A look at the trends from the season so far and what the Hornet’s must learn consequently if they are to continue their impressive start to the campaign.
It`s December, we`ve successful negated the first third of the N.Power Championship season and a cracking 3-2 ‘comeback` against Leicester City at the Vic` today has (presumably) the majority of Hornet`s fans in a good mood.
Despite a recent run of poor form (only one win in eight before today`s victory and only two in 10), our overall standing at this stage of 10th place is still very impressive for a side without an executive chairman, a major, committed benefactor (more of that later) and one of the youngest squad`s and managers in the division.
However, isn`t all this fruitless of we do exactly what we did last season? Upset the applecart and established order to begin with by making a Play Off push early doors before rapidly dropping with the temperature ultimately culminating in a scrappy relegation fight.
So what lessons will we have to heed in order to improve on last season`s showing and kick on towards a safe mid-table finish?
1. Pick up some points on the road: We only picked up four away wins all last season and 18 points on the road in total. So far we`ve already matched those four wins and find ourselves just six points away from equalising last season`s tally. With such good away form, particularly at the beginning of the season our home form has suffered, much like the 2007/2008 season. A convincing win over Middlesbrough at Vicarage Road as well as success` against Ipswich Town and Leicester City prove we can beat teams at home. However sloppy dropped points against Swansea City, Doncaster Rovers and Scunthorpe United show the other side of the inconsistent Horns.
2. Keep our heads when ahead: Points dropped against Doncaster Rovers, Crystal Palace, Swansea City, Burnley and even good stabs at it against Norwich City on day one and Leicester City today show the Hornet`s have a soft underbelly. Though we have a young side the likes of Martin Taylor and John Eustace are not inexperienced. Lloyd Doyley and Adrian Mariappa have plenty of career games behind them so the excuse becomes less valid. The weekly drop backwards toward the Rookery is in the DNA of any Watford side but it`s such an obvious thing to cut out and help prevent inviting pressure on.
3. Close the ball down: We`ve conceded a lot of long-range goals in recent weeks. It`s my opinion that there is a pattern occurring here. We should be closing the ball down quicker, more often and more efficiently. The goal that Lewis McGugan scored for Nottingham Forest against us a few weeks back was a perfect point in case. Having scored a couple like that earlier in the campaign it was clearly in his locker, yet he was allowed to skip forward take aim and take a point from the Hornet`s.
4. Help Scott Loach out: Scott Loach is a young ‘keeper. He may never amount to the same level as his predecessor in Ben Foster, however he will certainly hit the level Alec Chamberlain displayed in his many years between the sticks. At the moment young Loach certainly has judgement issues and problems organising his back line and dominating his penalty area. Whilst he is youthful and inexperienced, (consider the fact he won`t hit his peak for about nine to 10 years), I believe Martin Taylor needs to take on some extra responsibility at the back and organise that back five.
5. Keep (or pray) Danny Graham stays fit and on form: Obviously the only player who can dictate his form is Danny himself, but if he`s fit he`s halfway there. Clearly Danny Graham`s input this season is going to be massive as our most senior striker by far. He simply CANNOT afford for him to go on a 14 game drought a la last season because Deeney and Sordell are still finding their feet at this level. That Martin Taylor, John Eustace, Stephen McGinn and Will Buckley are chipping in is good news.
Using the loan market to our advantage will also be crucial and hopefully Malky will be able to extend the loan deals of Jordon Mutch and Andrew Taylor come January, both having impressed thus far. The worry is Taylor who may well return to Middlesbrough under new manager Tony Mowbray to find himself with more of a chance as he heads into the final six months of his contract. Not wasting any funds afforded to him in January will be equally crucial for Malky Mackay. The 60k outlaid on Jure Travner last season was frankly, a waste, and whatever Josh Walker is picking up a week has proved misplaced as 28 minutes so far this season is underwhelming value at best.
Of course the biggest news come January will be the 25k per week increase in wage outgoings as Nathan Ellington returns from his adventure in Greece. Touch wood we can shift him on quickly otherwise we`ll be stumping up that princely sum until the Summer. It does not bear thinking about!
Finally, the proposed takeover – I have a few thoughts on this: Will Lord Ashcroft be desperate to sell to recoup some money, and therefore push the deal through irrespective of the background of the buyer(s)? Does any deal depend on repayment of the money he lent the club last Winter to avoid administration? Will the prospective owner(s) be creditable, transparent, honest and functional football people or someone similar to Lord Ashcroft himself, just in it for the investment?
We will have to trust the judgement of Lord Ashcroft and watch this space though!
Keep the faith,