När vi mötte Watford hemma i december var det ett sargat lag som precis anställt en ny tränare, de pressade oss rejält på Anfield, men vi lyckades ta hem alla tre poängen. Sedan dess har det varit både upp och ner för Watford, man har varit upp och vänt ovanför nedflyttningsstrecket, man är nu återigen på en position som skulle innebära respass ner i Championship. Jason Bailey(@JasBailey) från @watfordpodcast berättar här om hur han ser på säsongen hittills och vad han tror om avslutningen:
1. Last time we played each other you had recently appointed Nigel Pearson as manager, how has he done so far?
OK. The Anfield game really was a baptism of fire. Not many Premier League managers or head coaches would want an away trip to Liverpool as their debut for a new club. However the difference was immediately obvious and we saw a much stronger performance from the players. After that initial defeat we went on a run of six games unbeaten, including four wins to climb out of the relegation zone. But it’s been more of a struggle in recent games, seeing a return to the bottom three.
2. How would you describe the way you play under Pearson?
We press high and try to force the opposition defenders into mistakes, to create opportunities in good areas. If the high press doesn’t pay off, then the team will drop deep to try and frustrate any opposition attacks, happy to concede the possession battle in the middle of the field. How we attack whilst in possession of the ball will likely depend on who plays on Saturday. If Ismaila Sarr returns to the starting XI, then no doubt we will try and counter at pace. Expect Etienne Capoue to play some raking passes behind the defence for Sarr to run on to. If not, then Troy Deeney’s physical presence may be used more. With balls into either head or feet, then looking to bring the likes of Gerard Deulofeu or Roberto Pereyra into play.
3. You are currently 19th and haven’t won in five games, what do you need to do better to stay up?
Stop dropping points from winning\winnable positions! In three of those five games we took the lead and even went two up at home to Everton. Against Spurs we missed a late penalty with the score 0-0. The problem is, the more this goes on, the harder it is to have the confidence to retain any lead earned. It’s an issue that needs addressing quickly.
4. How do you rate your chances to avoid relegation?
Probably 50/50 at the moment. What has gone our way is that the results of the teams around us have been equally poor in recent weeks, but we know that won’t always be the case. As eluded to above, we have been competing in games during this recent poor run. We have a base to build on, we have the talent to stay up. The team need to believe in themselves and each other.
5. Who has been your player of the season so far?
It’s always a tricky question to answer when your team is sitting in the relegation zone. There are players who have not necessarily been involved all season, but have impressed when called upon. The aforementioned Sarr’s pace has been a constant threat and it’s no coincidence that the recent poor run has coincided with an enforced spell out of the side. Full backs Kiko Femenia and Adam Masina have had new leases of life under Pearson. Femenia is another who had an untimely injury, but is expected to return to the starting line-up soon. And Masina has continued to impress despite the team’s recent woes. However from the players that have featured regularly in the team, it has to be Ben Foster. It’s fair to say he hasn’t been completely immune from the poor performances that struck the team in the first half of the season. But we would be in a much worse position if it wasn’t for Ben, who has made some key saves at important times for the Hornets.
6. What are your thoughts on your January transfer window?
As fans, we probably didn’t get what we wanted. We’ve been calling for an upgrade in the centre back position and a goal-scorer (well, who hasn’t!) for some time now, and this was another transfer window that passed by without either. However, it is clear that few clubs plan for big transformations during the winter window. When you are lower down the Premier League, you are somewhat dependant on movement further up the chain to free up ”experienced” players to become available, or you’re taking a punt on either less experienced, or disaffected players. We did sign an Argentinian winger from Udinese in Nacho Pussetto, who proved his immediate worth with a goal line clearance in the draw with Spurs. The only other excitement was a drawn out and ultimately fruitless pursuit of centre back Ben Gibson from Burnley.
7. What kind of game do you expect against Liverpool? How do you think you will lineup?
Cagey, cautious, but I still think we will create chances. Nigel Pearson has so far shown himself to not be a tinkerer when it comes to naming his first XI and will surely stick to the 4231 formation he has favoured. He seems particularly cautious when it comes to bringing players back from injury. I would like to see Kiko Femenia and Ismaila Sarr returned to the starting line up on the right hand side. Their combined pace would give Liverpool something to think about.