Connect in the back of the net

Since their return to the Premier League in the 2015/16 season, Watford have been a team that barely catches the eye and that is quite simply because they are the steadiest of mid-table teams for the majority of the season.

Now last season saw them drop to 17th but it is worth remembering they were six points clear of the drop and one further point would have propelled them into a 14th placed finish.

Make no mistake it was a poor season but Watford rarely get talked about as being involved in a relegation battle and it is because since their promotion they have always had just enough quality on the pitch to avoid the struggle.

 

Off-pitch chaos

However, chaos off the pitch has never been far away with no single manager actually staying in charge past one solitary season since Gianfranco Zola’s tenure which started in July 2012 and ended in December 2013.

Slavisa Jokanovic got the club promoted but was immediately dispensed with in order to bring in the popular Quique Sanchez Flores.

The Spaniard enjoyed a fine debut season in the Premier League guiding the newly promoted Hornets to a 13th placed finish before he too was dismissed with Walter Mazzarri taking over.

For those within Vicarage Road there was certainly more relief when the former Napoli coach departed at the end of the 2016/17 season with there being a number of disputes between players and the coaching staff, most notably between the Italian and Troy Deeney.

This left the club in a state of flux with their second season in the Premier League having seen them get worse, at least in terms of the table, with no clear plan for the future.

 

Improving

Highly regarded Marco Silva arrived following an almost miraculous six months in charge at Hull City and all of a sudden Watford are showing signs of improvement under the Portuguese coach.

One of the accusations aimed at Watford over the past two seasons has been a huge lack of consistency with the club actually doing more in the bigger matches against Manchester United and Liverpool than in the ones which they should win.

Already, and of course it must be remembered that the campaign is only two matches old, Silva has the team looking an awful lot more organised and tactically sound.

The exciting 3-3 draw against Liverpool on the opening day may have been one to forget for defensive purists but it showed the fighting spirit from Watford that had totally evaporated from the club when they last appeared at Vicarage Road with Manchester City punishing a sorry home team 5-0 back in May.

 

Different proposition

Silva’s charges looked a totally different proposition and on another day could have snatched a victory from Liverpool although there would be an argument to suggest the Reds could have done the same if they had taken their chances earlier in the second half.

Matches against Liverpool do not represent the hill Watford will either die on or not but it was the potentially troublesome away trip to Bournemouth in matchday two that would have a huge say in how Watford’s season plays out.

Watford eased to a 2-0 victory against a Bournemouth side that were beaten at their own game. Silva oversaw a near perfect performance with the visitors controlling the match right from the very start.

20-year-old Richarlison was a handful throughout on his first competitive start as he gave Nathan Ake a hugely difficult afternoon on the right hand side. He scored the opening goal and has given Watford an attacking dimension they have lacked.

The Deeney/Ighalo partnership worked for a time but it was very direct and one-dimensional. The Brazilian is quick, skilful and needs to be constantly monitored by an opposing defence.

 

Brilliant signings with another on the way

Signings have been a strong point this summer with Nathaniel Chalobah a bargain at around £5 million with the former Chelsea midfielder adding such technical ability in the middle of the park.

Andre Gray is a player who will score goals in any team and this is always hard to find when you are in the lower half of England’s top flight.

Will Hughes and Kiko Femenia are adequate rotation options for Silva too, however the main signing of the summer may still be yet to come with Andre Carrillo set for a medical on Thursday before signing a loan deal with the club from Benfica.

Marco Silva worked with the Peruvian winger successfully during his time with Sporting Lisbon and the 26-year-old is lightning quick and can at times be hugely productive.

Consistency is a concerning problem and he made only three league appearances in his debut campaign with Benfica last term but there is hope Silva can help guide him back towards the levels of performance which had clubs in Italy monitoring him.

 

Stepping stone

I don’t think there is any doubt that Watford is likely to be a stepping stone club for the 40-year-old coach.

To get what he did out of his Hull City team after January last season shows he has a lot about him and early signs at Vicarage Road suggest his methods are continuing to work.

Watford’s next six games in the Premier League are relatively straightforward with the exception of meetings with Manchester City and Arsenal on September 16th and October 14th respectively.

However there are also away trips to Southampton, Swansea City and West Brom in addition to the Hornets hosting Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

 

Must build on their promising start

West Brom could be able to stifle Richarlison given their incredible defensive resolve but in truth Silva should be looking to take points from the other three matches.

It is easy to have a good start and fall away in this division and Watford have had a good start but now must keep their encouraging signs of improvement going and build on this start in order to secure the top-half finish the club is desperate for.

 

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn

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