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Watford 6 AFC Bournemouth 1 11/08/2013

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.
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1. Even for world-weary types like your correspondent, who prefer their battles hard-fought and their victories without any sense of entitlement, this is terribly hard to resist. It almost feels as if the anticlimax at Wembley didn’t happen; perhaps it was such a non-event, swimming in the spring heat haze, that any memories have simply evaporated and left little trace. What might’ve been a watershed moment just passed quietly into history, and here we are: the old gang, back together for another shot at the big time. Even for world-weary types, it’s a tantalising prospect.

One of the curious aspects of our ownership model is that it’s impossible, rather than merely difficult, to accurately gauge the level of investment being made. Perhaps it’s not particularly relevant any more. But even with three sides, Vicarage Road at the start of the Pozzos’ second season is a noticeably different place: there’s an attention to detail, a creative energy at play and a sense of clarity and purpose, from redesigned graphics to a properly working big screen to a new singing section. It says much about football that a well-run business is worthy of comment, but there we are: Watford Football Club feels like it’s being run by people who might actually know what they’re doing and who might be doing it for something other than to stoke their own egos. Heaven help us.

(Cue a load of comments about intolerable queues for pies or something. You can’t always get it right. But you can at least try.)

2. Forgive me for being a spoilsport, but it has to be said: the scoreline might give you the wrong impression altogether. It’s not that we were flattered by six goals, not really; we were every inch that good, and that ruthless, for a spell. But any suggestion that this was easy is misleading. The argument, tempting as it is, that our class told in the end isn’t quite right either.

If you want to find the really important lessons, then, as so often, you need to look at the periods when the result was still in question. Because it was very much in question until we scored second and third goals in quick succession, almost without warning. If you want to be encouraged by something, it should be a new facet to our game: a real threat from set pieces. A source of ugly, functional, cheap goals, stacked up high like bog rolls at Poundland. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve gone a bit Stoke over the summer.

Without Angella’s two goals – particularly the majestic second, leaping high above all to meet a free kick cleanly and nod into an empty net – we wouldn’t have been in a position to add the remaining four. The plain fact is that we were not winning the game in open play; it was nervous and a bit tetchy and our opponents had a good measure of control. That goal, remote from our sexy football, changed the entire game. A free kick won by chasing a lost cause into the space behind the Bournemouth defence, a free header by a central defender from the set piece. Note the word “free”.

We were a terrific side last season, full of attacking verve and creative flair, but sometimes you need something else too. It’s not a Plan B, just a more all-encompassing Plan A. Sometimes you just need a goal from a big bloke at a corner, some manual labour to pull open the floodgates. Sometimes you just need a goal.

3. The Bournemouth supporters were absolutely right to give their team an ovation at the final whistle: they were excellent, in truth, for all that we picked them off once they had to chase the game. Through the central phase, the last half hour of the first half and the opening nearly-ten minutes of the second, they were as neat and efficient and quietly confident as anyone we’ll face, thoroughly deserving of their equaliser and promising more.

The gameplan is one we’ll grow over-familiar with, especially if we find no replacement for Vydra’s searing pace. Push up, squeeze the midfield, compress the space. Force key players into positions that don’t suit them: Forestieri on the shoulder of the last defender, the “hole” having been filled with rubble and clutter; Abdi picking the ball up where Chalobah once did, harmless so far from the final third; Anya on the back foot, defensive failings exposed; Deeney chasing through-balls that he can’t hope to reach. If I’m implying that Bournemouth were mere spoilers, then I’m doing them a disservice: they were constructive and positive in possession, of which they had plenty. But they weren’t daft either, and only when the game finally opened up did our superiority tell.

4. Of course, when it did tell, we were every bit as devastating as you’ve come to expect. Rarely, perhaps never, has a Watford side made a particular area of the pitch so dangerous: if you let us have the ball in the ten or twenty yards ahead of the penalty area, and especially if you let us have it with a yard of space, you might as well call to the bench for the white flag. In the likes of Abdi and Forestieri, with some added hustle and bustle from Deeney, we have too much craft and cunning to be allowed to play there. Thing is, it’s very hard to prevent us from doing so if you’re also trying to push forward. Don’t let us take the lead, whatever you do.

Bournemouth got away with it once, recovering their composure after a difficult opening fifteen minutes in which Angella blasted home from a corner. Then, we stepped back enough to allow them off the ropes; perhaps we took them a little lightly and were nearly made to regret it. Second time around, there was no mistake: Deeney’s first to clinch the victory before our opponents could draw breath, then all the way home in pure luxury and style, training-ground flair and flamboyance. We know it already, but it’ll never tire: we’re capable of being a brilliant, brilliant football team.

5. For a moment there, you wondered whether the first home hat-trick by a Watford player since whichever-date-you-choose would be scored by a central defender. Instead, appropriately, it was scored by Deeney, without whose physical presence everything would look so much less substantial and so much more fragile. Take anyone else out of this Watford side and, while poorer, it’s still essentially the same beast. Take Deeney away and it loses focus altogether.

It’s a telling sign of the revolution our club has undergone, and the security and certainty now underpinning it, that we’ve worried little about losing such a vital player to richer suitors.  We have everything in place. But this is where the hard work really starts. Don’t let the scoreline fool you: Bournemouth took some beating.

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Comments»

1. Paul Caruso - 11/08/2013

Forget the hat-trick, its been a long time coming for a favourable reversal of the resounding defeat between the Bournemouth Gynecologists vs the Watford Long John Silver Impersonators

JohnM - 12/08/2013

I’d forgotten about that. forty years—-.

2. Andy73 - 11/08/2013

Having survived with parity at half-time – mainly due to their scruffy finishing – I doubted Bournemouth would be able to sustain their energetic superiority, and we would lift our performance enough to win it.
No knowing whether this would have still happened without the set-piece goals, but there are reasons to think we won’t be so susceptible, this season, to going behind and having teams sit back in numbers.
Partly this is because of our new threat from set-pieces, through McGugan and Angella, meaning opponents will be wary of committing in the tackle. But also we seem to have even better movement in the team and more guile around the box to unlock congested defences.
I hope GFZ considers using Fessi and Fabbrini in tandem when we are behind late in games – that could yield some magic moments…

Keith Hannigan - 11/08/2013

I don’t think it’s exactly sitting back in numbers we have to worry about. I agree that, with Forestieri, McGugan and the rest, we will eventually unlock most deep-lying defenses. I’m more concerned about the opponents who, like Bournemouth, press up and deny us in midfield (see comment below, he wrote pedantically).

I hope you’re right that teams won’t be able to sustain that kind of pressure, but I’m not sure. There’s nothing that says we will necessarily be more fit and have more staying power than the other side. Yes, yes, “it takes more energy to press than to be pressed” but we’ll wear down too and until that second goal, I didn’t really see any sign that we were taking control of the match.

3. Doug Lawson - 11/08/2013

Michael Chopra, 2003 apparently. I love the stacked bog rolls analogy.

Matt Rowson - 11/08/2013

the dispute isn’t about the most recent hat-trick Doug (Chopra), it’s about the most recent one at home. Officially it’s Phillips vs Bristol City in 97, but Trefor classifies one of those as an OG, meaning that it’s Connolly in the cup vs Ashford in 96 and the last in the league being Ramage/Connolly vs Grimsby earlier the same year.

It’s Phillips for me, on every level.

4. Keith Hannigan - 11/08/2013

Lovely, incisive write-up Ian. Thank you. Must admit, I was a bit surprised Matt didn’t do the honors. Was he too busy fielding interview requests following his millennium match?

I know I’ve banged on about ths before, but during that nervous, tetchy central phase, I thought we felt the absence of Vydra and Challobah. Iriney is a fine and bloody destroyer but he doesn’t really boss possession, does he, and you already made the point about Vydra’s missing pace. I guess the question is, how easily are other teams going to be able to replicate Bournemouth’s success in the midfield? If it’s just a matter of moving up the back line and pressing hard in the center, are we always going to be so effectively neutralized unless and until the rub of the green (or a big, stonking center back) gives us the goal that forces the other side to chase?

My sense (hope?) is that it won’t be so easy for all of the League. I rather rate Bournemouth and think they are better than many of the sides we will face. However, as you suggest, the contenders are going to follow this gameplan against us all season long and I’m not sure what the answer is. Replacing Forestieri with a super fast striker would help but, um, well, we don’t have that guy anymore. Perhaps Fabrini would bring something different? McGugan has earned good reviews so far, but maybe he could be replaced with someone a little more clever and possessive? Battocchio? I’m grasping here.

Having said all this, and despite our cognoscenti-like fretting about midfield, my word that second half was something. I hope that Matt was there with his daughter and that they enjoyed every bit of it. Speaking from experience here, you remember those kind of special shared experiences with your kids for your entire life.

hornetboy84 - 11/08/2013

I THOUGHT WE WON 6-1 NOT LOST !!

The main problem in the first half was lack of movement in front of ball carriers to create space – Zola clearly corrected that at half-time.
We will be fine. Just need not to be over-confident vs reading – a draw there would establish a great start !

5. Leggatts 'orn - 11/08/2013

Angella, spotted by youngest son at 33-1 for the first goal at Ladbrokes, we decided to have some of that. Come that early set piece we were slightly dispirited to see him hanging back. “Hey up he’s doing a Tony Admas..” and did he ever, trucked up the park, straight through the defence and wallop. That was classy.

simmos - 12/08/2013

I can’t quite match that but on 3CR on Tuesday night, during commentary, Jon Marks mentioned to Troy that it was over 10 years since the last hat trick. I thought this might be in his mind and had a small wager on a Deeney hat trick at 25/1.

As an aside I was wondering if anyone else had thoughts on the Suarez saga at Liverpool. It sounds a familiar situation where the supporters stand by someone and ask for his loyalty. However I am sure that the Liverpool manager would know all about having loyalty, honesty and integrity!

6. Andrew J - 12/08/2013

16, 17 years since the last home hat-trick – it’s a moot point. I happen to think that one of Super Kev’s trio glanced wickedly off a defender for an o.g….
Saturday was an eye opener for me. I’ll always pine for a team with lots of academy products and British talent, but you can’t deny that 6-1, a near capacity crowd and that whole feeling of euphoria owes a whole lot to our new and relatively new signings from home and abroad. The Pozzos and Zola have set their masterplan out, and it looks extremely promising. I may yet be won over by May. COYH.

7. JayM - 12/08/2013

I was ever-so-slightly disappointed that Troy took the penalty. I know it’s a rare occurence and it’s what strikers are measured on but it’s more likely that Troy will get a hat-trick in his career than Angella.

Just imagine though how people’s perception of Watford and Troy would have rocketed if he had insisted Angella had taken it instead. That would have shown incredible team spirit…

Ian Grant - 12/08/2013

Well, sort of. I know what you mean, but I’d be a bit disappointed by a striker (and regular penalty taker, presumably) who handed the ball over to anyone else when presented with the chance of a hat-trick.

JayM - 13/08/2013

I’m just an old romantic, Ian.

Ian Grant - 13/08/2013

Nothing wrong with that…

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