Watford FC: From FA Cup finalists to relegation battles

Watford FC: From FA Cup finalists to relegation battles

They achieved their highest ever finish in the Premier League era last season with 50 points. They reached the FA Cup final after a thrilling comeback in the semis. They were soaring high and then, Watford was brought back down to reality. Literally.

The hornets currently sit at the bottom of the Premier League table with three points, the largest negative goal difference and have had two managers – all in a span of eight matches. It’s shocking to see the regression in just a matter of weeks. If you look at the current squad, it should be significantly stacked than it was last season as they brought in more players than they sold.

Their first team is largely similar to, if not better than last season. So, there is no real fault on the recruitment side of things. Additionally, the tactics should have remained relatively unchanged too considering the fact that they had the same manager from last season (for the first four games).

So how did all this happen? First, let’s take a look at the numbers.

Last season, Watford put up a good fight despite finishing in a mid-table position. Per game, they scored 1.37 goals and conceded 1.55 goals. This season, those numbers have worsened to 0.50 goals scored and 2.50 goals conceded on average. You don’t have to be a mathematician to know that if you don’t score more than you concede, you’re in deep trouble. But why have they become so poor in their recent performances?

Fans will know that they ended the previous season on a disappointing note. The memories of that 6-0 thrashing by Manchester City in the FA Cup final still haunt them as a few weeks back. It was clear from there that they are still licking the wounds from the FA Cup loss, and then City tore the scar open again with a humiliating 8-0 win at the Etihad.

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Bernardo Silva scored three against Watford

Also, their last game of the season was a 4-1 defeat at Vicarage Road which had dampened their morale. In the final five Premier League games, they obtained a mere four points out of a possible 15. Throughout the season, they were battling closely with the Wolves for a Europa League spot and they had set high expectations for themselves.

The fans and the club were excited by the prospect of playing in Europe and it was so close to becoming a reality. However, in that last crucial stretch, they needlessly dropped points and missed out on the Europa League by eight points. It seems they have yet to pick themselves up from that lapse in performances but if they wish to stay in the top tier of English football, they ought to do it soon.

Another reason that they started off so poorly is that their players simply haven’t been delivering. Gerard Deulofeu was supposed to be their talisman this season, but he has only contributed one assist in six games which is far below what is expected of the former Barcelona winger. The Spaniard is in danger of becoming a one-season wonder if he does not step up and take responsibility to score the goals for the team.

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Gerard Deulofeu

Furthermore, their new record signing, 21-year-old Ismaila Sarr has yet to awaken his abilities in the English league. He was one of Rennes’ best players with eight goals and six assists in Ligue 1. However, the Senegalese winger has yet to replicate that form at Watford as he’s only got one goal registered to his name. Perhaps his poor output could be attributed to a lack of opportunity as he has only played five games but considering how much the team have spent on bringing him to the club, they should be making full use of his abilities to get more goals in for the team.

But whilst their attack has been poor, their defence has been an embarrassment. 20 goals in eight games may not be the worst in the league (Norwich have 21 conceded). But it still should not be the case for a team that managed to reach the FA Cup final just five months ago. Christian Kabasele, Craig Dawson, Adrian Mariappa, Sebastian Prodl and Craig Cathcart are not short on talent defensively and they are prudent centre backs. Unfortunately, they haven’t been performing up to their usual standards as of late. A team can only be successful if they score more goals than they concede and that is not the case with the Hornets.

Troy Deeney’s early injuries in the season put Watford further back on their offense, and the captain has yet to return to full form.

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Quique Sanchez Flores

One can only imagine how their “new-old” manager, Quique Sánchez Flores, will perform in his “new-old” role. The Spaniard is more defensive-minded and the idea of bringing him back to the club is to help Watford shore up their defence. Seeing how they lost 8-0 in his first game back, I’m not exactly sure that it was the right decision to bring him back. It’s also a questionable decision especially since the relationship between the club and him ended on bad terms when they criticised his tactics for being unexciting.

Still, if he can get Watford scoring again and stop other teams from scoring against his, Sánchez Flores might be able to overturn their fortunes. In his recent press conference, he said the team should treat every game like a final but if they were to treat it anything like last years’ embarrassing FA Cup final game, I highly doubt that they will get to see another year in the Premier League.

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