Regular columnist Billy Hawkins assesses where we are at this stage in the season, contemplating Deeney’s new contract and the reported behind the scenes antics at the Vic
Once again, a successful week turned sour in the midst of midweek action.
A demolishing 4-1 victory over Leeds United looked set to reignite the season following the disastrous Lloyd Dyer debacle, and considering the convincing manner of the performance, the suggestion that everything bad had passed rang true.
However, away from the Championship, the League Cup brought despair back to Vicarage Road – although, with Watford`s dreadful record in the competition, it seems unwise to read anything into the 2-1 home defeat to League One Doncaster Rovers.
Following Dyer`s outburst in the midweek game away at Rotherham, it was bold of Beppe Sannino to drop him from the match day squad for the home tie with Leeds. Whilst the staid performance shown in the first half may have had fans calling for the former Leicester man’s inclusion, the domination of the second half – somewhat courtesy of the first red card – proved the Italian coach had made the right decision.
His decision to select Fernando Forestieri as Troy Deeney`s strike partner – rather than Dyer – worked wonders, as the 24-year old scored the opening goal, won the penalty for the second, and then netted the third – a goal that is likely to be in the running for goal of the season come the closing of the season.
With Matej Vydra still returning from injury, and only warranting a place of the bench, the other option to support Deeney up front would have been Lewis McGugan. The midfielder excelled on the opening day against Bolton, attacking with his usual talent, but also willing to express himself elsewhere on the pitch – something missing from his game last season.
However, he has also been in the glaring eyes of Sannino, due to a reported ‘disagreement`. He, like Dyer, also failed to make the matchday squad, and following his substitution in the League Cup defeat, he immediately left the pitch and walked down the tunnel.
Rather than dwelling on off-pitch matters – of which many are negative – I`m going to focus on the one tactical aspect that struck me in the victory over Leeds – the new ability to win a game from a subversive position.
Under Gianfranco Zola`s reign of ‘sexy football`, Watford usually dominated possession, and whilst this was majestic to watch – especially in the period of consistent goalscoring during his first season in charge – it occasionally failed to turn into goals.
The opening day 1-0 victory over Birmingham City last season was a prime example of this: Watford had 58% possession, a remarkable feat for an away game, but converted just one of six chances. The victory over Leeds saw the Hornets forsake ball control – registering just 45% – choosing instead to focus upon directness – with an incredible 21 shots recorded. Whilst just six of these chances were on target, four of them were converted to show a fair scoreline following the dominating performance.
In fact, it appears as if Leeds have turned into the Watford from last season, dominating games with no end product. The 55% possession they recorded at Vicarage Road has been a consistent display this season, although they have registered an average of just seven shots per game. Compare this with Watford, whose lower average possession of 46% has been rewarded with a higher average shots per game – 15.
Whilst I wanted to shy away from off-pitch matters, one piece of business is more than newsworthy – Troy Deeney`s new contract. A remarkable act by both the club and the player have kept Deeney in Hertfordshire for the immediate future, with his desire to play in the Premier League with Watford the most important factor in his decision.
In this age of mercenary players chasing personal success and money, it is a breath of fresh air to see Deeney choose to stay in the Championship for the good of the team. With the future years he is willing to stay here, he is likely to pass over the thin line that remains to see him embedded in Hornets folklore – a living legend waiting to be made.