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Watford 2 Bristol City 2 (22/09/2012) 23/09/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from the eventful draw with Bristol City.

1- Much has been made of the size of our squad, of the challenge of keeping everyone happy and forging an identifiable team from the multitude of options. As such a degree of experimentation is to be expected… trying this and that, seeing which combinations work best.

Even allowing for which, this looked like a hell of a long shot. As on Tuesday we fielded a back four containing three men who you feel might be more comfortable in midfield (NB: not Nos). Which… is fine, in itself, an ambitious statement of attacking intent. But perhaps a couple of eager bounds beyond merely “ambitious” in the context of our three man midfield, deprived of the unwell Hogg and recovering Eustace. We’ve discussed this in isolation before, but a three man midfield needs a lot of ability and a good deal of graft. Chalobah looks ridiculously comfortable in possession and, at seventeen, will surely develop into one hell of a player… but he’s spindly and rather lightweight, and doesn’t provide the heavyweight counterbalance that a partner to Abdi and Yeates surely needs for the unit to have half a chance.

Up front, meanwhile, the most peculiar selection decision of all with Big Chris sacrificed in favour of the returning Murray. Big Chris hasn’t looked well suited to our current system but has lead the line, given the side some much needed leadership and given us an antidote to teams sitting deep. This selection left us with a front three of Murray, Vydra and Forestieri… all talented individuals in isolation but rather lacking in size and variety. A Fantasy Football team pick, high on twists and turns and tricks and rather lower on effectiveness as a real life combo. A bit like having three puddings… indulgent and ultimately rather unsatisfying.

The consequence of course was lots of possession and twisting and turning but an opponent comfortable enough sitting back without a reason not to and creating as many presentable chances from their more limited time with the ball in the first half as we did with our lions’ share.

2- The other Big Thing on the teamsheet was the presence of Troy Deeney on the bench (alongside Big Chris and Steve Beleck, presenting the tantalising but unfulfilled prospect of a triple substitution that would yield a wholesale change of approach). I’m torn on this, I suspect I’m not the only one… I can see the argument for giving the guy a break, he having served his time, I can also see the argument that says that this sort of track record doesn’t sit comfortably with the profile of a family club. Academic really, the decision has been made… but either way, whilst I’m happy enough with celebrating his future achievements on the pitch I don’t really see what the round of applause – albeit peppered with boos – that greeted his introduction was all about. What are you applauding him for, exactly?

Whatever your position, however, there was little disputing the magnitude of his impact, surprising in its immediacy. This was not the performance of someone who’s missed pre-season, half an hour’s run-around or otherwise. Deeney provided pretty much exactly what our forward line had been missing… power, aggression, single-mindedness, a focal point. His opening contribution was a clarion call, turning to belt a shot goalwards that Heaton could only palm into Vydra’s path, the Czech striker not reacting quickly enough, waking up to the new reality of our potency like the rest of us.

For the first time we looked much the better side, rather than merely the side with the ball. City were reeling, unable to cope with this new dimension to our game. Murray’s brilliant clipped pass released Cassetti into space down the right, the Italian squared the ball from the by line and Wilson, forced to intervene by Deeney’s presence, bundled the ball into his own net…

3- And having whinged a bit so far, it’s worth dwelling briefly on one of the subtler positives of the afternoon. If there were any lingering fears about the team spirit of this rapidly assembled squad of players they were surely dispelled by the furious celebration that met the opening goal, the outfield players sprinting to bundle Cassetti. One of the defining characteristics of the Vialli season, that dangerous but obvious comparator, was the report of old boy and new boy camps in the dressing room. Not this season, not on this evidence.

4- The danger of us scoring too early in this sort of game, at least for the moment, is that you let the cat out of the bag. Forced to commit numbers forward for the first time, City realised pretty quickly that we had neither the personnel to win the ball back in midfield, nor a defence remotely capable of stopping them from scoring. Marvin Elliott’s a big, tough bloke but there’s no excusing the ease with which he dominated Neuton to meet Bryan’s unchallenged cross. Just pathetically easy. From then on the game was slightly chaotic… City had further chances, we still looked potent. Ultimately a magnificent Pudil ball found Vydra; the younger Czech had done a better job than you’d have credited of leading the line but this is where you want him, ball at his feet, teasing the keeper and finishing brilliantly. A goalscorer. And then we screwed up at the other end again, having brought on two proper defenders in Doyley and the colossal Hall (Onesize is XXXL, it would appear) to protect our lead poor organisation saw City beat the offside for Davies to score a critical goal off the bench at the Vic for the second season running.

5- I’m on board, genuinely. In calmer reflection the frustration is borne of the fact that it’s quite evident that the players we have are capable of an awful lot better than this. We’re really not very far away from being an excellent side… Eustace and Hogg back in midfield at the expense of Yeates in particular, whose willingness to make forward, ambitious runs when others were simply providing sideways options didn’t compensate for bad decision making and bad execution when he got there, would be expected to yield similarly dramatic improvement to Deeney’s introduction. Given the size of the task Zola has been given, patience is required. That’s easy enough to say… it’s after games like this that the following through with actions becomes a little more difficult.


1. snorterboy - 23/09/2012

More of a cheese than pudding man myself but I take your point

2. Roger Smith - 23/09/2012

I applauded Deeney’s entry, obviously not to condone his crime, but to support the club’s decision to give him another chance. He must feel welcome to perform at his best.

After Brighton, when we tried and failed to pass the ball into the net, the order had clearly gone out to shoot on site. Thus we got many more shots on target, but they were too tame, and from too far out, when there were often others better placed.

Now that we have a genuine centre forward to take the pressure off Vydra, I’m confident that someone soon is going to get a real hiding.

3. Matt - 23/09/2012

Saw number 3 very differently from the seat behind you Matt – Deeney, Nos & Yeates celebrated together as a group a few yards away from the main bundle. Yeates made a bit of an effort to go over to the others as it was breaking up but it didn’t seem as joined-up to me as it did to you.

4. NRC - 23/09/2012

Fitz Hall and Dan Shittu – ever seen in the same room?

5. Dave Jackson - 23/09/2012

Must be frustrating for Lee Hodson being 3rd in line behind the veteran Cassetti and the willing but limited Lloyd.
Looking forward to Chalobah being used in the creative midfield role once Yeates is shipped out and Hogg, Eustace or Prince are fit again.

Matt Rowson - 23/09/2012

Oh dear. Agree with the general point, but “willing but limited”? How many very different managers has Doyley won over? And yet you, having presumably seen more of him in total than any of them, still not sold?

6. steve1970 - 23/09/2012

Think the problem is we offered more going forward when we played two up front however going to three at the back exposed us and both goals came from wide positions. It was similar when Rodgers was in charge and he went two up, He achieved it by reducing a creative midfielders going from a similar 4-5-1 to a 4-4-1-1 playing Raziak and asking Priskin to play a bit deeper.

I feel 4-5-1 (4-3-3 depends how you view it) may not be the final formation we see. Can’t see how 3-4-3 will ever work at the level though not with most teams deploying attacking wingers in a basic 4-4-2 formation. Even Bradford caught us out! Add to that having to play Murray and Yates togther without a ball winner did not help.

Re Doyley IMO he has won most managers over with his versatility and spent the majority of the last three or four seasons at left back with the club not being able to afford to buy a replacement. He is an athlete plain and simple and will keep up with most wingers at this level. GZ wants his full backs to kick on and deliver quality balls into the box ……

Sorry Lloyd can’t see you ever winning this battle! Will always have a place at the club if he is prepared to be a squad player you can put him on the bench will be able to cover every position across the back line can see him starting though.

7. Dave Jackson - 23/09/2012

I have, indeed, seen many of Lloyd’s appearances in his ten years. He is a lovely guy who works his nuts off for the club. He is an inspiration to kids about how to succeed through hard graft and a terrific attitude. I just think, all things considered, Hodson is a better right back.

Matt Rowson - 23/09/2012

fair enough. that’s not quite the same as “willing but limited” tho is it?

8. Steven - 23/09/2012

Hall, if fit, must play alongside Nosworthy. Would still like to see Ekstrand play at some point as I feel he is more likely to fit in than Neuton. Chalobah will be an excellent player and one I hope stays on for the season. Deeney is a must and we have plenty of quality in other areas squad wise.

9. hornetboy84 - 23/09/2012

I refer the right honorable gentlemen to my Brighton comments.
This was better. I can see progress and agree there is desire and quality. Deeney may be the catalyst to gel it together into a force. (or Forza even). I suspect Eustace will play a big part also.

Chalobah was excellent and in the right set up make do much like mutch to add that telling pass and control.

And as for mr Doyley – maybe i was watching a game in another universe but I felt he undertook his unexpected role excellently. Only wish it was him not Cassetti challenging Bryan as there would have been no cross to convert for 1-1.

i left in reasonable mood. Onwards and upwards.
I cant say its exciting – I haven’t been near to being enthralled even in the way I was at some points under Dyche and Rogers – but if we get some wins, some confidence and momentum – then maybe that will come.
Till then I Keep the faith.
Cmon you ‘orns.

10. JohnF - 24/09/2012

Agree with all your thunks Matt, this must be the longest pre-season in history. I can’t wait for the season to start!
There are many good players but it is getting them to play as a team rather than 11 individuals. I get the impression that Forestieri has a long way to go in this respect and I hope that if he is to play he rapidly learns that diving will not endear him to the fans or referees. Mark Yeates summed up his decision making in the first half when a one-two was on with Pudil that would have seen the full back clear behind the Bristol defence and instead of the simple return pass he turned inside and lost the ball with a poor cross field pass. I also hope that our youngsters respond to what appears to be a raising of the bar and start to compete for places.

hornetboy84 - 24/09/2012

A raising of the bar might be quite useful given our shooting of late… and definitely a moving of the goalposts to the left ! (as looking at the goal! both ends!) 🙂

11. Adrian - 24/09/2012

Clearly when we have the ball the right backs move forward and leave 3 at the back, and when the opposition has the ball they move back. Fine as long as we don’t lose the ball in midfield. Cassetti was woefully slow for their first goal and I can’t help thinking Lloyd wouldn’t have been beaten so easily.

12. Peter Cartwright - 24/09/2012

This was the first Watford match I’d attended for two years, and I have relied on your reports to give a good feel of the team. Thank you. I enjoyed the match. It is good to see players passing the ball accurately. The appearance of Deeney and Hall gave me hope for a team mixing their British skills with our newly-acquired overseas talent. My only concern is whether Zola has the steel to demand wins. I remember his second season with West Ham, and he didn’t seem to grasp the urgency of his situation as one loss followed another. But the future of Watford is extraordinarily hopeful (as long as we don’t get relegated in the first season of Pozzo ownership).

13. Mark - 25/09/2012

When Hodson learns to defend he might replace Doyley at some point…shame we have to place a 35 year old Italian though.

Does Zola have a say in it because it seems surprising that Lloyd was dropped in the first place?

Anyway onto the game – from an attacking point of view I enjoyed the performance as we looked pretty dangerous despite some fairly tame shots and Deeney made an excellent cameo appearence.

Typically average defensive performance though – Neuton.is your typical Brazlian defender – good on the ball but hasn’t got a cule about basic defending.

The Chelsea lad showed most of them!

14. Paul Caruso - 26/09/2012

I’m finding it very hard to care anymore…’stop the clocks’ once wrote Auden

15. Zenon - 29/09/2012

I genuinely don’t see how all the pieces fit together.

I thought I could see what he was trying to do with 433 ala Mourinhio Chelsea. But reverting to 352 twice now leaves no place for Mbia, Anya or Frosterii.

I hope the players have a better idea…. Far to big a squad for Zola IMO

16. Mark S - 30/09/2012

@Zenon: You spoke to soon! Frosterii played really well yeaterday in a 3-5-2 and from what I’ve seen already Mbia and Anya will not start if everyone is fit.

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