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Watford 2 Birmingham City 2 (28/08/2011) 28/08/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from a deceptively chilly Vicarage Road…

1- Let’s deal with Jonathan Hogg first.  An odd place to start perhaps, given that debut or otherwise these thunks are supposed to reflect the whole game…. but certain qualifiers need to be bedded in early.  So…  he looks a very tidy little player, in short.  Competitive, aggressive, very composed on the ball with a fine range of passing  and suggestions of leadership and will-to-win also.  All good.  Discipline… well, with the additions of Dickinson and Iwelumo we’d perhaps already written off the fair-play trophy for this season, but if Hogg’s to be a fixture then he too will be adding to the yellow card tally… indeed, he was perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch when, having been booked after the event for one silly late challenge he went through the back of Jonathan Spector in the centre circle, provoking the closest to a bit of spirit that the game had seen to that point.  I’d missed the earlier booking I must confess, which casts the second incident in a whole new light… a hack in the centre circle is one thing, a hack whilst on a yellow is just silly.  Nonetheless…  a guardedly positive, encouraging debut from Hogg.

Which doesn’t alter the fact that he’s yet another deep-sitting midfielder.  He’s a different sort of player, admittedly, to Jenkins;  we’ve not just swapped one version of a destructive midfielder with another one.  But in a season which has been characterised thus far by some tentatively positive stuff tending to flounder when it reaches the final third, we really could have used someone who was going to support the forwards.

Unfortunate timing, perhaps.  We’d been looking for an attacking midfielder, crying out for one, but one of the mantras of the recruitment policy – assuming that we still adhere to this policy – is that we’ll take the opportunity to recruit good young players whenever they come up, irrespective of position.  And, so, well, see above.  But what that leaves you is a side with two deep central midfielders, two full-backs who defend reliably but aren’t the best going forward, and a lot being required of your attacking wide players….

2-…so if, as in the first half, your wide players appear to be completely off their game, you really aren’t going to score many goals.  Or create any chances.  We’ve looked alright at times this season.  Better than our results might suggest, anyway.  And even then we’ve not created much, whatever shot-stats might suggest.

So the first half of today’s game was a turgid embarrassment.  As suggested above… Yeates had a bit of a stinker, he’s been gradually losing impetus since the opening day at Burnley; Forsyth  scrapped gamely but was altogether less effective than he has been, occasional aerial clatterings (of Stephen Carr, who he should really be beating in the air in any event) aside.  As such, what attacking play we did put together dribbled into irrelevance in the final third as yet another mediocre side (see thunk 4) realised quickly that by defending deep against us you had us pretty much negated (we could probably do with a big target man in our armoury in such situations…).  With Sordell and Weimann horribly isolated, the only goal we looked like we might score would have resulted from Forsyth connecting accurately with a deep cross from the right.  That’s looked like it might happen in every game so far, but hasn’t yet.

Instead, Birmingham scored.  And it’s worth noting that whilst only West Ham have embarrassed us defensively thus far, we’re nonetheless far from solid enough to accommodate our lack of goal threat at the other end.  Static defending from a set piece cost us that one, and we were rather fortunate not to go in two down as the referee generously ruled in our favour after Loach appeared to misjudge a left-wing City cross under challenge that found its way past him and was converted at the far post.

3- The second half, then, was an improvement, but only in the way that a splitting headache is preferable to your head actually splitting open.  We started very brightly, no small relief in the cheers from the Rookery, ready to seize upon any encouragement in front of them.  Hogg was immediately in front of the play (although he reverted to type and was pinging balls around from deep positions by the middle of the half), we were on the front foot, and if we still didn’t look terribly like scoring there was at least an urgency to our impotence.  Defenders took the lead where others were struggling, with Dickinson, Taylor and Doyley all carrying the ball into offensive positions.

In the end, though, our goals didn’t come from a build up of pressure.  If Sean Dyche was right to highlight a second half improvement, I don’t share his satisfaction with the outcome; the first goal was a brilliant strike, carved out of nothing and finished decisively by Sordell with his left foot.  A Premiership finish.  The second, rendered necessary by Birmingham’s breakaway goal after Eustace’s error, practically their first attack of the half, was again dug out by Sordell; Myhill’s terrific save to the striker’s fierce shot was converted mercilessly and adroitly by Martin Taylor, gambling as a centre back doesn’t, often.  In the circumstances of an injury time equaliser it was wildly celebrated, perhaps even deserved on the balance of play, but that shouldn’t conceal the fact that the team isn’t creating chances from open play.  Marvin ain’t going to keep us up on his own.

4- If West Ham looked like a Premiership side on sabbatical, Birmingham have stunningly quickly reverted back to the shapeless, characterless mid-table non-entity that they were for much of the nineties.  Many of these players were in the Premiership last season but you wouldn’t know it… if they weren’t as utterly abject going forward as Derby, they lacked the Rams’ defensive resilience.  Admittedly, there are players to come back and a fully fit Marlon King alone should give the side enough to hide in mid-table, but the contrast with our last opponents at Vicarage Road was surprisingly stark given that it was City, not United, who only went down on the final day.

5- The positive – and of course there are some, the biggest positive then – is the spirit that saw us come back from behind not just once but twice.  If there are things wrong with the team (still), there’s a lot right as well.  Anyone watching Match of the Day 2 on Sunday night will need no reminding what a side with no belief looks like.  We’re clearly very far from that state of affairs, and Carl Dickinson will enjoy his very deliberate, very thorough post-match exercise for as long as that level of application is shown, whatever our results and limitations.


1. Stephen Hoffman - 29/08/2011

Matt on Birmingham second goal it had nothing to do with a Eustace error it was dickinson in space in the left back position who gave the ball away. Thus to blame Eustace for something there, which he did not do is unfair. Incidentally as someone sitting in the middle on the upper rous right by the centre line I had a good view of that.

Matt Rowson - 29/08/2011

Indeed. My account of the incident came from my brother, also middle of Upper Rous. Can’t get the staff…

Simmos - 29/08/2011

Sitting in the Rookery, I thought your account of the goal was correct. It looked like the pass from Dickinson was left by Eustace and was allowed to roll to a Birmingham player who then exploited the space behind Dickinson’s forward run. Whatever happened it was a bad goal to concede.

Sorry to say it but I thought Lloyd and Loach (for not commanding his area) were at fault for the first goal.

Matt, I have to say there were some pluses from the game you have not stated. I thought the back four and particularly Taylor, played well and frankly I can’t remember Birmingham having another shot of worth apart from the two goals. Sordell did not have one of his better games but was still able to score one and create one. We actually scored a late goal after we conceded late on. I cannot remember that happening too many times last season and perhaps the collective spirit at the club is improving?

Matt Rowson - 29/08/2011

re spirit – see thunk 5?

re Sordell – see thunk 3?

As for the defence… I think we look more solid defensively, generally. But as you describe, we’re not watertight; our defence doesn’t compensate for our lack of creativity.

NickB - 30/08/2011

Inventing a previously unacknowledged brother for the purpose of deflecting blame is beneath contempt.

Or is he a plot device to be wheeled out, voice heard but never seen, a la Mrs Mainwaring, whenever the going gets sticky? 🙂

Matt Rowson - 30/08/2011

You read me like a book Nick. Or a blog, even. Rumbled, dagnanit…

2. Brian Corlett - 29/08/2011

Hey Matt, did your brother also miss the big shove on Loach for their disallowed goal?

By all accounts Hogg has a bit more in his locker than just a holding midfielder and as an ex top scorer for Villa reserves he surely must have and to judge him purely on his debut against one of the stronger championship sides is pure folly.

Those poor results against Derby and Coventry expose him badly but Dyche has at least cobbled together a side that when all is done and dusted should quite easily survive the season albeit without ever threatening a playoff place. Don’t expect flowing football though, it ain’t ever gonna happen while he’s in charge.

Matt Rowson - 29/08/2011

No. I was directly above that and didn’t see a shove, just someone going for the ball.

I didn’t judge Hogg on one game – I said he looked pretty encouraging. He’s clearly not just a holding midfielder, as I stated in the piece. But he DOES sit deep, and whilst we’ve got nobody supporting the strikers he seemed an odd choice.

“Pure folly” would be stating that we’ve cobbled together a side that should stay up “easily” despite not being able to create chances or score goals…. or passing judgement on a manager after half a dozen games.

3. JohnF - 29/08/2011

There were signs of the team starting to put together some decent passing moves but Yeates was poor and I would like to see Forsyth get the ball early and on the ground rather than being used as a target man.

We do still give the ball away cheaply too often and there is a tendency for the central defenders, particularly Mariappa, to let the ball bounce with the result that it goes over their heads.
I thought Lloyd played OK but we need someone to deal with the far post on our right (and probably left) since this has been a problem for several years.

The two new lads showed energy and were largely responsible for the higher tempo. It must be great for Marvin to have someone beside hime who actually runs but they do need to be closer. That might be easier with wide wide-men. Agree completely about the need for a more forward thinking midfielder or a midfielder who is allowed to be more forward thinking.

I am now convinced Deeney is not a striker but a very competent wide right midfielder who looks to add something defensively. He could turn out to be one of a long line of strikers who have turned into excellent defenders. He should have been on the field much earlier.

4. Brian Corlett - 29/08/2011

Lol, chances and goals have never been a problem for Watford over the last few seasons, this has surely just been a hiccup!

Shove was by Rooney not the “goalscorer” Burke – and well spotted by the ref.

And considering Hogg had only just arrived and the pedigree of the opposition I imagine he just did exactly as told and sat deep … Villa have always produced quality midfielders so I’m expecting him to be a real asset.

Matt Rowson - 29/08/2011

It’s a hiccup that’s lasted our first six games, then. Agree, creating chances hasn’t been a problem at all for a few seasons, but two key reasons for that went to Wales over the summer. Graham was one of our more creative players, as well as a goalscorer.

I didn’t imagine that the shove was by goalscorer. I just didn’t think that the challenge on Loach was a foul.

I hope you’re right about Hogg, and agree that he looks a decent player. Just not what we need right at the moment, which is why I made the comment in thunk 1 about timing perhaps being unfortunate. If he was told to sit deep then I’d wonder how SD thought we were going to score… Man City can get away with two holding midfielders because they’ve got confident, mobile attacking players in front of them. We’re not creating goals from anywhere.

5. Pete b - 29/08/2011

Although this was as turgid as it gets… Like watching paint dry without the creativity implied by paint… The stark fact is that there are some truly dreadful teams in this division. I suspect we will get better and hope they don’t but 52 points looks a long way off.

6. Johnny Boy - 29/08/2011

To me the whole second half was encouraging in that you are always looking for some sign that the ‘new’ manager has got something about them. If Watford had come out in the second half having gone a goal down and performed as they had in the first, I would have been dissapointed. As it was, Dyche sent them out early, before the two minute bell,and presumebly with a kick up the bum. What we then saw was a fighting performance and they deserved the two goals they scored. Yes,there are improvements to be made here and there as discussed above and,no doubt below but the second half performance can maybe be contributed to our’new’ manager – Mr Dyche

7. rousman 2 - 29/08/2011

Jonathan Hogg is a good place to start he may well turn out to be the best new signing we have made. What is this thing about every one back to defend set play’s if we did not lose goal’s I would say nothing about it but first goal yesterday, first goal against West Ham etc. What is the point in say bringing Yeates back ? Leave 2 player’s on the half way line they will leave 3 back. I was hoping this may stop after MM left. The team spirit is good but is that enough to keep us up ? If Marvin got injured we would be in big trouble.

8. David, Aylesbury - 29/08/2011

As turgid as it gets ? I think there may be selective memory going on there because I have seen loads of worse games than this one.

Overall I think this was a well deserved point. We certainly didn’t deserve to lose given that Brum created very little – aside from the two goals and disallowed goal I cannot recall Loach having to make a save. Hogg grew in influence as the game went on and to me there were encouraging signs that he can add some creativity in the attacking third.

At half time I was disappointed/concerned with Eustace and Taylor – Eustace had one of those halves where he just gives the ball away too much and relies too heavily on his ‘percentage pass’ into the channels when there isn’t any body there. To be fair to him though he had a much better second half – although agree with Matt that he was definitely partly at fault for Brum’s second goal; you do not let the ball run a) on the halfway line or b) without making sure it is not going to be intercepted.

Taylor still looks like he is struggling for fitness and in the first half misjusged three or four goal kicks which went over his head. Mariappa had a good game, though probably not enough to impress those people who for some reason seem to permanently have a downer on him

So will we sign a striker in the next few days ? And even if we do, it is still a hell of a lot to expect what will be most likely be a young striker from League 1 or 2 to simply slot straight in and solve all our goal scoring problems immediately.

Matt Rowson - 29/08/2011

Particularly when the problem is as much creating chances as it is converting them – tho the right striker can contribute to that too, obviously.

Our first half performance was ghastly David, in that the team set up as it was just wasn’t going to create anything. Individuals can and have played well in that system without us getting anywhere near scoring, and plenty did play well yesterday

We deserved the point because we scored the same number of goals as they did. That our goals came from individual brilliance from Sordell rather than the team fashioning (any) chances from open play is what concerns me.

9. Roger Smith - 29/08/2011

Overall I thought that this was a better game than your report suggests. Yeats had one of those days when his full back had the beating of him, but that won’t always be the case. Forsyth needs to stay wide longer so that he can attack the dropping ball, rather than waiting at the far post for it to arrive, and then having to jump awkwardly.

Unlike Brian, I think we do play our share of flowing football, but the odd ball over the top for Sordell to run onto is a perfectly valid tactic, even if we haven’t quite perfected it.

I’m optimistic that goals will come from open play, and when they do we could be a very useful side. So I would commend the title of this blog!

Matt Rowson - 29/08/2011

Yeates hasn’t played well since Burnley; he’s had fits and bursts, that’s all. Forsyth I like, but he’s not the sort of player that’s going to unlock the defence. If we’re going to play the system we’re playing – with two deep midfielders – then we need much more from those positions.

10. yellowyell - 29/08/2011

The first game I’ve seen this season. To me, the team played in the image of the manager; solid, spirited and combative but somewhat lacking in flair. Other than Marv – who I thought was actually pretty subdued for most of the game even though he scored one and made the other – where else is our attacking creativity going to come from? Yeates looked to me like he has ability but made too many bad decisions yesterday – I hope it comes right for him. Hogg – maybe? Perhaps a Cleverley / Johnson type loan player? Within our existing young ranks – could this be Whichelow’s season? Others have already made the comaprison to Roeder’s 95/96 campaign – pray to your deity of choice it doesn’t end the same way.

11. Winslow Horn - 29/08/2011

Crikey Matt, I was hoping my despondent mood about the season would be lifted by your ‘thunks’…..now I’m more miserable than ever….
Birmingham, ‘shapeless, characterless mid-table non-entity’ that they were, enjoyed 60 per-cent possession…what does that make us?
Agree that we lack any sort of fluency going forward and are not creating chances of any real note….

12. Dave Jackson - 30/08/2011

“…there was at least an urgency to our impotence”… brilliant summing up of the second half, Matt.

Anyone know what’s happened to Whichelow? He’s looked pretty creative when I’ve seen him and would have been a good sub for Yeates for the second half.

Matt Rowson - 30/08/2011

Don’t really understand why Whichelow wasn’t on the bench. Injury concerns over both CBs doesn’t really justify two defenders and a defensive midfielder on the bench for me. Whichelow had a knock pre-season but came on at Coventry, so was presumably fit.

13. JohnM - 30/08/2011

Agree with most of the above. Specifically, looking at the two recent signings, they appear to be decent players who we would normally, and for that matter now, be happy to have at Watford. The down side is they do not appear to solve the main problem—which we all know—forward creative midfield and someone who can knock the ball into the net on a regular basis. I can’t see Wiemann being much more than a twelve to fifteen goal man, at best.
I see the current squad as being a solid, mid-table team IF the ‘Problem’ positions are filled. If the positions are not covered. then I can picture (hopefully incorrectly) lowering confidence and a dire, bottom five season. My fingers, and other flexible parts of my anatomy, are crossed.

14. Roger68 - 30/08/2011

I was called “negative” for predicting 3 points from the first 5 games. You can call me “negative” again for predicting no more than 5 points from the next 5, and a bottom 6 position for the rest of the season. The fact is that even Dyche says that we are going into almost every game as “underdogs” . I cannot disagree..

I think the squad that Dyche is assembling is professional, workmanlike… .and predictable … a bit like the man himself. It so far lacks flair , pace and goal scoring potential (a bit like the man himself). It gives us more experience and depth than last years squad, but it relegates the youngsters that we had such high hopes for, to the margins, for no appreciable gain in competitiveness. . Is this what we expected for this season? Personally I expected the Academy players who started to show through last year to play a bigger role this year, not to be relegated back to the margins. I thought the aim was to move to a situation where 50% of the starting line-up was made up of Academy products. We were close to this last season–not now. Dyche seems even more conservative in his approach than did Malky , at the same stage of his career..

Part of the appeal of following Watford is to see the young players coming through, not irrespective of results, obviously, but that is part of the enjoyment of following the club. I feel we have gone backwards in this respect.

Matt Rowson - 30/08/2011

Difficult to argue with much of this now, depressingly. Particularly concerned with your last point. The reduction in subs doesn’t help… but based on last year’s performances, it’s pretty extraordinary that Whichelow isn’t on the bench as a matter of course.

graemeb - 30/08/2011

Roger, I think this is an excellent summary of the current situation. Last year’s squad lacked depth for sure, but I don’t think any of us expected to see NINE new recruits — most of whom, though adequate, hardly look as if they’re going to pull up trees. Far better to spend the same amount of money on three or four players of real quality….left back, attacking midfielder, winger, striker. That’s all we really needed. There was adequate cover available from the likes of Hodson, Bennett, Whichelow and Massey, plus others like Murray waiting to come through. Now it’s hard to imagine that any of these will get more than the odd game. Meanwhile the impressive Thompson has fallen so far down the pecking order that he’s been sent out on loan.

The appointment of Dyche represented continuity, and one expected that he would build on the progress of the last two years. Now it looks as if he is taking the club in a different direction, and not for the better. It’s a little early to make harsh judgements and a couple of wins would make the world seem much more rosy. Right now though, I just can’t see where they’re coming from.

JohnM - 31/08/2011

An excellent summary! We have to remember that SD knows that he will probably have one season to prove himself, and such pressure means (unfortunatly) he will look for ‘quick fixes’ rather than promoting and building on youngsters. Whereas Malkie was secure and could afford a little experimentation. As I said above, he is looking at a solid, uninspiring but safe squad—he knows that end of season safety means job security. But if he fails to solve the midfield striker problem, then, as you say, we will be floating around that relegation area.
I am particularly dissappointed about Thompson and Whichelow—will he recall Thompson if Lloyd D. is injured?

15. Johnny Boy - 31/08/2011

A good debate going on here. What do we supporters want; mid table security and ‘safe’ football, or exciting football damn the consequences. In truth what we want, and deepdown think, is good football with the possibility of playoffs – look how excited we got when the team went through that purple patch last season.And how we think we can achieve that is through exciting youngsters comming up,the Ashley Youngs of this world, which is why we want youth academy players in the team.The reality is that any team needs a mixture. We have youth – Marvin,Ross Jenkins (via Academy) and new boys Hogg and Forsyth. Experience with Eustace and ‘Tiny’. What is now required is the inspired loanee, the Ben Foster,Tom Cleverly and Adam Johnson of old. That hopefully will be where we get the attacking midfielder we are crying out for and from a premiership team which then allows us to loan players. The demise of reserve team football means that ‘loaning’ is an accepted route to acquire experience and its good Thompson’s out at Brentford and Bevan at Bradford, they should come back better players – Marvin was at Tranmere prior to last years heroics. What Mattie Whichelow needs is a good league one or two team for half a season, come back in December with the other two and set the world alight.With regard to a Lloyd injury – would not Hodson be ahead of Thompson?

16. JohnM - 31/08/2011

Again, fair comments. I would have liked to have seen Thompson develop here, but the loan won’t do any harm, I suppose. Hodson, well maybe—but I feel thompson will be the better player.
As I write this I note Watford have signed Garner from Forest. Don’t know a lot about him, but I knoiw he was at Carlisle and left in a million pound move. He has a good goals to game ratio at every club he has been at—apparently he scored 6 at Scunny on loan last season—reasonable at a struggling club. A player looking to resurrect his career—could be a good signing.
Now that midfielder, please.

Matt Rowson - 31/08/2011

Think Thompson will end up at CB. Don’t have a big problem with him going on loan, it’s a risk to play a kid at CB and he’s behind Hodson at RB as it stands (although as you say he may develop into some player). Kids are getting further and further from the first team picture tho.

17. graemeb - 01/09/2011

Garner makes ten, so Dyche has now virtually bought an entire new team. With the exception of Sordell, it is likely that our next starting eleven will not include a single emerging academy player (as opposed to senior players in Doyley and Mariappa) which is a huge contrast to last season.

Whatever the merits of the new signings, it simply does not make sense to recruit en masse. At this level successful sides do not fall out of the sky. They evolve and develop — some bright youngsters coming through, a loanee, a couple of shrewd signings, perhaps a wise old head remotivated. Almost all attempts to buy a new side off the shelf have ended in abject failure. It happened to us with Vialli, and he had a lot more money to spend. You would have thought that with GT on the board, that lesson would not have been forgotten.

The point is that even if your name is Ferguson, not all singings work out. At Watford the recent success of players like Graham, Buckley and Taylor has been balanced by the disappointments of Severin, Sadler and Travner. But when a side is built gradually you get a chance to see how each tweak affects the unit as a whole. Then you can act accordingly. Does it need more graft or more flair? Does the dressing room need more leaders? Can the gaps be filled from within? Doing it Dyche’s way is like refurnishing your house with goods bought from ten different shops on the same day — and expecting them all to go together.

You get the feeling that Dyche was given a budget (transfer fees and wages) and blew the lot in one go. Far better to build the side over several transfer windows leaving money in reserve to spend where it’s really needed.

This seems common sense to me — am I missing something?

Harefield Hornet - 01/09/2011

Garners signing was absolutely necessary – we simply didn’t have enough strikers on the books. Despite showing faith in our own youngsters you have to be realistic, some of them just aren’t ready for first team foorball yet.

Matt Rowson - 01/09/2011

Sure, and it would be daft to pretend that last season’s state of affairs was a sustainable model. There’s a middle ground tho. With the size of the squad we have now, it’s difficult to see how the kids are going to get anywhere near the matchday 16. would Sordell have gotten a look in a year on? Remember, he was a fringe player a year ago.

18. JohnF - 01/09/2011

This is an interesting and informed debate, which is what you expect on BHappy. I notice that Hodson is in the full NI squad while Thompson is with the u21s and this probably reflects your comment Matt. I too am concerned about bringing in too many journeymen but the owner’s comments at the end of last season may illustrate the pressure. He said that the second half of the season was simply unacceptable and there is no doubt that we finished up with the youngsters running out of steam. However, a year on I would expect them to play a much greater role and it appears that they will not. I am also concerned that Prince Bouabain seems to be taking forever to achieve acceptable fitness as he is presumably the creative midfielder that we crave. I talked to Micah Hyde and Craig Ramage on Sunday, oh for a youth elixir to bring them back, but maybe Prince is it.

I agree with all of the comments and particulrly that SD has gone very conservative but we don’t know the pressures he is under.

19. Roger68 - 01/09/2011

This is not where I expected us to be at this point. I welcomed Dyche’s appointment as a decisive response to Malky leaving , and a statement that “continuity” would be the order of the day., especially in the area of player development. But we have the opposite of continuity –a change of style to a more physical and direct one, and a complete change of personnel , which must leave many of the younger players puzzled if not disappointed. It leaves me disappointed anyway.

I find it hard to identify with the team that Dyche has assembled, and am not enthusiastic about it. Any team that aspires to a top half finish must have at least two outstanding players and a strong supporting cast . We seem to assembled the supporting cast without the game-changers/match -winners that make the difference. And at the cost of marginalising our own home grown talent that was showing up so well. A different philosophy from Dyche , or instructions from the owner to aim pragmatically for survival?

I do not feel that Malky or Rodgers would have gone down this route, either in buying so may players at once, or players of this quality. John Stephenson said the club was aiming for an 80% success rate with new signings and a 50% representation in the team of Academy products. Can you see that being likely here?

Matt Rowson - 01/09/2011

I think, in fairness, given this level of recruitment in such a short space of time it would be difficult to identify with the squad whatever. I remember feeling the same way in late 2005, a season that eventually saw us promoted (although there was a reasonably high failure rate with recruitment then, too).

Whilst I share your concern re the make up of the squad and the apparent abandonment of the earlier philosophy, I don’t think it’s entirely reasonable to expect us to go out and buy those outstanding players either. Neither Cowie nor Graham were particularly eye-catching signings, and it may be that in Hogg, Sordell, Garner, Buaben, maybe Forsyth we have players who will become as influential. It’s part of life that we’re generally going to be selling on our outstanding players and not going to be in a position to buy fully-formed replacements.

20. Simon - 01/09/2011

Whilst I’m surprised at the number of players brought in and wonder if some of them have been brought in on the “this is what we can get so let’s go and get it” philosphy, let’s not make the mistake of thinking that the whole game plan has gone out of the window just yet.

On style, we’ve just lost our two most stylish players and, I would argue, the two players without whom MacKay’s stategy would not have worked (an awful lot centred on Graham’s o run the channels and hold the ball up whilst still having a spark around the box). The side was always going to take a while to recover and, to an extent, a change in emphasis was always likely, at least n the short term (I actually think they’ve tried to play in a similar way but don’t have the personnel).

On recruitment, I agree that the players brought in are numerous and, in certain instances, seem to lack that spark that screams they’re destined for bigger things (Dickenson and Mirfin, for example, seem solid enough but dno’t immediately stand out as being sodl to a higher level). Bauben (albeit we’ve not really seen him play), Forsyth, Hogg and Garner, however, are exceptionally close to the Cowie and Graham model in that they’re young and you feel there’s something about them that could be unlocked. Certainly I think it’s unfair to classify any of the players signed, bar one, as “journeymen” (they’re all under the age of 24) and no-one was making the same criticism of Taylor when he was signed !

As another aside, if you look at last year’s starting 11 during the exceptional run over christmas, it often read Loach (bought in and still at the club), Doyley (academy, still here), Taylor (bought in older head, still here), Marriappa (academy, still here), Taylor (loanee), Eustace (bought in oder head, still here), Cowie (bought in), Buckley (bought in younger player), Sordell (academy, still here), Graham (bought in youngster), Much (loanee).

In that starting 11 (forgetting subs momentarily and I appreciate there is an issue on that score this season) there was just one emerging, home-grown youth talent and he’s still here.

As I say, I’m far from saying that everything is fine and dandy but offering an alternative (and slightly more positive?) perspective on some of the new signings, although I’d like to see the much maligned Hodson among others get a bit more of a go.

All is not necessarily rosy but let’s give things a bit more time to settle down.

JohnM - 03/09/2011

An enjoyable debate! It is indisputable that Watford have a larger and more experienced squad (which is good), fewer outstanding players (which may change as the season progresses) and less chances for the youngsters (which is not good). I would hope that perhaps some of the youngsters/fringe players will be loaned out, and gain experience.
It occurs that perhaps the available funds have been ‘blown’ on transfers and extra wages. It would be interesting to speculate on what would happen in January if Watford are doing well or, conversly, struggling.
I wonder if the difference between transfer funds out and in cover Ashcrofts debt payment installment.
Who will now be first choice forwards, and how will they be played? We appear to be knee deep in midfielders—with a possible loanee being added—who and how will they be played?

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