Written by David Robinson
The first game at Vicarage Road in the 2016/17 season takes place this Saturday when the Hornets face Chelsea. A clash of two Italians as Walter Mazzarri and Antonio Conte go head to head as both sides will look to build on a good set of results gained from the opening game week of the Premier League. A disastrous campaign for Chelsea last time round will surely not be repeated as the former Italy boss looks to revitalise a side used to challenging at the top. Watford held Chelsea to two draws last season and I’m sure many Watford fans would take the same outcome from the game at the weekend. I look at some key points for the home side ahead of the match.
A time for change
Plenty of change for Watford in terms of players and management but importantly the Golden Boys will want to fare better against the sides topping the table as they collected zero points from last season’s top five. More often than not Flores’s men merited more than they got so it would be nice to finally cause an upset particularly on home territory. This time round of course a high level of performance will be required once more but the side last season fatigued as the game went on so it was no surprise that good positions were lost late on, as almost unfairly Watford were left empty handed despite very positive efforts. If the game is tight we’ll need to have a lot of energy throughout the 90 minutes to really test Chelsea, a change with Mazzarri’s own style could simply allow this to happen as Flores’s system relied on a heavy workload on the players.
Last season does not breed confidence for these upcoming games if we put up more than a match and still ended up short, it is likely to be even harder this time round with a lot of the top clubs strengthening. That being said it will be just another isolated game so effectively everything that comes before it goes out the window in a sense, particularly with a new set up. Chelsea will still however be fancied to come out with the win.
credit Nazionale Calcio
Chelsea come to Vicarage Road following a late win against West Ham on Monday Night. There are points from that game that should be considered for this match up. Just one transfer for Chelsea to their starting line up was the the arrival of N’golo Kante. This looks to be a big boost to the Blues who now have added protection in front of their back four and a whole burst of energy with the Frenchman. He partnered Nemanja Matic in the middle and if this is the case again come Saturday, Mazzarri should be wary of how robust that midfield is. With this in mind I feel Watford should bypass the midfield where a wall of strength and hassling awaits them. Playing long to Deeney and Ighalo will prevent their midfield being its most effective and also reduces the chances of counter attacks where Chelsea could be deadly. This shouldn’t be the case throughout the match but I’d be more than happy for us to mix it up and go long particularly if the Watford Captain can pull onto Azpilicueta where he would enjoy some success.
With Mazzarri looking to play 3-5-2, the obvious key for this match will be in the wide areas. Eden Hazard gave us a glimpse of his capabilities with a man of the match display on Monday. He will again be decisive on the left wing. This leaves the right wing-back position an important one for Watford. Nordin Amrabat occupied this position against Southampton last week and this is where obvious concerns may be. With the Moroccan naturally a winger, there is surely no way he could handle a full game against the former Premier League player of the season. While Amrabat did well in this role, a more defensive option would be sensible. On the other hand offensively, the best way to deal with the talented Willian and Hazard could be to get them running back towards their own goal. While this is no easy task, if the likes of Holebas show their attacking capabilities it could exploit Chelsea’s own back four. Ivanovic had a torrid time last season and is not the fastest. The Greek International is likely to start again so this is an area I would like to see us have a go at. Although again this is much easy to write than to execute on the day.
Watford Key Men
It will need a big team effort to take something away from Chelsea however on this occasion I’ve picked three key men going into the game. As I’ve already talked about the right wing-back spot that will clearly be key however a big game again from Etienne Capoue is needed. His box-to-box qualities will be essential and as we have seen he has had some dominating performances in the past. We need another one of those to get us higher up the pitch and to dictate the play at times so Chelsea don’t win the important midfield battle.
An obvious choice really. What a lift it would be if Ighalo could score but we need to cause Chelsea problems of our own and he is crucial in this. If he can drag Terry or Cahill into wide areas this is where he may find some joy but his all round game needs to step up and become a key man once more. No chances for the Nigerian last week so it will be interesting to see if he does get a good chance, will he take it?
Finally as mentioned previously, Holebas could be an important figure. He is likely to be marking the very quick thinking Willian which will be a key match up. Holebas often does like to bomb forward and this is encouraging in a sense that he may fancy his chances against Ivanovic however being caught out by the Brazilian’s intelligent positions that he takes up could be damaging. The 32 year old needs to find the perfect balance of when to commit going forward and make sure he is back well in time to prevent Willian causing serious problems down the right hand side.
Watford fans, what are your score predictions? Let us know in the comments below!