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Silva Bullet (and coup de Gracia?) 22/01/2018

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

OK, so there was supposed to be a Leicester report. Sorry about that. Birthday drinks on Saturday night delayed that exercise and by the time I got round to sitting down events had moved on apace and an account of events at the KP Stadium had become almost superfluous, like a restaurant review of a curry shop that shut down a week ago. In brief then… Leicester’s always a great away trip even though we always lose. Karnezis done great. We looked tough and pretty competitive and could have nicked a point but didn’t; Leicester had enough to exploit the cracks in our side and deserved the win. Oh, and Lee Probert did well enough; we moan when they’re awful so credit where it’s due. Yes, the Deeney “goal” was probably onside but a marginal decision advised by his assistant. Andre Gray and Troy together worked again, but Gray needs some of whatever made Luther so indifferent to missing chances back in the day. He missed loads, of course… but was always there for the next one and never seemed to let it bother him. Each open goal that Gray’s positive running earns looks like a traumatic experience for the striker.

Some of those cracks are long-standing of course, not news. Which brings us to the decision to get rid which disrupted our Sunday morning. It is a decision, first and foremost, which is a Good Thing. Some might argue that this is overdue but even those would surely concede that this is decisive action taken with a new guy lined up and engineered with minimum fuss. None of Everton’s hapless floundering in search of a new coach, job done.

So…that’s a good thing. Handled well. As for the decision itself? There’s regret there, I think, probably on all parts. “A shame”. The opening couple of months of the season saw the best football we’ve played for a very long time, certainly the best football we’ve played in the top flight since GT’s time. The contrast has been the most startling thing, the contrast between that and what has followed, much as there were steps of decline that featured a flattering win at Newcastle, a forgivable defeat against United. Leaving Evertongate aside for a minute, there’s stuff to be learned about how a manager reacts when things stop working. Alex Neil at Norwich suffered from this, the best young manager around until Premier League Norwich lost a game or two and then he wasn’t. Silva never looked like recovering his position, of righting the ship.

The persistence with a system that patently doesn’t suit the situation or available personnel is surely high on the charge list. A high energy game looked fabulous with a (largely) fit squad in August, less so with leggy players in December. Richarlíson has faded to nothing, I don’t remember the last impactful game he had, our fullbacks are repeatedly exposed, our forward line doesn’t really work for ANY of our forwards (excepting the point against Southampton, won by Troy Deeney through force of personality). Injuries, yes, and that’s another question altogether. But we have a stronger squad and better players available than performances have reflected.

You suspect that Silva would have been afforded more time but for the Everton thing, and the fall out therefrom. Indeed, for all the Pozzos’ tiresome reputation as hirers and firers their stated preference is to execute managerial changes at the end of a season, it would have taken more than this to disrupt that policy. In attributing blame however, the wording of a club statement pointing the finger squarely at Everton was odd. Certainly the Toffees’ conduct was graceless, unfitting of a proud club and worthy of every bit of disdain that we’ve thrown at them… but the problem wasn’t the approach itself. It was Silva’s response to it. Had the Everton thing not happened, the potential for such an issue would always have been there.

At the time we observed that going to Everton would do his reputation no favours, since big budget or no he’d scampered too quickly up the ladder; should he fail at Goodison any chance of another Watford going for him thereafter would be tampered by his shameless ambition and lack of judgement. Now he ends up in the same place without the Everton pay-off. He’ll get a job somewhere of course, and may well learn from this experience but his inability to deal with Stuff Going Wrong – be it on the pitch or the failure to secure his preferred targets off it – will be as much of a concern to any potential employer.

As for the Hornets… an interesting range of reactions from media and pundits. That there are those saying “who do Watford think they are, tenth in the League and getting rid of a bright young manager” should be no surprise… this is the sort of stuff you expect from your mate who doesn’t really follow Watford and only pays attention when Something Happens. Forgivable on your mate’s part, less so on the part of those paid to be experts on the back of half-arsed pub talk (that’s you, Michael Owen). Martin Samuel’s odious clickbait is at one extreme beyond that – rather than reading it, why not click on “Daily Mail” in NewsNow and do yourself a favour by Hiding Publication?

But otherwise there’s been a refreshingly balanced take on the affair from the Times (behind their paywall), the Guardian and the Independent. Reassuring that someone’s paying attention. Not that the Pozzos and Scott Duxbury care, particularly.

The paradox remains, however, that in this which is surely the second most successful period in the club’s history (much as definitions of success may vary), we look back arguably at only Slavisa Jokanovic of our managers under the Pozzos in a positive light. All managers leave clubs eventually of course and that will almost always take a sheen off… but of those that preceded the Pozzos certainly Dyche, Mackay, Lewington are generally regarded positively. Circumstance and expectation plays a part of course, but nonetheless.

To reiterate, highly significant that Javi Gracia is already in place. Indicative that this has been in the pipeline for a while, and casting a new light perhaps on the lack of incoming traffic thus far in January. Quite what the future holds, whether we add to our numbers, whether players return from treatment to strengthen the fold or whether Carrillo and Richarlíson’s contribution is damaged by their mentor’s departure we will have to wait and see.

Either way, change was needed. Change has arrived.



1. StevenFewster - 22/01/2018

“That there are those saying ‘who do Watford think they are, tenth in the League and getting rid of a bright young manager’ should be no surprise… this is the sort of stuff you expect from your mate who doesn’t really follow Watford and only pays attention when Something Happens”

Nailed it. So much of this going on. Ambition for a little club is apparently a Bad Thing for many armchair commentators. From what little I’ve read on Garcia, he seems to be defensively minded, I hope he doesn’t blunt the attacking options too much as it seems to be this that saves teams in the Prem. Yoorns.

2. Harefield Hornet - 22/01/2018

Despite being naturally opposed to the constant changes like everyone else, I have to admit to feeling a huge sense of relief when the news broke yesterday. I’ve never warmed to Silva for some reason I’ve never quite been able to determine, even during the earlier successful beginning to the campaign, and the whole Everton debacle completely soured everything. It was almost as though you could see he was thinking “I’m much too good for this lot” and I’ll be off anyway when I feel like it”. There seemed to be no humility in the man at all. Maybe that’s just a flawed perception on my part but I’m pleased he’s gone. Injuries notwithstanding , and his luck was absolutely cursed in that respect, we couldn’t defend under him to save our lives and it was only going to end one way. It still might – but at least now we might have a chance.

3. Chris - 22/01/2018

I think tactically the club issued the statement as they did because it also adversely reflects on Silva’s behaviour.

4. Roger Smith - 22/01/2018

Thanks for a perceptive and level-headed analysis – and for an inspired headline!

Matt Rowson - 22/01/2018

Thank you sir. The headline may have necessitated the article…

5. David wheatley - 22/01/2018

I find amusement in the Samuel/Linaker irritation. one day we will get relegated which will prompt “I told you so” by them and their cohort. I feel sorry for the club but it is clear now that Silva and the board were not a good match. I would love to go for a beer with the Pozzo’s and discuss their 5 years. They have done very little wrong, had a bit of luck and yet the narrative attached to the club is unstable. Perhaps as ouour wise editor says, they don’t care

6. John van Dyk - 22/01/2018

Would like to “second” Roger Smith’s comment, but also thank you for your enjoyable and insightful weekly posts which I always look forward to. COYHs 🐝

Matt Rowson - 22/01/2018

Thanks John

7. JohnF - 22/01/2018

I fear that all this is distracting from the injury crisis and its causes plus the delay in getting players back. I feel Silva has not done himself any favours but I do have sympathy over the injury list. Will the new head of medical be able to do something quickly enough to help the new coach?

8. reg - 22/01/2018

The bottom line for me is that I trust Gino’s judgement,the guy knows how to run a football club and he has an uncanny ability to see into the future and take action before a crisis develops, most clubs in the Premier League wait until they in or just above the bottom 3 before they make a change, not Gino, if a head coach isn’t right it doesn’t matter whether he has just helped us to realise dream of promotion to the Premier League or has us in 10th place and has a reputation as one of the brightest young coaches around, my take on events is that Marco disrespected our club by wanting to talk to Everton so soon after joining Watford, I believe that Gino would have been prepared to overlook this if results and performances had continued to be good but they weren’t, so farewell Marco and thanks for the memories, it was fun for a while, I’m now getting used to the reality that we have another head coach and early indications are that Gino has plucked another gem out of the ether.

9. simmos - 23/01/2018

I feel that someone should offer an alternative view. How can we ask for loyalty when the chairman is ready to change directions at the first signs of a downturn in form? Bearing in mind what is perceived about the clubs track record with managers, if an offer comes from another club I am not surprised that any manager would want to move on before they were pushed.

I would have liked Silva to stay the season to see if he could get over the poor run. His fortune may have changed once long term absentees returned and they would have been fresher than most teams squads would be at this stage ready to hopefully give their all..

When I spoke with Graham Taylor during his short time on the board at the club, he remarked that a manager should be given at least three years but I suppose that is now a bygone era.

Matt Rowson - 23/01/2018

There are several answers to that. As in the article and as has been argued elsewhere it really wasn’t in his interests to jump ship so quickly for one thing. His stock isn’t irreparably damaged as a consequence, but it IS damaged.

Your loyalty argument would be stronger if he was accepting an offer late in the season, say, having done well enough but conscious that we might be quite brutal in deciding that it wasn’t working out at the end of a subsequent so-so season. Less so after nine games. Had we sacked Marco after nine games he’d have had his contract paid up. He wants to leave us after nine games and it’s not unreasonable to expect us to hold him to his contract in the same way.

I would have liked Silva to “work out”, but as suggested above the fact that the Pozzos/Duxbury opted against reflects how likely they deemed sticking with him to be successful. To repeat, his inability to right a listing ship, albeit in an injury crisis, should be as damning as the Everton thing.

10. Preston Fingerdyke - 23/01/2018

Hi Matt. Just to say that, as a lover of great wordplay, I’m both awed and envious re your headline. Great piece, by the way. Ants.

11. PEDantic - 23/01/2018

Matt, I can only echo what most have said here: a spot-on piece of analysis and comment. We’re lucky to have you to read.

It seems to me that Silva put the Board’s backs up almost from the start with his comments on the transfer activity in the summer. Hopefully the new coach will be a better fit, but the priority now must be to rectify the injury crisis, one way or another.

Looks like the tickets for Southampton are selling well. Hope to see you all there.

12. sptemple - 24/01/2018

In addition to questioning Silva’s ability to turn the slump around, I’d also question his desire. There’s an argument that the Everton debacle led to him phoning rather than giving 100%.

Not that it matters really, we are where we are now. However, it will be interesting to see if some of the injured players make miraculous recoveries.

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