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Watford 3 Bristol City 0 (06/01/2018) 07/01/2018

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

1- I was in a band when I was at school.  It’s fair to say that I wasn’t the creative engine of the enterprise…  a “functional” bassist would be the kindest description but it was tremendous fun.  Performing live, particularly;  recording stuff too, even if my role amounted to plucking the bass strings in the order that I was told to at the time that I was told to.

Recording sessions and rehearsals, from memory, rotated around parents’ homes, perhaps to informally share the burden.  One session sticks in the memory particularly,  a sunny day at my parents’ place;  they were both out, perhaps understandably, as were my siblings.  The musical creativity was interrupted for a cup of tea on the patio, and an epic discussion ensued on the subject. Ben (lead guitar, vocals) argued forcefully that the taste of tea was the taste of tea, unadulterated. Howard (drums) insisted that his cup of tea, milk, sugar, the works, was tea as he understood it.  His cup of tea.

This went on for some time.

Perhaps perversely whilst I was largely impassive in this discussion I’ve spent a reasonable proportion of the 25-plus years since working for a company that sells a lot of tea, studying and assessing consumers’ opinions of our tea.  This hasn’t resolved the argument in my mind, an argument that would doubtless have lodged in your mind as it has lodged in mine had you been there to experience it.

But the value in Howard’s point of view was laid out clearly at around 2.45pm this afternoon.  Hovering in seats that were kind of close to our season ticket seats but not actually our season ticket seats which had somehow been sold before we got there (to folk who never showed, as it turned out).  Around us… some familiar faces, waving awkwardly from similarly not-quite-the-same seats a few seats, a few rows away.  Plenty of others significant by their absence.

There are obviously obstacles to the club providing Season Ticket holders with priority booking for their seats, not least the need to offer the visiting club the entire Vicarage Road end thus displacing Family Stand season ticket holders.  Nonetheless, these challenges have always been there and the club has navigated them before.  And winning or losing, first team or reserves I would feel a little bit more valued – hell, this would be a bit more like my cup of tea if I was able to sit in my regular seat.

2- It comes to something when it’s the Premier League club that fields a virtually full-strength side – or as close to full strength as injuries permit, Richarlíson’s overdue rest aside – and the Championship upstart that makes seven changes in gives debuts to a couple of kids.  Such was the situation on this steely cold afternoon however, and with a brief sigh at the lack of our own kids in the side and a wonder if Walter Mazzarri had everything wrong after all it’s difficult to criticise either decision.  City have an injury overload of their own, are chasing promotion and have a semi-final against Manchester City on Wednesday.  However tall an order two legs against Manchester City are for anyone at the moment you don’t get to a semi final and not give it your best shot.

Meanwhile the Hornets are short of options and short of confidence, so a full-strength side both “respects the competition”, as Marco Silva has emphasised, and gives us a chance of a confidence building victory.  Since surely, surely this would be the outcome in the circumstances.  For all that City and the Hornets have been regular adversaries over the years the current state of it is that we’re a Prem club with all that entails, and our strongest(ish) available side against City’s patchwork could only end one way?

3- Lee Johnson commented afterwards, slightly peevishly, that 3-0 maybe flattered Watford.  Not knocking the decision he made, as above, but on this one he’s completely kidding himself and should really have had the courage to stand by his convictions.  This was as one-sided an affair as it ought to have been, the only disappointment being that we spurned opportunities to record a more comprehensive victory still.

That we were so comfortable owes a lot to the superiority of the weapons we had on show, but a lot also to the way that the approach that failed us against Swansea a week ago paid dividends this afternoon against less experienced, less disciplined opponents.

The emphasis in the first half was on possession;  most of the play was at the Vicarage Road end and clear openings weren’t hunted down or gambled on.  Instead the ball was swung from side to side as we patiently waited and City chased and blocked and retained their shape.   But we teased and probed and pulled the knots apart and the chances came, eventually.  Pereyra, irrepressibly on his game in the first half, teased and danced and cut inside whilst Zeegelaar thundered down the flank, unhindered by any defensive responsibility.  On the other wing Carrillo continued to fizz and with Deeney relishing a physical scrap with Aden Flint it was only a matter of time.  The striker had a header go over under challenge.  Then Capoue cut in from the left and fired a low shot for Steele to field comfortably.  Opening salvos, but it was always going to escalate and when Carrillo received a Pereyra pass and snapped a smart shot home in the penalty area to give us the lead you had the sense of us picking up speed.

4- The second half was less cagey, partly because City had to push forward and partly because their heads and legs were being tested by being given such a relentless run around.  This is what Swansea should have been like.  The gaps came and came quickly;  Pereyra, I am advised, hit the crossbar whilst I was queuing for crisps to sustain Daughter 1; I scurried back to the “oohs” and “ahhhs” of the coconut shy that followed.  “What did I miss?”.  “Nothing….”.

Ten minutes later it was 2-0; Cleverley escaped attention to gain space on the right and pulled back a terrific cross to Deeney whose diving header provided his first goal from open play of the season.

The rest was just detail, a procession of chances against an underequipped and tired opponent.  You might be concerned with the ease with which City’s hesitant forays forward created a threat but eleven shots on target to one tells its own story.  The next effort was technically off target, but not much in it… Deeney stealing in again at the near post to nod the ball into the side netting.   A left wing cross found Wagué and sub Richarlíson getting in each other’s way.  Richarlíson hared into space and didn’t clock the keeper’s position, dropping a shot into his arms rather than over him and into the net. Holebas, on at left back to give Pereyra a rest, was afforded too much space and slung a shot towards the top corner that Steele clawed out.  Finally Capoue exchanged passes with Deeney and slapped a third into the bottom corner.

5- The very definition of routine, then.  Lots of context, lots of circumstances;  City won’t and shouldn’t lose a lot of sleep about it and the game doesn’t tell us an awful lot about our ability to cope with Premier League opposition more successfully and profitably than we have been but it might contribute to our ability to do so.  This was a thoroughly professional, unfussy performance that might have reminded a few of our lot how good they are.   It might also be the kick off of a decent cup run, we’ll see.

Either way, a comfortable win with no injuries incurred is the ideal outcome.  Just our cup of tea, in fact. Now bring on the Saints.


Gomes 3, Janmaat 3, Zeegelaar 4, Kabasele 3, Wagué 3, Doucouré 3, Capoue 4, Cleverley 4, *Carrillo 4*, Pereyra 4, Deeney 4

Subs: Richarlíson (for Carrillo, 69) 3, Holebas (for Pereyra, 69) 4, Watson (for Doucouré, 81) 0, Prödl, Gray, Okaka, Karnezis


1. SteveG - 07/01/2018

I’m obviously pleased to see that Marco Silva reads this website and is willing to take the advice that I’ve offered – I do think Zeegelar looks very effective in attacking mode and that combination with Holebas does give us another option that might be useful in some circumstances.

Deeney and Capoue have been below their best this season – good to see them back on the scoresheet and working together in a way which will hopefully boost the confidence a bit.

Pereyra irrepressibly cutting inside – I think he’s more effective here than out wide. At the moment he seems to being considered as the alternative to Carillo or Richarlison (understandably perhaps given the balance of the squad), and with Capoue or Cleverly or Hughes able to take on that attacking central midfield role I can see there’s more competition – but he looks good in the middle to me (or at least in a freer role).

“A thoroughly professional, unfussy performance” – of course if they’d stopped the clock at 84 minutes last week we might have said the same last week about the Swansea game. Funny game, football…

2. PEDantic - 07/01/2018

A thoroughly satisfactory outcome, but against comfortably the poorest opposition we have faced this season, this was surely a great opportunity to play with two strikers. We know Deeney would benefit from this and probably Gray too. There was a case in point with an incident late in the first half when Deeney laid the ball off, intended for an onrushing Capoue to run on to. Except of course Capoue doesn’t do ‘onrushing’. Whenever the ball comes to him it seems the attack always slows down.

However it certainly depends what Silva, and we, expected from the game. By playing a strong team we hoped he was taking the Cup seriously but perhaps he was just hoping to get back on track with a win in a form of rehearsal for next week using the regular formation. If we were to get a couple of wins before the next round it would be interesting to see what kind of team is fielded then.

3. Roger Smith - 08/01/2018

Season ticket holders did have an exclusive period in which to book their usual seat, as I booked mine.

I thought City played well, albeit with little firepower, although this may have been because we gave their defence time to organise by playing square passes at the back. Nothing happened until Doucoure got the ball.

Matt Rowson - 08/01/2018

I’m glad you got your regular seat Roger, but there absolutely wasn’t a priority booking period. The ticket news page from the site for this game has obviously been taken down now, but I have a cached version which states explicitly:

“Season ticket holders’ seats have not been held in exclusive reservation for this fixture (although the club reserves the right to offer exclusive seat purchase for any high-profile ties in future rounds).”

Didn’t share your take on the game either. Thought we were patient and made them run around in the first half whilst still making chances. Carrillo and Pereyra were both sources of “stuff happening” for me, particularly in the first half. City “coped OK” was the best I’d give them in the circumstances given that they were a weakened Champ team against a Prem team, but “played well” is very generous.

4. Royston RoF - 08/01/2018

4 years ago Brizzle would have been us..

..really showed the differnce of technique, tempo and touch between

a second in the table championship side and a 1st div (old money)team that needed a win…was like a traning match for many pasrt of the game


5. Keith endean - 09/01/2018

Oh dear forgot This was about the football a little milk no sugar, a light brown colour made in a tea pot please

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