Watford need to take a long hard look at themselves after disastrous season

When one looks at Watford this season you only have to look at how Leeds United imploded in the early 2000s and stayed in the Championship for over a decade before being promoted to the Premier League for next season. More recently it was Blackburn Rovers, a team who are now plying their trade in the Championship. A takeover also a decade ago saw the club make ridiculous discussions and you could almost see what was going to happen to them, they had relegation written all over the club and they haven’t been back to the top tier since.

Now we have Watford, a proud club, with a history. Up until a few weeks ago it even seemed like they would just escape relegation, but the Hornets were all buzzed out and imploded in the final furlong.

The damning fact for the club is not that they finished with 34 points in the league or lost lost 20 of their 38 games or conceded 64 goals. It is, and you may have to be sitting to hear this, that they went through 4 managerial changes. This is what unhinged the club, the mess from the board was carried over to the pitch, where the players simply did not know if they were coming or going.

First it was Javi Gracia, he lasted 66 games which is a lot for a Watford manager it seems. But he was sacked as early as the beginning of September with the league barely under way. In stepped Quique Sanchez Flores making a return to the club after being sacked in 2016 when he actually had a decent campaign with the club. In he returned and 2 months later out he went and yet he had only lost 50% of the 12 games he had been in charge of. One of those did include losing 8-0 to Manchester City, but even so, have the owners not heard of time and patience?

In December the owners went for some grit and experience and in came Nigel Pearson. And finally it looked like the right decision as Watford vastly improved and left the bottom three. Watford went on to inflict an incredible 3-0 defeat of Liverpool which was the Reds first defeat of the season and first in 44 games. When Pearson joined Watford the club were 7 points adrift at the bottom of the league and yet when he was sacked they were 3 points from the relegation zone.

His sacking was odd given that it happened when Watford still had 2 games left to play. Albeit they were against Manchester City and Arsenal, but still they had a fighting chance to stay up. Pearson was sacked, the players immediately said confidence was low and they lost their 2 remaining games, conceding a further 7 goals and were relegated.

So who is in the dug out now? One Hayden Mullins, he’s played the part of interim manager on another occasion where he lasted 2 games, and 2 games for this season now it is over looks like all he will get again. Watford will surely recruit a new manager for next season as they start life in the Championship once again.

The club have had 14 different managers over the past decade which speaks volumes about how unstable the team is. History has not taught them how to act, with the first rule being obvious, do not use 4 different managers during one campaign.

One suspects the road will be long for the Hornets to get back into the Premier League.

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Can Nigel Pearson save Watford from Premier League relegation?

Can it be 3rd time lucky for Watford that is the question being asked as the troubled Premier League team look to survive in the top flight this season.

Nigel Pearson has stepped into the club and he is charged with saving the Hornets skin. He is Watford’s 3rd manager this season following the sackings of Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez Flores. It was thought that bringing back Sanchez Flores in September would save the club but they got worse, flirted with the bottom three and then exchanged who would be bottom of the Premier League with Norwich for most of the season.

When Pearson was appointed the club were bottom of the league and had earned just 9 points and were 6 points from safety. It is safe to say that even though that gap remains at 6 points under Pearson Watford look like a different club, even showing shades of how good they can be from last season, finishing in the top half of the table and reaching the FA Cup final.

For a club who have lost 10 games this season, 55% of their games so far they have only been defeated once in their last four encounters. Witness the change and it couldn’t have got better than beating Manchester United 2-0 just before Christmas. It was a magnificent result and was highlighted by the fact that United had turned a corner, were playing great football, had climbed up the table and were one of the best in form sides in the league. And yet here was Watford not just sneaking a very lucky win but being worth their victory too. What a managerial change can do?

Pearson has history saving clubs from relegation. One of his most famous was saving Leicester who would go on to win the Premier League title in 2016 under Claudio Ranieri. No one is suggesting the same of Watford if he were to save them, but look at how history would have changed for the Foxes had Pearson not done his job in the first place.

The Hornets went on to draw against another in form side in Sheffield United and as a result of decent form they have exchanged once more with Norwich for the bottom of the league trophy and are now 19th.

This weekend Watford are at home to Aston Villa where one would expect them to pick up all three points and that would be a major boost for the club in survival given that Villa re directly above them and have a 5 point gap over the club. Watford then host Wolves on New Years Day and will face Villa again by the end of January.

Indeed January looks on paper to be a month where Watford could genuinely plan the great escape, only a game against Tottenham looks like being the hardest match to win.

There is confidence pumping throughout the squad now and it would take a brave man to predict that Watford under Pearson will go down this season, clearly the fight to stay up begins now and continues into the next decade.

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Watford 2-0 Man Utd: Nigel Pearson picks up his first victory as Watford’s manager whilst Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now looks to be on borrowed time

With Manchester City taking on Leicester City and Chelsea travelling away to Tottenham Hotspur in gameweek 18, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had the opportunity to take the advantage by potentially beating struggling Watford whilst witnessing at least two of the four teams above them to drop points. However, a lot of unfortunate things had happened that was not expected.

Ahead of the Sunday afternoon fixture, Solskjaer would have been aiming for the much needed three points and a dominant showing, with the side unable to confidently do both on a regular basis. Meanwhile, for Nigel Pearson, he would be looking forward to finding his first league victory with Watford before Christmas as his men have started to show more hunger and determination.

Now focusing on the match as a whole, the visitors had expectedly controlled the possession and were the side that had managed to create more chances and completed more shots on goal. On the other hand, it was the hosts that were more direct and with the intentions of being dangerous in the final third of the pitch for the first hour of the game, as they were able to get through United’s defence with ease and were causing problems through Ismaila Sarr and Gerard Deulofeu.

There wasn’t much happening in the first half if we are being brutally honest, with both teams failing to complete a shot on target whilst they were incapable of stringing a couple of passes from one side of the pitch to another. Given the lack of tempo and urgency that was provided by either sides, it had looked like they were awaiting to pounce on each other’s mistakes and break on the counter.

Following the half-time break, Watford started on the front foot and won a set-piece from a dangerous area in United’s half. Will Hughes took the free-kick, which was nodded on by Christian Kabasele, as Sarr’s unconvincing shot somehow went through the hands of David De Gea and into the back of net. The Spaniard had now been at huge fault for a goal in back-to-back league games.

It didn’t take Watford long to double their lead, as Aaron Wan-Bissaka committed a foul in the penalty box by bringing down Sarr whilst intending to intercept the ball. The captain Troy Deeney stepped forward to take penalty and smashed the ball into the net as De Gea dived to the opposite goal post, with the game looking more or less done and with the chances of a comeback being slim.

Once Paul Pogba made his return and entered the match after the hour mark, United began to dominate the ball, were occupying in the right areas of Watford’s half and were managing to move it around at a good level. Despite a few good chances being saved by Ben Foster, the result remained the same, as the Hornets picked up a huge victory whilst the Red Devils went back to square one.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

The lack of consistency from the backline is starting to be costly

United had looked like they were building a great defensive core, with the arrivals Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire, however, the last couple of weeks the side’s backline have gone back to their old selves of making constant mistakes and being out of position and high up the pitch. Because of this, Watford were able to attack through the flanks with ease and with just a matter of a few passes.

From De Gea’s blunder for the first goal to Wan-Bissaka giving away the penalty a few moments later, the two huge defensive errors allowed Watford to gain the victory whilst United lost the three points. On top of that, Lindelof was being targeted by the opposition’s physical presence whilst Maguire and Shaw were doing just enough but have not been showing these qualities regularly.

United have to learn to be on the front foot, especially against the lower teams

For sure, the side’s results in the big games have been absolutely immaculate, but the team have to play 15 other teams in the league, where they have to show their quality, composure and dominance on both sides of the pitch. It’s one of the reasons to why Chelsea and Leicester are in the top four, two teams who don’t have a better squad than United but are more complete as a team.

Given the unconvincing style of play remaining the same, the current line-up not being consistent enough and Solskjaer having no plan B at all, the side’s hopes of being dominant against the lower teams will not be happening anytime soon. Also, the amount of times the ball is cheaply given away and the lack of high press on the opposition does not help the team’s cause of fixing this issue.

Paul Pogba’s return brings a few positives, being sorely missed by the manager and the team

When Paul Pogba stepped on the pitch, nearly every United fan was excited and in content, as they saw the side’s best player make his return from injury and play for the team once again, despite the ongoing rumours of him leaving the club. And making an appearance for just 25 minutes, he was able to create a key chance, attempt a good shot on goal and complete 27 successful passes.

With United’s midfield looking unbalanced and missing the much needed quality, Pogba’s return will massively help the team and most important Solskjaer himself, who will need his key individuals to help them get out of this poor form. When the Frenchman is in the team, he makes the side tick and helps the ball move from midfield to attack with ease, whilst also helping the likes of Anthony Martial, and Marcus Rashford constantly get into the game with his incredible range of passing.