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Watford 1 Swansea City 0 (12/09/2015) 13/09/2015

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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1- The question is, which way will it go from here.  If you’re flicking back in this blog, revisiting this match report some time in theIMG_1660 future, you’ll know how everything shakes out.  For now…  Jeremy Corbyn’s extraordinary appointment as leader of the Labour party could lead to any number of futures but whatever your politics it’s undeniably interesting
The same could be said for our future after this three points, hard-fought but well earned.  This could be a flash in the pan, an isolated victory that offers brief encouragement… Middlesbrough in 2006, Chelsea in 1999.  Or it could be a significant step on a remarkable path.  Either way it’s interesting, more interesting than the season might have turned out if we’d laboured manfully through this run of four games between international breaks without getting that win.  Had that happened our season could easily have been the equivalent of another generation of Tory-lite Labour politicians…  dull, wearying and leading to a somewhat inevitable conclusion.  Chelsea provide evidence of what a once solid defence can collapse into once belief disappears.

As it is… we shall see.  But a colossal hurdle overcome, irrespective of the game itself.

2- And the canvas was a game and a performance that was as bright and welcome as the bright late-summer sunshine. It started with both sides chasing down possession, desperately trying to out-compete each other.  We’ve seen this game a number of times in the second tier and such starts can lead to scruffy, congested battles but the quality here was higher…  and the outcome was a fast moving encounter that was always watchable.  Critical for the Hornets was the more advanced positioning of Odion Ighalo, effectively playing up with Deeney for an hour.  This appeared in part to be aimed at disrupting Swansea’s ability to build from the back, but also saw Deeney have some much needed support in and around him.  In both respects Ighalo’s performance was a tour de force, his relentless muscular pain-in-the-arseness causing problems for the Swans’ centre-backs all afternoon.

But the most eye-catching performance was that of Étienne Capoue.  This is what you daydream about when you break your club transfer record for a central midfielder…  somehow involved in everything at both ends of the pitch but not characterised by that.  Often when you get a midfielder who is significant defensively and offensively that’s how you define them…  “he’s here, he’s there…”, and so forth.  There’s nothing wrong with that, we’ve had some iconic players in that mould. But Capoue’s  contributions at either end were magnificent in their own right, always available to receive a pass, or closing down, or nicking the ball and finding space… or involved in our best attacking moves and sprinkling all of this with moments of outrageous skill.  An extraordinary, impossible pass with the outside of his foot to bend the ball to Deeney in Swansea’s half, a dragback and spin into space to create a second half breakaway, and the deft but unflashy layoff that created an opening for Deeney to drive narrowly wide in the first.  This one of several close-ish calls in the first half that saw us reach half time happy enough at nil-nil… we were not only holding our own, even edging the game, but we were creating stuff too.  So far so good.

3- I have two lingering impressions from previous spells in the top flight which were perhaps one-eyed in the first place and may in any case have had the rough edges smoothed off them by the passage of time leaving them oversimplified representations, see what you think.  One…  in our first spell in the top flight in the eighties, much of which I watched from the Family Enclosure having been nine on promotion in 1982, the other lot were always filthy.  Teams used to turn up and kick us.  Two, in 1999-2000 we didn’t get a lot of decisions.  Indeed, we seemed to come up against referees who had a pre-determined view about How Things Ought To Be.

Swansea were nothing like as violent as the 1986-ish incarnation of Tottenham that exists in my head.  Not was Robert (“Bobby”) Madeley in Rob Harris’ league (see here for a discussion of naming preferences of people called Robert).  But I was surprised, with their reputation for elegance and flowing football, at the extent to which they put the boot in… Federico Fernandez spent the first half committing late niggly challenges, Ashley Williams cast his weight through Odion Ighalo, flattening the Nigerian striker in the wake of his critical intervention, Eder knocked Heurelho Gomes flying with a challenge that was, generously, clumsy as the visitors chased the game, and Madeley seemed determined to keep his cards in his pocket.  Unreasonable to pass judgement after a single game, and that an unheralded defeat after such a strong start to the season… but Swansea didn’t cope terribly well with the challenges the situation presented.

4- All of which probably contributed to the outraged reaction to Behrami’s dismissal.  I had no view of the incident, less through distance than through this coinciding with my need to retrieve the latest item of confectionery from our bag for one of the girls.  On review, the most generous possible interpretation is that Behrami was unlucky, lifting his legs to avoid Ayew coming in at pace and landing in the wrong place.  A more reasonable interpretation is that this was a ridiculous and witless challenge from a player who really ought to know better in a circumstance, one nil up and ostensibly in charge, that could have been hugely (more) expensive.  The only reason to offer the alternative explanation is that Behrami’s performances thus far, not to mention his relatively moderate disciplinary record, do not suggest the gross stupidity of such an act…  this exemplified at Everton, where he was the model of disciplined, effective aggression.  Now we miss a vital player for three games.  Idiot (probably).

As an aside Allan Nyom, for all the thoroughly positive and terrifying contributions he’s made so far, is beginning to look like he might be someone of whom a random descent of red mist might end up costing us.  At Man City he needlessly (if entertainingly) kicked Raheem Sterling out of the air.  Here, with an overhit Swansea pass already in touch behind the goal line, he chose to batter the ultimately miserably ineffective but recently introduced Jefferson Montero with his shoulder, inside the penalty area, sending the winger flying.  A ridiculous thing to do, bafflingly met with a handshake from the Ecuadorian.

5- By which time of course we were ahead, and what a fine thing it was both in its deliberate precision and as a tribute act to the last encounter here between these sides in which an aerial assault almost saw the visitors surrender a three goal lead.  The long pass from Gomes, brilliantly aware header from Deeney and the movement and composure of Ighalo made Swansea look very leaden indeed.

Thereafter…  we should bear in mind that this was a situation, even allowing for Behrami’s dismissal, that rather played to our strengths.  Keeping our shape to stifle a disrupted and edgy opponent to protect a lead is a situation that New Watford was made for…  harder challenges are to come.  Given that nod to common sense…  it was bloody minded and brilliant.  The support, noisy but not frantic up to that point, upped the volume.  The team dug in…  beyond those already mentioned Ikechi Anya suddenly looked like a terrific left back rather than a slightly awkward stopgap, Berghuis made a punchy and positive cameo from the bench, Cathcart, Prödl and Gomes did what they’ve been doing all season, we should take care not to take that for granted.  Even Jurado, for all that he has yet to convince with his end-product – and for what it’s worth he appears to be trying rather too hard – displayed an ability to turn into space and relieve pressure through composure.

Most of all, this didn’t feel like a smash and grab win that a plucky underdog might hope to snaffle a handful of times a season.  Yes, we dropped deep in the dying minutes but there was no desperation, no lack of composure.  We took on a side that has beaten Manchester United, drawn at Chelsea, gotten everyone cooing.  And beat them.  No knocking that.

The question then is, where do we springboard from here?  Going to be interesting.  Yooorns.

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Comments»

1. Jimbob - 13/09/2015

Re: thunk 2. I don’t think Ighalo was playing up with Deeney. They simply swapped positions from the Soton home match so that Ighalo was lone striker and Deeney sat in the hole behind in the no.10 role.

Matt Rowson - 13/09/2015

Troy has said as much. In any case, Ighalo wasn’t as isolated as Deeney has looked, we were getting bodies up to support around him. That’s been the biggest handicap to our attacking play.

Ceridan - 13/09/2015

It looked to me like Deeney and Ighalo were swapping positions regularly rather than sticking to a static one-in-front-one-behind setup.

Regardless, things certainly looked a lot better offensively than in the previous few games. I’m sure we’ll continue to improve, too.

Goldenboy60 - 15/09/2015

Yes totally agree with this. Deeney has been isolated with the 4-2-3-1 system. I’m personally not a fan and it showed how many more chances we created with players further up the field. And may I add, it didn’t make the defending any more difficult either because of the players work ethic.

Also going back to GT, what creates chances?

A long ball from Gomes onto Deeney’s head and GOAL. So for all the pretty play……..

2. Marc - 13/09/2015

The other change from previous outings (pre Pozzo era) was that I felt no inevitability that Swansea would score. Watford comfortable defensively with ten men was weird sensation that I do not wish to repeat thank you very much. I miss the days of the late, inevitable conceding goal and so the all the related doom and gloom.

With all this defensive confidence and unbridled optimism hanging around, it makes for a very new and very uncomfortable situation for me, as a long suffering watford supporter.

We should write a letter of complaint immediately to the Pozzos stating in no uncertain terms how this situation just will not do. It’s high time we returned to the lowly depths of the championship and the good old watford tradition of conceding goals in the 89th minutes and onwards.

3. Nick Corble - 13/09/2015

Thunk 5 the critical point here methinks – we looked comfortable in our surroundings against a decent side, enough so for their manager to feel angry with his team. Thought Anya had a belter by the way, a constant threat to do shake things up and create something for them up front (whatever the formation).

4. NickB - 13/09/2015

The one place I thought I might be able to escape Corbynmania…

5. mattp - 14/09/2015

It had a feeling to me that the result, following the sending off, could be season defining. Capitulate and lose from a winning position and both media and opposition would feel we have a soft underbelly. Hang on for the win and both team and fans would believe we can do this….and we can.

Defensively we look very assured, capoue was outstanding in the middle and it was good to see Deeney and Ighalo close enough to be able to link up with each other as a front two which ultimately resulted in the goal.

On another note, has “always believe in your soul” ever been sung louder??!

Brilliant stuff. You ‘Orns.

6. Ben - 14/09/2015

Great team performance, underpinned by a cohesive defensive performance. But…
Really expecting better service from Jurado at set pieces – all to often, he doesn’t get it past the 1st man.

Nick Corble - 15/09/2015

Absolutely, dangerous set pieces are all too rare, can’t afford to waste them

7. Harefield Hornet - 14/09/2015

After watching the cringe-worthy build-up the BBC gave to Swansea on Football Focus at lunchtime I had a feeling it was going to be our day.

8. Goldenboy60 - 14/09/2015

Previous comments have been disappointingly been re edited or deleted.

What a shame. Why can’t people hold their hands up, no one can get it right all the time?

Matt Rowson - 14/09/2015

no idea what you’re talking about. I do sometimes edit out abusive or overlong comments, but not done so this season

Goldenboy60 - 15/09/2015

Honestly there was no abuse in it at all. I don’t work like that. Just comments around the sending off which you initially made. I just commented that it was an out and out sending off while appreciating that from the Rookery it would have been more difficult to see it. I sat right in line from the GT stand and as you will have seen on TV it was a straight red without any discussion.

But hey no problem

Matt Rowson - 15/09/2015

I didn’t delete any such comment. Why would I have done? I admitted that I didn’t see it at all, bad view or otherwise I was distracted.

9. Goldenboy60 - 16/09/2015

Ok Matt onwards and upwards and lets look forward to the task on Saturday. I believe this one could be a real measure of where we are at this point in time.

Nashinho - 17/09/2015

Hmmmmm…… When was the last time we played a match which was not “a real measure of where we are at this point in time”?
On the other hand we must take a long-term view on what could be achieved this season.
Do you maybe mean we cannot measure ourselves against the big 5/6 teams? If so then unfortunately you may be correct.

Goldenboy60 - 17/09/2015

No I don’t mean that at all. Of course we are always being measured as are every other team. But this game on Saturday after winning last week will be a real test for us, given that:

1. We are playing a team at the bottom of the table away from home and expectation MAY be higher with our fans
2. That they are a wounded animal and expectation from the home crowd is very high at St James’s Park
3. That its never an easy place to pick up points where ever they are in the table
4. These are the away games that if we are to finish in a strong league position, we need to get something out of.
5. Our fans are placed up in the gods a long way from the pitch and therefore cannot produce the volume of support that is normally the case
6. Every game is important of course, especially with 33 still to play, but if we are to be competitive we need to pick up points and take advantage against an out of sorts team that may still turn up on Saturday
7. We are not expecting to get too many points from the top 5/6, so the more points we can get now, the more it will help us through the tough ride we have before, during and after Xmas.
8. A good result again will help the players confidence continue to grow, and of course the supporters with it.
9. If we are away to a top 6 team, our expectation is nowhere near what it might be this Saturday. (as in Man City). But this may give us a real clue as to how we can really cope this season overall.

I have to say it would be really great if one day we can measure ourselves against the top 6. Maybe one day in the future?


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