Regular columnist Billy Hawkins discusses the ever-changing environment at Watford in this week’s Away From Home
Some places are just not meant to be normal, are they?
And it thoroughly appears as if Vicarage Road is one of those places.
Following the ‘sacking’ of Beppe Sannino prior to the international break, it took just two days for Oscar Garcia to be confirmed as the Hornets’ new head coach.
However, a two week break meant that seeing him in action would require patience, and that patience increased the expectation that something would be different. A new vigour may have taken hold of the team, with the Championship set to be trampled under the mighty weight of yellow shirts.
However, just as absence makes the heart grow fonder, absentia also increases disappointment when the long awaited occasion is reached – with everything remaining as it was before.
Or, in the case of Watford, worse than it was before.
Despite Garcia taking control 12 days before his first game in charge, he had as little time to prepare for an away visit to Charlton as seems possible, with rumours of just two days of first-team training prior to the fixture.
Everything looked glorious moments before kick-off, with over 3,000 Hornets fans filling the away end at the Valley, and then, inside three minutes, Watford returned to the ways of days gone by, with a defensive misunderstanding causing an avoidable penalty – which ultimately became the winning goal.
After conceding, the game followed a path not seen since the pre-Sannino reign, when Gianfranco Zola had his team dominating play with quick, precise passing. Garcia`s Barcelona upbringing clearly caters to a similar style, and the Hornets did dominate, with 61% possession, 84% passing accuracy, and 20 shots to Charlton`s five; such dominating numbers were never seen during Sannino`s care, with his preference to sit deep and fight for position rather than space gifting the opposition the ball.
However, for all those 20 shots, the back of the net was found on just one occasion, before Troy Deeney`s strike was disallowed for an offside call.
The profligate nature of the Charlton game was the most disappointing aspect of it, with such poor finishing – and admittedly brilliant goalkeeping – a sight not seen under Sannino.
Of the 13 goals scored this season under the Italian, they came from 24 shots on target; an impressive conversion rate of 54% – the highest in the division.
Having scored just one goal since Garcia took over – a penalty that grasped victory at Blackpool on Tuesday night – from an incredible 13 shots on target – eight of which came against Blackpool – the club are currently finishing just 13% of their chances.
As can be seen, the Blackpool game flowed in much the same manner as the Charlton game, and the club can be forgiven for looking preoccupied during the match – with Garcia admitted to hospital on Monday suffering from chest pain.
The news, which is dreadful to hear whomever is concerned, ruled him out of overseeing yesterday`s action, and at the time of writing there is no further information regarding a potential return date.
Under the reign of Sannino, many people were waiting to see him dismissed so that a purveyor of ‘sexy` football would take charge. Garcia is that man – and was undoubtedly the best available candidate who fits the mould – and it appears as if the first-team squad have all the talents required to bring back free-flowing, passing football to Vicarage Road.
However, when goals cannot be scored, the similarities with the disastrous end of Zola`s spell become all the more apparent – and that is why Sannino was appointed in the first place.