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Chelsea 4 Watford 2 (21/10/2017) 22/10/2017

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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1- “It’s a Saturday building up to Christmas, remember” warned Dad, as his agitation at the vague nature of my travel plans – and his ticket’s travel plans – bubbled.

So much wrong with this statement.  Firstly it’s not bloody building up to Christmas as anyone older than, generously, nine ought to be in no doubt about.  Secondly, even if it were building up to Christmas why on earth would you be thinking about in anticipation of a big game?  Voluntarily?

Seeing as he brought it up we’ll dwell on Christmas very briefly before getting on with the plenty of other stuff that there is to discuss.  This comes in the form of a public service announcement for those of you considering shopping for your necessaries on line during the festive period.  John Lewis has a reputation for excellent customer service.  Don’t believe a bloody word of it.  Lies, lies, lies.  For the second time in the space of twelve months we’ve fallen victim to an aggravating, grotesque combination of  practised incompetence and supercilious dismissiveness.  Seriously.  You’ve been warned.

2- If there’s a way in which the Chelsea matchday experience resembles the Watford matchday experience it’s in the Fulham Road beforehand, a seething artery that channels the masses towards the stadium transforming it into something quite unrecognisable to those who see it on a “normal” day, in much the way as Vicarage Road always feels odd if you chance down it during the week.

Today the October spinning dial that promised sunshine and rain and wind and made preparation next to impossible settled on sunshine, fitting for a rare trip to the Bridge that didn’t  come with the knowledge that we were likely to get stuffed.

We’d made a bright start, Pereyra’s gorgeous flick releasing the flying Femenía for the first of many screaming runs down the right.  This reassured those of us convinced that a game against a talented but emotionally brittle Chelsea would surely be won or lost on the first goal.  Score it, and you could see the anxiety in the host’s stands and team ratchet up.  Concede it and you risk getting overwhelmed by a side needing something to rally behind.

3- We were wrong, as it turned out, but not necessarily entirely so.  Chelsea got that goal but didn’t run away with it…  we’ll never know what would have happened had we scored it.  There’s more to the opener than referee Moss’ inexplicable failure to award a goal kick as Eden Hazard shuttled the ball off…  there’s our brief lapse in concentration, ruthlessly exploited by a quick corner, there’s Pedro’s exquisite finish damn his eyes.  Nonetheless, as the Hornets briefly lost their rag in frustration and the referee briefly lost control, flinging cards around with a flamboyant lack of authority I was thinking about John Lewis Customer Service again;  not much to choose between them and a weak homer of a ref in terms of the sense of impotent vexation that they provoke.

“Cojones” has undoubtedly been the word of the week.  Troy’s interview last Saturday was typically entertaining, his manager’s lukewarm reaction completely understandable, the outraged response of (some) Arsenal supporters simultaneously utterly baffling and not.  Whatever social media’s plusses, giving a megaphone to the witless isn’t one of them.  Whatever…  plenty of cojones in evidence for the rest of the half.  Succumbing either quickly or obstinately is the default in these circumstances but instead, having ridden our luck when the charmless Fabregas was put through, we wrested control of the game back from the home side with the composed patience of those annoying parents who know how to deal with tantrumming children calmly.  Bastards.  The half ended with the peerless Doucouré, top of a strong class in keeping cool under pressure himself, slinging a half-cleared ball inside Courtois’ near post.  The Frenchman sprinted the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the air-punching, bellowing yellow corner.

4- The opening twenty minutes or so of the second half saw us showcase the most spectacularly incisive football we’ve played this season.  We barrelled at Chelsea whose defence, exposed by an overrun midfield, backpedalled in panic.  Femenía howled down the right and put in an outrageous cross that Richarlíson should have converted.  A minute later the lower-key but still brutally combative Deeney fed the Brazilian and he found Pereyra who had floated into space at the far post and finished brilliantly, fooling Courtois with his eyes and clipping it over the keeper.  The away end took  a little while to calm down.

We remained on the front foot.  Richarlíson met a perfect Britos cross too strongly and sent a free header wide.  Kabasele had another free header, this time beyond the far post but he didn’t put enough on it to trouble the keeper and would have done better to nod it back across goal.  “We might regret these”, thought everyone.

5- “He lost it with the substitutions,” was the popular insight expressed at the final whistle, by experts both in the stadium and elsewhere.  Quite a lot wrong with this statement too, not least the rather accusative tone towards a manager who is so far in credit that his tab doesn’t even merit checking.  Plenty contributed to this…  principally our failure to make the most of our period of utter superiority in the second half; another goal would surely have precluded any resistance.  Add to that the ongoing absences of Kaboul and Prödl – it could be argued that we’re still missing our best three central defenders, either of these two in particular might have been expected to be able to cope more effectively with the robust threat of sub Batshuayi.  Referee Moss’ hand in the first goal – yes, it’s a long time ago by now but a different game might have followed – and his failure to send of Antonio Rüdiger, already on a yellow, when he aimed a petulant kick at his tormentor Richarlíson’s achilles after the ball had gone are also frustrations.  A final factor, the machinations of the other team so often overlooked in post mortems – the changes they made from the bench created a threat were none had existed prior to their equaliser.

But there’s little doubt that our subs didn’t work.  Watson-for-Deeney is the major bone of contention, although Chelsea were level by the time that switch was made, Batshuayi’s run surprising Britos who was caught flat and beaten to a cross that again stemmed from a quickly taken set piece that we hadn’t anticipated.  Before then Pereyra had limped off to be replaced by Carrillo who, as the hosts began to get desperate, was forced backwards into an unnaturally defensive role.  This factor adds credibility to the Watson substitution – by sticking in a proper defensive midfielder and pushing Richarlíson up you free Carrillo to use his speed to keep the visitors on the back foot.  That it didn’t work doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good idea…  but as it was Carrillo failed to get involved and Watson looked horribly rusty, in part reflecting his own lack of game time and in part the absurdly high standard being set in our engine room this season in which anything less than outrageously good will stand out like a sore thumb.

6- That we lost to the League Champions is horribly frustrating;  personally I sulked most of the way home.  But, you know, there you have it.  That we lost, away at the League Champions having been a goal down despite this, despite that, is a disappointing and that in itself is a marker of our progress.  Marco Silva argues that we deserved to win;  I tend to disagree.  To deserve to win you need to match what your opponent throws at you, and we really didn’t in the last few minutes.

But that doesn’t mean that we weren’t, for the most part, brilliant.  That this isn’t a completely wonderful, loveable, inspiring Watford side.  That we shouldn’t be relishing the next challenge, that of getting the disappointment out of our system in time to lock horns with a capsizing Stoke next Saturday.  That’ll take cojones too.

Yooorns.

Gomes 4, Femenía 5, Holebas 4, Mariappa 4, Kabasele 4, Britos 3, *Doucouré 5*, Cleverley 4, Pereyra 5, Richarlíson 4, Deeney 4

Subs: Carrillo (for Pereyra, 65) 2, Watson (for Deeney, 80) 0, Gray (for Mariappa, 90) 0, Janmaat, Wagué, Capoue, Karnezis

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Comments»

1. James Marshall - 22/10/2017

Good summary Matt- agree with just about everything, and the positive is we are p*ssed off we didn’t win at Chelsea- that is how far we have come and where we can set our realistic expectations

Goldenboy60 - 22/10/2017

Here here….. we looked a very good side yesterday but still not quite enough. But I wouldn’t mind betting that we will get that extra bit very soon.

2. Jim of the Rookery - 22/10/2017

Lost count of the amount of times last season I commented (including on here) that walter’s was a hard Watford team to like.

This year’s side is hard not to love.

Nice report, I thought there was a little bit of naivety with the subs and on-field inexperience in not managing the game when we were on the front foot at 2-1 up. The fact I’m saying that and we were playing so well at the home of the league champions underlines just how far this team has come

COYH

3. Keith Endean - 22/10/2017

As a long time Watford supporter, I ask is this how it feels to support the likes of Arsenal, Man U, Man City etc? As normally if we were 3-0 up 10 mins to play I would be thinking we could get a draw out of this. Yesterday felt disappointed when it went to 2-2 and deflated when the final result came through, we must have come a long way.

4. Graham Daly - 22/10/2017

Thanks for expressing the idea that it wasn’t Silva’s fault that the substitutions didn’t work.
I’ve always been puzzled as to why losing yesterday seemed worse to me than losing via the Man city game-where we were comprehensively stuffed. It’s because we could easily have won, so it’s frustrating.
But later when the realisation of how far we’ve come sinks in, I realise that hey we really are mixing it in the upper reaches. Wonderful!


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