Friday, 30 March 2018

Rival Lines: Chalobah or Aké - who got the better deal?

Rival Lines
Match Preview
Watford v AFCB
Podcast/blogger Interview: From the Rookery End
Twitter: @watfordpodcast

I was pleased to get back in contact with Watford's From the Rookery End lads who were keen to put me straight on a few things about Watford this week. I was unsure if they wanted Troy Deeney to stay, if Marco Silva was the best manager they've had in recent years and whether they were just glad to be playing at home after their recent results in away games. 

CC: Do you think Marco Silva was a good fit for Watford before the Everton approach?

FTRE: He certainly felt right at the time, although anyone would have felt right after the Walter Mazzarri tenure. We needed rejuvenating and the way Silva picked up Hull during their ultimately failed attempt to stay in the Premier League earned him many admirers. We moved fast in the summer to appoint him and that seemed necessary to fight off any competition for his services.

CC: What do you make of Javi Gracia - more than a stop gap manager?

FTRE: After the arrogance of Silva, the early impression of Gracia is that he is much more humble and grateful for being given the chance to manage in the Premier League. And whilst we understand the Pozzo model and are comfortable with it, I'm sure there are many Watford fans who would like to see a Head Coach who can settle into the role, make steady progress and play reasonably entertaining football - we don't ask for much!!!

CC: What's happened to Watford's away form in 2018?

FTRE: It's pretty fair to say it's dropped off a cliff. In fact the poor run started in December, by which time the Silva-Everton shenanigans were in full swing. It included throwing 3 points away at Palace in the dying embers of the game. And whilst Javi has markedly improved the home form, improving away performances has been much tougher. In his defence, having to go to the Emirates and Anfield as part of those travels would be tricky for any manager.

CC: Did you expect André Gray to get more starts at Watford this season?

FTRE: I've been a broken record regards Andre Gray on the From The Rookery End podcast this season. I expected Andre to feature heavily away from home, where defences would be playing a higher line, leaving space behind for him to exploit with his pace. It hasn't quite worked that way and the seemingly bizarre approach of Silva resting strikers immediately after they have found some form\hit the target hasn't helped him. Since Javi's arrival and the beast that is Stefano Okaka getting more game time, Andre's involvement has been minimal.

CC: Do you feel that Watford have under achieved this season after the start the team had?

FTRE: Just like the Cherries, Watford are currently sitting nicely in mid-table and that, at present, is a decent improvement on last season's 17th place. However, with the start we had and the points we've thrown away against the likes of Palace, Everton and Swansea, it's hard not to think about what might have been. Thoughts of having potentially chucked away a shot at a Europa League spot is still niggling at the back of the mind.

CC: Do you think Troy Deeney will still be at Watford next season? 

FTRE: If you'd asked me that question a few months ago I'd have doubted if he'd even be here now. Rumours were abound, as they have been for many transfer windows with our club captain and a move to WBA was high on the agenda. But that never materialised and once again Troy has shown his importance to the club with match winning goals against Everton, and of course, West Brom. You have to wonder at what point will clubs be distracted from chasing Deeney given their lack of success in prising him away from Vicarage Road. So maybe we'll seen him here for a few more seasons yet.

CC: Are there any young players at Watford who could be breaking through to the first team soon?

FTRE: Before the Pozzo era, Watford bringing players through their academy was a necessity as transfer funds were limited. These days, with a combination of the money available and the need to have Premier League ready players in the squad, there has been less focus on the academy. A vast injury list saw a few young graduates make first team appearances in the Premier League last season. Of those, left back Brandon Mason showed signs of promise. However, we are unlikely to see any youngsters challenging the current first team squad at present.

CC: Who do you think has the better deal - Bournemouth with Nathan Akee or Watford with Nathaniel Chalobah?

FTRE: Watford, but of course I'm going to say that! £5m (reportedly) is a lot less than Bournemouth paid for Ake and with the start to the season that Chalobah had, it looked like the Hornets had got themselves a bargain. However, the serious injury he suffered is a setback and there is a risk of course that he doesn't find that form again. I honestly feel Nathaniel would have had a great chance of making England's World Cup squad had he stayed fit and carried on the season is the same vein as he started. And it says a lot that as part of his rehabilitation, he has been training with the Three Lions during the international break. As for Nathan, well he is a player we know well of course and I completely understand the much bigger fee paid for him. He had two years of Premier League experience under his belt, impressed at both clubs and was so important to Bournemouth during his time at the club. All those factors raise the price tag of a player. From the outside looking in, I don't think Ake has let his high value affect him.

CC: Watford's top scorer is midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré on seven goals, so is there a particular striker you'd like to see come to Watford to boost the goal scoring next season?

FTRE: Finding a ready made Premier League goalscorer is a very difficult task and when you do, you're having to part with large sums of cash. So for clubs like Watford and Bournemouth it means taking a gamble. If we do sign a goalscorer in the summer, then in true Pozzo style, I'd expect it to be a bit left field and someone we may not know much about. This season, we've had goals from all over the pitch and had 15 different goalscorers in the Premier League. So we haven't suffered as much as you'd expect from just looking at how many goals our top marksman has.

CC: How do you expect Watford to line up against Bournemouth?

FTRE: Gracia has been fairly consistent at home. Expect him to start with a 4231 formation, but if the game is tight with Watford looking to make something happen then he'll likely switch to a 442 at some point in the second half to push on.

CC: What's you score prediction for this Watford v AFCB?

FTRE: We've been pretty well matched in recent Vicarage Road fixtures and I can't see that changing. A 1-1 draw.

CC: Which three clubs do you expect to go down to the Championship and who do you think will come up through the play-offs?

FTRE: West Brom are doomed. Stoke, whilst making themselves hard to beat have struggled to turn draws into wins when they've needed them most. West Ham must be worried with the state their club is in, however I have a nagging feeling that they'll get away with it and Huddersfield's less experienced squad will battle valiantly but drop into the bottom three. Going up in the play-offs? With Villa suddenly losing form and Derby looking a bit wobbly, I think our old mucker Slav and his Fulham boys will be victorious at Wembley!

CC: Well it's good to hear that From the Rookery End are relatively pleased with how this season has turned out. I tend to agree that a score draw is a safe bet for this game although Watford have only lost one of their last five home games which should really make them favourites I'd suggest. Some Bournemouth fans will probably be more than a bit glad that the club shelled out all that cash for Aké as he has been sensational, but it's good to hear that Watford are starting to get good value in some of their signings like Chalobah. If it is Fulham that come up I'll be among the first to buy tickets for the away game as you can't beat Craven Cottage for a good time. I am also looking forward to visiting Vicarage Road again and hopefully we can knock Harry the Hornet off his game!

Internet safety

In other news, IT Support Business (Itsb) recently held a Connect With Care session  run by AFC Bournemouth at St Katharine's CE (VA) Primary School in Bournemouth as part of Safer Internet Day 2018. Andrew Surman of AFC Bournemouth did a fantastic job of educating the children on internet safety. You can read more about it on the AFCB website. Itsb became an official partner of AFCB in 2017 - click here to visit their website and find out more.

Your chance to win a Cherry Chimes T-Shirt
Tweet your score prediction for Watford v AFCB to @CherryChimes to try and win a Cherry Chimes T-shirt. We will pick a winner form all the correct score predictions for the game. 

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