positive result but this is something that should be a concern as big improvements need to be made to the shape of the side, to get the best out of what is a strong team as shown by spells when we haven’t used the 3-5-2 formation.
A fairly generic point but the defending in comparison to last season is a concern. The personnel to play the system does fit nicely and it’s very early on but the defending has had quite a few faults that will make this season tougher for Watford should it continue. We saw Janmaat occupy the right wing-back position on Saturday and reports from Newcastle fans that he is good going forwards but a worry at the back look to be spot on albeit just one game. His positional sense and sticking to his defensive tasks will bring exposure to the back line if he continues in similar fashion. He didn’t have a bad game but the role is such an important one, Mazzarri can’t afford his side to be isolated down the flanks. Then in the system, the wide central defenders will have a different challenge this season, Craig Cathcart particularly is more of a no nonsense defender but they will all have completely different responsibilities to the ones they had last season. Being exposed out wide, bringing the ball back out constantly and marking a different zone in relation to your other defenders will be a different test in itself to the ones they faced. Again they have looked uncomfortable during moments in games and particularly in the early stages of the West Ham match. Both Cathcart and Britos were very good last season in general but they were also under very good defensive instructions and protected nicely throughout, maybe we’ll see just how good they are.
3. An over reliance on Pereyra?
Really clutching at straws here but the Argentian’s class has been there for all to see in just 135 minutes of game time. He has been brought in as a key man in a position that was so desperately needed to fill. Therefore it’s worrying if the former Juventus man were to get injured or not sustain the levels of performance in the game and a half he has played. A poor excuse of a negative though that showed how good the performance and result turned out to be.
1. Striking duo off the mark
The result against West Ham really could be huge, the feeling of dejection and staring a winless start in four wouldn’t have felt good regardless of the fixtures. Instead a good start has been made and importantly confidence will be much higher with four points in the bank. Goals to both Ighalo and Deeney has the potential to be such a lift, I’ve criticised Deeney a fair bit prior to this game and once again he responds. Ighalo desperately needed a goal, perhaps more and when he fired in the first, it was the slice of luck so desperately needed, he had his confidence back and really fancied his chances against the West Ham back line. As poor as the likes of Collins was at the back it was great to see a revitalised partnership of Deeney and Ighalo flourishing, a massive positive from the result going into the next set of fixtures. A great reminder how much of a threat they can be.
Another really encouraging sign was the options that Mazzarri had at his disposal. A rare sight to Watford fans as two forwards were brought on to replace Ighalo and Deeney. Just this season we’ve seen tired legs be the downfall to good performances which have led to a negative result, the substitutions brought on added energy and instead of just sitting back and clinging on, we carried our own threat even further which pegged Bilic’s side back in spells when they desperately needed a goal. Both Isaac Success and Stefano Okaka brought physical qualities to the pitch in different ways and that made life easier for the defence that was going to need some rest-bite with West Ham having the majority of possession in the latter stages. An ever bigger shame perhaps that this wasn’t the case for the Chelsea game but at least we now know that the options are definitely there. Hopefully Mazzarri can use this success and repeat his substitutions to the same significant effect.
credit Ronnie Macdonald
In a game where the away side looked fragile at the back for a fair chunk of the match, the signing from Sunderland showed some very positive signs. His composure and decision making was excellent in comparison to those around him and was crucial in the second half. His physicality is impressive showing he’s no slouch and has an obvious presence in terms of strength and aerial ability. His experience is of course valuable and the former Spurs man suits playing in the middle of a back three and early signs indicate he could be an improvement on Prodl. It was great to see his celebrations at the end where he was clearly delighted with his team mates which bodes well, he could be an influential player to have and all all important leader that can really add some value to this side.
Watford fans, were there are other positives and negatives from the game on Saturday? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Ben Sutherland