5 The Daily Telegraph Monday 20 July 2020 ** Total Football Relegation permutations How battle could be over before the final day P W D L F A GD Pts Watford Aston Villa Bournemouth Norwich (R) 36 8 10 18 34 57 -23 34 36 8 7 21 39 66 -27 31 37 8 7 22 37 64 -27 31 37 5 6 26 26 70 -44 21 took 25 points from 20 matches – the best win rate (35 per cent) and best points-per-game ratio (1.25) of any of the club’s managers in the Premier League. Those 25 points mean that eight clubs have worse records than Watford since he took over. Furthermore, Pearson has never suffered a relegation and – probably – needed one more point in the final two games against Manchester City and Arsenal. His dismissal, therefore, points to a breakdown in his relationship with the club’s ownership, who are not afraid to make ruthless decisions. In fairness, also, Watford have probably looked at the games since lockdown was lifted as almost a separate league. Yes, two have been won, but there have also been four defeats and a draw. If Watford go down, the decision will be seen as another catastrophic mistake in a season in which four coaches have been in charge. If they stay up, club owner Gino Pozzo will feel vindicated. Watford could lose both of their matches and still remain in the Premier League, if other results go their way, but Pozzo tends to act decisively rather than worry about the PR. Maybe he feels sacking Pearson will give the players the required jolt. Crucially, it is also clear the decision had already been taken not to keep Pearson beyond the end of this campaign and that is Watford’s prerogative. So why wait? The 56-year-old will walk away with his reputation enhanced and a sense of being wronged but Watford will feel they have to do the right thing for themselves. Watford will not be popular with such brutal chopping and changing but, if they stay up, that is all that matters to the club’s hierarchy and the supporters. “In Ginzo Pozzo we trust” reads one of the Watford banners, and the fans know they would be nowhere near the Premier League without him and chairman Scott Duxbury. They will hope that trust is well placed coming into the last week of the season and after such a shock decision. Jury out on dismissal until relegation decided W atford certainly do things their way. But sacking a head coach with two games to go breaks new ground even for them, especially when he had given them a Premier League lifeline. Without Nigel Pearson Watford may well have been dead and buried by now and, since his appointment in early December, he Having played a game more than their rivals, Bournemouth will be relegated tomorrow if Watford get a point against Manchester City, or one against Arsenal on the final day. A Watford victory tomorrow would not just condemn Bournemouth but would also require Aston Villa to beat Arsenal in the later kick-off to stave off relegation. Bournemouth must beat Everton next Sunday to have any chance, better Watford’s goal difference and hope Aston Villa do not gather four or more points from their remaining games. After hosting Arsenal tomorrow, Villa travel to West Ham on Sunday. Depending on other results, one win might be enough. Watford, who are four goals better off, could still stay up if they lose to City and Arsenal, if other results go their way. West Ham and Brighton are six points clear of the drop but boast significantly better goal differences.
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