Wat­ford woe

Deeney doubts af­ter drop

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Sam Dean

Arse­nal

Aubameyang 5 pen, 33, Tier­ney 24 Wat­ford

Deeney 43 pen, Wel­beck 66

In this des­per­ate fi­nal bat­tle against rel­e­ga­tion, Wat­ford showed a spirit and de­sire miss­ing for so much of their painful, tur­bu­lent cam­paign. Their prob­lem was that it took un­til they were three goals down, their hopes all but gone, to play like a team who truly be­lieved they could stay up.

So this is how the Premier League ad­ven­ture ends for Wat­ford, rel­e­gated de­spite im­press­ing for much of the game against far bet­ter op­po­nents. They were good enough to win here, but they have sim­ply not been good enough across this sea­son, as made clear by cap­tain Troy Deeney in a char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally blunt post-match in­ter­view.

“It is heart­break­ing for the peo­ple who work be­hind the scenes,” he said. “The harsh re­al­ity of it is that some peo­ple will lose their jobs be­cause we have not been good enough. We have to ap­pre­ci­ate that fans will be hurt and an­gry and an­noyed.”

There is a strong pos­si­bil­ity that Deeney will not be around for the next stage of the club’s jour­ney. He is hav­ing a knee op­er­a­tion next week, which may sig­nal the end of his Wat­ford ca­reer. “If that is my last game, I am happy I went out on my shield,” he said. “I am a sim­ple man. Did I go out and do every­thing I could? Yes. Was it good enough? No.”

Could it be his last game as a player? “I am not that old,” he said. “Where I am from, I keep go­ing to the end. If it’s next week or two years from now, I will say I had a good time and made my kids proud, and that is all that mat­ters.”

In many ways, this bizarre match was a fit­ting con­clu­sion to Wat­ford’s bizarre sea­son in which they fired three man­agers, thrashed the cham­pi­ons and fin­ished

19th. In­terim head

Wat­ford woe: Heurelho Gomes (right) con­soles Is­maila Sarr coach Hay­den Mullins had called on the club’s fans to trust the own­ers but can any­one ar­gue they were right to dis­pense with three man­agers, in­clud­ing Nigel Pear­son with just two games re­main­ing?

“We lost man­agers and peo­ple say it’s a club in chaos but if Nor­wich got rid of their man­ager, would you say they’re a club in chaos?” Deeney asked. “If Bournemout­h did the same, is that chaos? Things hap­pen in foot­ball.”

What is clear is that Wat­ford have play­ers with enough abil­ity to have com­fort­ably avoided rel­e­ga­tion. Is­maila Sarr and Ab­doulaye Doucoure are cer­tainly far too tal­ented for the sec­ond tier.

And yet their de­fend­ing in the first 30 min­utes, con­ced­ing three goals out of noth­ing, was a re­minder of why they are in this po­si­tion. Craig Daw­son gave away a penalty af­ter 30 sec­onds, which spoke vol­umes about Wat­ford’s de­fen­sive so­lid­ity. “It is a re­flec­tion of the whole year,” Deeney said. “We have not quite been good enough at both ends of the pitch and it showed again to­day. It is frus­trat­ing.”

Pierre-Em­er­ick Aubameyang was a glee­ful pun­isher of these er­rors, scor­ing from the spot and then again half an hour later, and in be­tween there was also a goal for Kieran Tier­ney. But Deeney kept the game alive with a penalty and Danny Wel­beck breathed more hope into Wat­ford’s af­ter­noon in the sec­ond half.

The penalty in­ci­dent af­ter 30 sec­onds was not even Wat­ford’s first mishap of the game. That came on the open­ing whis­tle, when Doucoure for­got to take the knee. A few mo­ments later, Daw­son bun­dled into Alexan­dre La­cazette when there was no prospect of win­ning the ball. Aubameyang buried the penalty.

It is to Wat­ford’s credit that their heads did not drop, although their de­fend­ing re­mained typ­i­cally dread­ful. They were soon ex­posed again when Tier­ney’s de­flected ef­fort skimmed into the cor­ner. It was the Scots­man’s first goal for Arse­nal and Mikel Arteta, who re­vealed af­ter the game that Shko­dran Mustafi will miss the FA Cup fi­nal through in­jury.

Aubameyang scored an ac­ro­batic third be­fore Wat­ford’s re­vival through Deeney and Wel­beck, but their time was up. The in­quest be­gins now.

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