Four reasons why Watford can beat drop
Club rooted to foot of the table, but signs are promising, says Arindam Rej at Vicarage Road
Watford will break the record for their most barren start to a league season if they fail to win at home against Chelsea on Saturday – which would take them to 11 games without a victory following their 0-0 draw with Bournemouth. Yet perhaps the most alarming statistic is their failure to score in six of those matches this season.
At least there is reason to believe they can repair the problem. Striker Troy Deeney, their captain, has not featured since August because of a knee problem, but is expected to return soon.
With Danny Welbeck also injured, Watford had to field a makeshift strike pairing of Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra against Bournemouth, and neither is an out-and-out centre-forward. Deeney will offer more of a focal point and physical presence to the attacking play. He can also bring better composure in front of goal.
Quique Sanchez Flores has tightened up the team on home soil, again deploying a five-man backline at home on Saturday and ceding more possession to their opponents. The system of three imposing central defenders plus wing-backs has ensured successive home 0-0 draws against Sheffield United and Bournemouth.
Before this improvement, Watford started the season with no clean sheets in their first seven league games, leaking 20 goals.
A friendly fixture list
November feels like a pivotal month for Watford and, if they finally start delivering, relegation fears can be eased significantly.
They face trips to two sides expected to be in the relegation battle in the coming weeks – Norwich City on Nov 8 and Southampton on Nov 30.
History is loaded with examples of teams with five points or fewer from the opening 10 Premier League matches who have gone on to survive – and Watford have a potential springboard ahead.
Defender Christian Kabasele said after the draw with Bournemouth that any Watford players who did not believe they would stay up could leave the club.
“With the quality in our squad, it’s unacceptable to be last in the league,” he added. That suggests the squad are not shying away from the gravity of their plight, and recent performances have been encouraging.
Their most recent away game, a 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur, was a sign they can show spirit and unity when it matters. That was also in evidence when they fought back to draw 2-2 at home against Arsenal last month.
Certain players, such as Abdoulaye Doucoure, have raised their games in fixtures where there is freedom to express themselves. He was poor against Bournemouth and missed an early sitter, but was powerful against Spurs and scored.
Watford will need more of that in the coming weeks.