Friday, 26 February 2016

Rival Lines: Watford are enjoying punching above their weight

Rival Lines
Match Preview: Watford v AFCB
Blogger Interview: From the Rookery End

Twitter: @watfordpodcast
Twitter: @jordiconnor

What a season Watford FC is having. It only seems a while back that we were chasing the Hornets in the Championship and they are at it again in the Premier League. Here to explain why Watford are having such a great season is Jordi Connor from the fab Watford podcast From the Rookery End.

CC: It was no easy challenge for him when Quique Sanchez Flores came to Vicarage Road, but he has moulded a great team. Are you surprised at just how well he has done?

FTRR: In hindsight, no, not really. The Pozzo's chose to bring him in when they didn’t keep Jokanovic, so there must have been an expectation that he could and would achieve what he has.

Fans associations with their team are formed over many years and these can taint your view of reality. If you are a Liverpool, Newcastle or Leeds fan this is bad news as the dissonance between your belief that you are a footballing giant clashes terribly with the reality of a lack of success. [Ed- That's a bit deep thinking, but I think we get where you are coming from!]

For Watford fans and dare I say it Bournemouth fans, we are currently punching above where we'd traditionally expect to be. At the start of the season fourth bottom would have been taken in a flash.

But six or so months in and seeing the quality of the players we have, I'm not surprised that Quique is doing such a great job.

CC: What do you think is capable in terms of a league finish this season?

FTRR: We're capable of a top ten finish for sure. But the middle of the table can be tight and a couple of bad results can see you drop a few places. Anywhere around the middle will be mission accomplished. It would be a shame to tail off with a whimper after the start we made.

CC: What win has given you most pleasure over the season and why?

FTRR: Unlike previous visits to the Premier League, we've have a few to choose from!

Obviously the first one against Swansea was important to ease the pressure, but the stand out performance was when he bossed Liverpool off the park in December and won 3-0.

It was supposed to be part of a tricky December but for ninety minutes we showed what we could do. It was a lovely early Christmas present.

CC: What needs to happen at Watford to go up yet another level and challenge for the top six?

FTRR: Lots of things, but if you look at our recent history we've improved a lot but we can't get complacent or assume that we will break into the top six.

To do so, we'd need to strengthen in depth and bring more quality into the squad. Our average age is quite high so we'll see a fair bit of turnover over the next few seasons.

I'm sure the management have a plan!

CC: Ighalo's and Deeney's goals have been a major factor in Watford's success, but would you have expected your midfielders to come up with more goals?

FTRR: The success of our front two is in part down to the way the team is set up. That and the way Etienne Capoue manages to switch his boots onto the wrong foot moments before he shoots.

Ighalo is a born goalscorer and Deeney has been consistent for the past few years. To be honest, I'm so happy with them that I haven't worried about who isn't scoring.

CC: Has the FA Cup become a nice distraction and would Europe come too soon if you won it?

FTRR: Yes, we're into the Quarter Finals on the back of the 1-0 wins. It's been fun and if we can win the Cup it would be great. Clubs like Watford and Bournemouth can't turn their noses up at that kind of success.

Europe would come too early for us to expect to win the trophy, but Quique knows what it takes to do well and I'm sure we'd strengthen appropriately if we did make it.

Let's cross that bridge when we come to it though.

CC: Which player has been the best signing at Watford since last May, ie last two windows?

FTRR: The inconvenient truth is that much of our spine came up from the Championship. Gomes, Cathcart, Watson, Abdi, Deeney and Ighalo have all been mainstays this season.

Of the additions, Miguel Britos has been excellent, but for sheer control and calmness, I'd say EtienneCapoue (except when he shoots).

CC: There are only four teams that have let in fewer goals than Watford in the Premier League so what is so good about your defence?

FTRR: The best thing about our defence is that there are eleven of them on the pitch. Our miserliness is down to a team ethic that starts from the front.

We also play with the vastly underrated Ben Watson protecting the back four with Behrami or Suarez. The full backs do well and of course Gomes is one of the best keepers in the league. Given how tight the Premier League is, he is as important as the two up front.

CC: Which three teams are you expecting to be relegated?

FTRR: I’m delighted that we are in February and Watford aren’t in my list. However, having been relegated a few times I don’t take any pleasure in calling out anyone else’s team.

Let’s start with the obvious one - Villa. That they didn’t strengthen in January suggests they’ve accepted their fate.

Norwich are on an awful run and I wonder whether they’ll be able to turn it around. The adrenaline of being a newly promoted team can get you points early in the season, but they’ll do well to stay up.

It would be rude to suggest Bournemouth, but you guys really need to sort out how many you concede! You got away with it early in the season against West Ham, but you don’t really do clean sheets do you?

So the third spot will have to go to an established Premier League team.

West Brom have probably got enough points in the bag to stumble to safety and Swansea are capable of picking up points here and there if Guidolin sorts them out. Newcastle invested heavily and will probably do enough too.

Sorry Sunderland. [Ed- that was a close one!]

CC: AFC Bournemouth and Watford always have great battles in recent seasons. Do you look forward to the AFC Bournemouth matches more than some others?

FTRR: Not really. Maybe at the start of the season because you assume that the promoted teams will offer you the best chance of picking up points for survival and you look out for them. But this season every game is against a quality opponent we haven’t played in a while and to be enjoyed in its own right.

That said, a bit of a rivalry has built up over the past few seasons.

Journalists can be lazy and there were easy narratives around both clubs that probably didn’t help. We were held up as all that was wrong with football, while Bournemouth were painted as the perfect club achieving success on a shoestring. Neither were accurate. Add in some very dubious decisions, whether Marc Pugh diving or some ridiculous red cards and the rags to riches, fighting adversity story started to grate.

No doubt Bournemouth have their own reasons for not liking us too. Obviously the fear that one would rob the other of promotion meant that we were praying for each other to lose pretty much every week. That will have played a part too.

CC: Do you expect a tight game against the Cherries this time?

FTRR: Yes, pretty much all of our games are tight. The first goal will be important. Don’t worry, it won’t be 6-1. :)

CC: Well I really enjoyed hearing what Jordi had to say - thank you. I think he is probably the most level-headed fan we have yet featured on Cherry Chimes. While I believe there has been a bit of rivalry between the two sides as an AFCB fan I rather like that about Watford as the Cherries don't really have that many rivals and yet in another respect I am really chuffed with how Quique has got his team playing and it tells me that there is optimism for other teams like Bournemouth to hold their own in this division. Hats off to Watford they have been a credit to the Premier League, but I'd still like to see a less than smug Harry Hornet come the final whistle on Saturday.

Please listen into the latest Podcast from the From the Rookery End - it's always a good listen.

Competition Time
As the result of this game is what really matters I am going back to asking fans to send in their score predictions for this game. So if you think you know what the score will be tweet me and follow me @PeterBell19 and I'll post your tweet up on the blog.

If we get more than one correct score it's back to picking a winner out of the hat. As for a prize well this week we have an AFCB beer mat or mug mat if you prefer to give away.

Thanks again for Cherry Chimes sponsors for supporting the blog this season. They include the following businesses - Broomhill Garden BuildingsNatterjacks Vets and AltamiraDeco -do check out their offerings. 

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to see that 'Cherry Chimes' takes an even-handed approach and the last two articles I have read regarding the Watford game have been very fair.
    I am a little puzzled how Harry Hornet can look 'less than smug' though, since his face is somewhat fixed! ;)