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West Bromwich Albion 3 Watford 1 (03/12/2016) 04/12/2016

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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1- So this time we start with the “taken as read” thunk. The Jamie Hand Booking, the Lucky Chocolate. First… West Brom are great. A proper football club. Second, the Fanzone at the Hawthorns is tremendous… food and drink, a big screen showing the lunchtime game as Sergio Agüero wrote himself out of our game there next week; the generous atmosphere rendered the UB40 cover artist crooning over a microphone something of an irrelevance.

Thirdly it’s bloody cold. Seriously, why? Always? Yes, yes, the Hawthorns is the highest altitude ground in the country and so forth but… it’s next to the M5, not in the middle of the mountains, not some icy tundra. You wouldn’t know it. Jesus. Five layers. Not enough. Not nearly enough. We hide in the Fanzone’s Greggs and try to blend in with the sausage rolls, figuring – accurately as it turned out – that the staff were too busy to police the warmth of their shelter and that much of the populace of the fanzone had more scruples and/or more layers than us.

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2- Once in the ground the first question was how we’d line up in the wake of myriad suspensions and injuries. A measure of quite how dramatic our absentee list is came when the news of Janmaat and Mariappa wiping each other out with a head collision in training was met with a shrug. We were already up against it, what did two more matter? Indeed, given that we’ve got a bizarre coincidence of absentees already perhaps it’s better to get all our misfortune out of the way in one go.

In any case, the absentees were largely defensive – four centre-backs, a right (wing) back, the holding midfielder with his deputy presumably half fit on the bench. Little surprise then that we saw the resumption of our hurricane start to the game, get the ball up the end of the pitch where we’re at full(er) strength; Nordin Amrabat cracked a shot that Foster tipped over within the first minute, Capoue and Deeney both had chances and the home side barely got out of their half in the first fifteen minutes.

Thing is, you need to score in such situations. Especially away from home, especially when you’re protecting a botched together defence. Especially against a team that are decent from set pieces…

3- No small frustration greeted the first Albion goal, then. The home side forced a corner, Evans crashed in to score. Gomes should have done better, we had a lot of people standing around watching and taking up space and nobody attacking the ball as aggressively as Evans (or at all, in fact). On another day Evans might have been pulled up for climbing, but if we’d defended attentively that wouldn’t have been an issue.

Of all the patchwork repairs to our side, the enforced employment of Guedioura in a central midfield role felt the most vulnerable; alongside a dependable ratter like Behrami or patroller like Watson he’d have been OK, maybe, but less so with Capoue. The Algerian has many attributes – enthusiasm, positivity, creativity – but footballing discipline is not one of them. Fifteen minutes after Albion had gone ahead he crashed into an untidy challenge giving a free kick away within shooting distance. As the set piece was teed up the Watford wall collapsed on itself, Zuñiga turned side-on to the shot. It still required luck on Albion’s part for the deflection to spin off the Colombian and into the corner, but we shouldn’t have afforded ill fortune that window.

So Albion were two up despite us having much of the play. We might have been called unlucky, but that would do a disservice to the way the hosts play. Their modus operandi doesn’t rely on having the ball very much. Indeed, the set-up is much like that of Sean Dyche’s Watford side but executed with better and much more experienced players… a rock-solid defence, an experienced and disciplined midfield and enough up front to steal breakaway chances and set pieces. They don’t need to have the ball very much. They don’t actually want to have the ball very much.

4- The second half settled into just such a pattern… Watford with the possession and territorial advantage, Albion rattling off threateningly on the break. We were facing an uphill battle, facing the constant risk that the scoreline might head off at some point in the direction of the Bob Taylor or Lee Hughes-inspired results we’ve suffered here in the past.

Nonetheless we kept at it. Nordin Amrabat was back on the front foot after his frustrated outing against Stoke and screamed down the right flank, pulling a cross impossibly back from touch for Deeney to connect with – only a stunning block prevented us from reducing the deficit. Stefano Okaka had spent much of the first half complaining about Albion’s physicality – disappointing really, that the guy who’d presumably been brought in due to his ability to deal with such attention seemed so dismayed and surprised by it. His impact overall was underwhelming, though he too kept going and got better after the break, constantly engaging Albion’s defenders if to limited effect – he bundled goalwards with Deeney and took a half-chance that his captain might have done better with.

Another teasing ball from Amrabat tempted an Albion head to intervene ahead of Deeney; the ball was dropping over Foster who was forced to tip over, a fine stop. From the corner Troy stabbed a loose ball across the face of goal for Kabasele to touch in – game on. Pereyra slalomed through but a combination of Foster’s speed and dexterity and his own tentativeness saw the chance go begging amidst optimistic calls for a penalty from the away end. More defensible appeals minutes later when Okaka was upended as we unsettled Albion’s defence again. Gripping, nailbiting stuff, and for once a pitch-level view added to the drama being performed in front of us.

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5- Had the game finished here, and much as nobody likes losing, we’d probably not have been too unhappy. If there’s a way to lose this is it… narrowly, competitively in the face of a patchwork side and a confident opponent away from home. What followed was disappointing then, although it’s difficult to be too harsh on Pereyra. I had no view whatsoever of what had happened from our distance and position (although the guy over my left shoulder seemed to be able to employ the extra six inches or so of elevation to provide an accurate running commentary)… based on TV replays only you’d have to say that McClean went in aggressively and recklessly and whilst Pereyra shouldn’t have raised his hands it’s easy to sympathise. Easy to sympathise too with the view expressed by Mazzarri that McClean can think himself very fortunate to escape with a yellow, so too the likes of Rondon who piled in to no censure whilst Watford’s captain was booked for dissent. Less easy to sympathise with the manager actually articulating this opinion, albeit in the emotional window post the final whistle. I used to think that Jose Mourinho did this on purpose – blow up a smokescreen by drawing attention to his own utterings and shielding his team; now I rather fancy he’s just a bad loser. Mazzarri, certainly, had little to shield his team from after a stout performance that wasn’t quite enough, but plenty to lose by fostering a victim “everything’s against us” mentality. We don’t need that.

Matt Phillips put a full stop on the afternoon’s proceedings with a fine slaloming shot and goal; you’d perhaps have preferred the otherwise reassuringly stout Kabasele to have gotten a bit closer to him but that’s a bit churlish, a splendid goal. Allan Nyom, meanwhile, had put in a performance that was a bit like a highlights video of his Watford spell… careering boldly into attacking positions (and displaying more reliable delivery with his weaker left foot than we ever saw with his right), occasionally slicing the ball out of play and looking eminently get-attable when defending. All that was missing was a reckless booting of Amrabat or Pereyra into the stand. There were a few more catcalls from the away end than his so-so-but-no-worse Watford spell really merited, which had escalated into a relatively witty exchange with the adjacent Baggies (“He left cos you’re Sh*t” / “He left cos HE’S sh*t” / “He’s still beating you” / “He’s still f***ing sh*t”). Any sympathy for the Cameroonian rapidly evaporated as he opted to celebrate the winner in front of the away end. We had some morons in our end, as ever. It appears footballers aren’t above stupidity either.

6- If I’ve sounded critical of our performance then I’ve been unfair. This was vastly better than last week’s sloppy showing against Stoke; Prödl was monstrous again, Kabasele as above did fine alongside him. Deeney was more aggressive and mobile than of late, Amrabat sizzled up either flank, Sinclair had an encouraging cameo. We were bright and positive and if we weren’t tight enough at the back or stiff enough in midfield then we didn’t get the breaks either.

We’re a good side, and those panicking that Sunderland have started winning are being hysterical. Survival remains the primary objective but we weren’t a million miles away from grabbing a point from two-down despite a glut of missing players. We need to keep our cool and our focus. But we’re doing OK.

Yooorns.

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Comments»

1. Dave Soloway - 04/12/2016

Having spent 90 minutes receiving unwarranted abuse from a sizable chunk of the Watford fans I think nyom was completely justified in how he chose to celebrate the goal.

Matt Rowson - 04/12/2016

Unwarranted, yes, I hope I reflected that. Understandable that he chose to do it, and the precious little flowers who gave it but can’t take it haven’t got a leg to stand on. Still bloody stupid though.

Stephen Hoffman - 07/12/2016

He himself has also apologised for any offence caus. I think that say it all, but some of the ridiculous chants about Nyom (I’ve seen far worse players) were uncalled for.

2. Big Al - 04/12/2016

The Hawthorns may be the highest league ground, but the highest ground per se is Silverlands, home to Buxton, at double the altitude.

3. Goldenboy60 - 04/12/2016

Which Watford are going to turn up?

Not interested at Burnley, mediocre against Stoke (and I’m being kind), gave up at Liverpool. Yet marvellous at West Ham, Man Utd home, Leicester home, but not so much in the 2nd half.

At WBA, they gave everything, and not without some real quality at times, though a little fragile at the back. Oh for Cathcart back.

We are now over a 3rd of the seasons fixtures. Can we get more consistent, or is it that the players only turn up when they want to? I don’t know what the answer is, but I am so puzzled.

Amrabat has been clearly our best player, and for a lot of the time Nyom couldn’t handle him. And yet none of the chances he is creating are being taken. Capoue can be brilliant and then sloppy, but his energy I feel was good on Saturday. But will he play to that level against Everton?

There are so many queries about the team and some individuals that I have. There are queries for me over the non playing of Ben Watson ( I know he was injured on Sat). We are missing his experience, cool head and quality.

We have a massively difficult game against Everton on Saturday, a team that in the main we struggle to cope with. For me, the system you play can be good or bad. It’s the players inside it which make it work or not. It was brilliant after some very tedious displays that we played with so much energy at WBA, if lacking some quality at times.

It is a massive puzzle, and I feel one of the strangest inconsistencies I’ve ever seen in watching Watford since 1960 as a young lad.

Which Watford are going to turn up…….

4. Simoninoz - 05/12/2016

Is anyone else getting a bit tired of the petulant group-outbursts from players whenever a bad foul or a perceived slight is committed. I am thinking of the outbreak of pouting and posturing in the last ten minutes of this game and of course the Man C v Chelsea tantrums. It’s not restricted to England; I witnessed the same in the first minute of the Australian FFA Cup Final on Wednesday, which I attended. Discipline and self-control are essential to good and effective teamwork and these qualities seem oddly absent in such circumstances from these highly trained and extremely well-paid players. Or is this view just a sign of my advancing years and incipient OldGit-dom?

5. Harefield Hornet - 05/12/2016

I understand your frustration but I don’t think it’s quite as cut and dried as that and each case should be judged separately. I’m not condoning Pererya’s shoving action but McClean is a nasty piece of work who stood on him and kicked the ball at him following their initial tussle. It’s pretty hard not to react under those circumstances unless you’re some kind of saint. Even Pulis admitted he feared the worse when McClean got involved and ref panicked when others got involved and felt he had to some “somebody” off. Unfortunately for Roberto it was him.

Simon - 05/12/2016

Looking at the video (I confess, I wasn’t there) Pereyra didn’t walk for shoving but rather for kicking out after the ball was kicked at him. That then sparked McLean to tread on him and the shoving that followed. I’m still amazed McLean didn’t go as well but if you kick out at someone you’re going to get sent off. That sort of frustrated reaction does seem to have been fairly prevelant across the squad in recent weeks and needs to stop or we’re going to keep shooting ourselves in the foot.

6. JohnF - 05/12/2016

I couldn’t go but listened to the commentary on Hornets player. The big concern with our disciplinary record is that we now have reputation that is going before us. I fear that not only will we not ever get the benefit of the doubt but when a guilty party is being sought then it will be easiest to pick a Watford player. Not only that but if an opposition player does something Watford will always be seen as over-reacting. We need to get a grip or the good play will be undermined by refereeing decisions.

7. John Smith - 05/12/2016

Great report as ever Matt, however we should have known what was to come from WBA and Mr Pulis. We were terribly naive for the first, allowing Evans to get a run on Kaseable. Capoupe looked at him but did nothing to block the run. The wall was poor for the free kick and Zuniga turned away.
We do not appear to have the same togetherness that Bournmouth showed on Sunday despite our possession.
Walter has gone from not commenting on refereee’s to blaming them for our last two defeats.
I truly hope you are correct with your optimism.

8. tonyfirasse - 06/12/2016

Appreciate your balance and perspective, Matt.
The petulance and over-reaction has to stop, as other sides will play on these Watford weaknesses. Seen on TV here in Arabian Gulf, the ref had seemed to let the game flow, but got it wrong in not sending off McLean as well. Yes, some consistency and quality finishing in the box would help the cause. A further run of defeats will have us right in the relegation dog fight which does not lend itself to pleasant viewing for the second half of the season.
I thought the squad was deep enough to cover the absences of 5 – 6 key players…
Like others, I am still waiting for the ‘finished article’ Watford FC 2016-17 team to turn up win-in and week-out and prove itself as genuine Premier League top ten calibre.

Matt Rowson - 06/12/2016

In fairness we had a lot if injuries at one end of the pitch and weren’t that far away against an in form opponent. I’d rather we had got something too but don’t think the game reflects badly on squad depth

BH - 06/12/2016

I agree. I thought Prodl in particular was fantastic and after a nervous start Kasabele grew into the game. He definitely feels like an option to replace the ageing Britos. Sitting there on Saturday with a ‘patched up’ team, I was more confident than usual at 2-1 down that we were going to go on and win.

However, our recent indiscipline tripped us up and left me wondering if the stressed and anxious approach of the manager filters through to the team. Although many decisions have been curious to say the least over the last few weeks, questioning every one of them, and refusing to shake hands after Stoke, all suggest a petulance that is being reflected on the pitch. We don’t need this as Saturday ably demonstrated.

Lastly on your excellent report Matt, I enjoyed the UB40 tribute more than I imagined and was able to introduce the politics of the time to my teenage boys over a decent but very cold beer.

9. bl0gger123 - 07/12/2016

pretty sure the Saturday match will be one to remember..


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