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Watford 1 Leicester City 1 (20/06/2020) 20/06/2020

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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1- I missed the last game at Vicarage Road.  I would say, “regular readers might remember”, but I scarcely remember what with one thing and another.  I’d been to Old Trafford with a friend who’d just come back from Milan.  Work advised to self-isolate, I felt iffy on the day of the game and watched it from the sofa.  So… stuff had already started.  But none of us foresaw how much more was going to change before Watford were again playing at Vicarage Road.

Again, I nearly wrote “before we were back”, distracted as I am half-watching Brighton against Arsenal (and rooting for the Gunners, which feels dirty but must be caveated with the desire that I’d quite like Brighton to stay up too if I could be greedy if not at our expense…).  We’re not back of course, not all of us, and there’s been some debate regarding the credibility of playing football without supporters.  It’s not ideal, of course… trite to say, but everyone would rather supporters were there.  But if it’s a choice between helping ensure that football “survives” as far as possible, and assuming it’s safe (I’ll take Troy’s reassurance on that) then it’s a no-brainer.  Lots of stuff isn’t ideal right now after all.

2- With crowd noise for me, incidentally.  Personal choice of course, no it’s not “real”.  But the empty, quiet stadium will always detract from the spectacle and the superimposed crowd noise, whilst illusory, is very effective for the most part.  No, not offensive, no, not sinister.  We are where we are.

Before kick-off we have a minute’s silence in remembrance of the victims of the pandemic and recognition of those who’ve continually put themselves at risk.  And then all involved take the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter tribute.  Difficult to find the right words for this… to do it justice.  If this had been something mandated by the FA, say, or the Premier League with the best of intentions it would have felt half-baked.  Tokenism, perhaps, whatever the conviction of individuals.  But it didn’t. it came from the players…  and with Troy and City captain and Troy’s mate Wes Morgan prominent in the instigation of the pre-match ritual it would have been a brave soul who didn’t comply.  There may be a question about the implied pressure applied to players with reservations, I guess…  but the concerns of morons and knobheads are pretty low on any sane list of priorities right now.  Few issues are as clear cut, right and wrong.

First observation is that Étienne Capoue is the clear winner in the “lockdown hair” competition, far less svelte than we’re used to.  Closest competition, nominated by Leicester Paul over text, is Çağlar Söyüncü who’s sporting a sort of ponytail thing.  Second observation is that we really don’t start well.  At all.  Defending the Rookery End (oh get in Nicolas Pépé) first Kiko then Kabs give the ball away sloppily.  The new pitch is perhaps a little heavy… the ball seems to stick on both these occasions, and on others.  Either way we look ragged, and this excellent City side are quickly pinning us back.  You’d probably have taken a point at kick off.  Twenty minutes in you’d grab it with both hands.

3- But the reality is that we’re probably catching City at a good time, given that the fixture was to come.  Getting going again after an unexpected break such as we’ve had is going to be difficult for everybody but for a passing side the touch isn’t quite going to be there.  We’ve got our own footballers of course, but we’re also much bigger than City and quicker.  More aggressive too… even early on Will Hughes is snapping into challenges, the start of a good scrap with Wilfrid Ndidi.  Troy is winning everything that’s pumped towards him, and Ismaïla Sarr fries Ben Chilwell.  Once we start pressurising high up the pitch we get into the game and if City are still carving out chances the ball is nonetheless bouncing around in their penalty area rather a lot.  Craig Dawson cushions a header for Pereyra to run onto but Schmeichel anticipates and collects.  An astonishing ball from Capoue in an otherwise quiet half releases Sarr, who finds a bomb of a cross having sent a few into Schmeichel’s arms and Justin – who impresses, but might have been grateful for the lack of supporters given his heritage – denies the combined and perhaps confounded attention of Pereyra and Kabasele.  We end the half on top.

4- During comms, Steve McManaman compliments the club on the colour in the stadium and the organisation of the day.  He also mentions the work done in supporting the hospital over the last few months.  We’re all aware of all of this of course, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted.  We talk about Watford being a community club…  well here’s the evidence, if any were needed.  A sanctuary for hospital staff.  Washing the scrubs.  Free meals.  Meeting room space.  The sensory room adopted by the maternity unit for pre-natal checks.  Players and ex-players ringing older and vulnerable supporters, accessing further support where needed.  Matchday BT sport passes for season ticket holders. Even sorting out season ticket refunds was done considerately, professionally.  Plenty of clubs haven’t managed that, or anything near it.  Speaks volumes that where everything’s up in the air and the club (like so many other institutions) are suddenly deprived of cashflow, they’re prioritising this stuff.  A club to be proud of.  Let’s try to remember this next time we lose to someone shit.

5- The second half begins as the first ended.  Leicester pass it about, don’t get particularly close to our goal with it, whereas we’re on the front foot straight away.  Capoue releases Sarr, Schmeichel’s out quickly.  Then the same two players combine to feed Kiko, whose far post cross is almost converted by Troy, his header drops narrowly wide.  But as the half continues it tips again… Leicester have chances when Söyüncü gets onto the end of a softly awarded free kick, and when Foster flicks an Albrighton drive onto the woodwork and then responds sharply to deny Maddison’s follow-up.  The vast number of subs shift things around a bit but Chalobah and Cleverley in particular show up well.

Quite how significant the events of the last five minutes were only time will tell.  But they certainly provided the burst of adrenaline, the rattle through the emotions that so many will have been craving. In my head the game was over… I’d sort of accepted a 0-0 in a “not a bad point” kind of way, when Chilwell struck.  You can pick holes…  Sarr was clumsy in possession, but a good distance from the goal.  Mariappa wasn’t tight to the left back, but it was an extraordinary pass, take and finish.  A piece of quality worthy of winning the game.

One can only imagine the prevailing mood had that been it.  Hell, the next two or three minutes were miserable enough.  A familiar feeling, again.  “Oh yes, I remember what a last minute punch in the guts feels like”.   But we push back straight away and before you know it the ball’s bouncing in Leicester’s area again and now Kabs is flicking it up and…. oh my good God.  And I’m screaming loud and long enough to damage my throat for the rest of the afternoon and disturb the local barbecues; I only realise on calming down and paying attention again that the scissor kick wasn’t Clevs, who has a track record of late winners, but Craig Dawson of all people.  Dawson was already our man of the match following a rugged and often vital performance in the middle of the defence, but this was something very special.  BT Sport’s pundits lamented that there were no supporters in the ground to enjoy the moment;  they’re right, of course.  But there were Watford fans going mental in thousands of living rooms, offices.  Charging around like idiots looking for someone to tell about it.  What a vital, vital goal… turning the worst possible restart into one that propels us forward in the knowledge that we’ve given a potential Champions League side a hell of a game and dug out a point.

Football’s back.  Not quite as we know it, sure.  But football’s back.   The orns are still magnificent.  Arsenal are still useless wankers.  A small plank of normality back in place.

Bring on the Burnley.

Yoorns.

Foster 4, Femenía 2, Masina 3, *Dawson 5*, Kabasele 3, Hughes 4, Capoue 3, Doucouré 3, Sarr 3, Pereyra 3, Deeney 4
Subs: Welbeck (for Pereyra, 69) 2, Chalobah (for Capoue, 77) NA, Cleverley (for Doucouré, 77) NA, Mariappa (for Femenía, 77) NA, Holebas (for Masina, 88) NA, Cathcart, Pussetto, Gray, Gomes

Comments»

1. franelynn - 20/06/2020

I was unsure about football coming back, but a terrific goal, a decent point and thunks from Matt have made my day

Matt Rowson - 20/06/2020

😊 thanks Fran

2. John - 20/06/2020

Glad you are okay . You didn’t miss much vs Liverpool .

A really good point against a very good side. I hadn’t realised foster had touched the ball that hit the post – so that’s amazing.

One point on BLM – it’s frankly disappointing that some of our so called fans are turning their backs on the club for their stance on this. A club that stands for community and diversity and equality . We see them for what they are .

Burnley * is now huge (* cut paste next game until end of season )

Matt Rowson - 20/06/2020

“Fans”. No loss.

Burnley. Understand Wood and Barnes both have knocks. Shame.

3. David - 20/06/2020

loved it loved it loved it.

4. Kevin - 20/06/2020

So glad to have you back!
You forgot to mention: We. Scored. From. A. Corner.
Oh. And I thought Hughes was magnificent. How long does he need to wait for an England call up?

5. Ray Knight - 21/06/2020

Another lovely balanced match report Matt. Yes Dawson and Hughes magnificent and the rest put in a good shift. Leicester had lots of possession but didn’t get any joy until late on after D Gray came on. That said we did not deserve to lose. We are more than capable of beating Burnley. Let’s do it and put some pressure on Spam, Muff and Villa. COYHs.

6. Harefield Hornet - 21/06/2020

The usual Leicester end of match drama! Lots of positives to take from that but one less scar on my shin from the back of the seat in front of me is an added bonus!! COYH!

7. Alan G Mitchell - 21/06/2020

Welcome back Matt. You have this uncanny knack of bringing tears of laughter to my eyes with a spontaneous one-liner. “Arsenal are still wankers”. . Brilliant !

8. MartinG - 21/06/2020

Good to have your reports back too. Thunk 4 is spot on.
Overall enjoyed the game though disappointed in how Welbeck isn’t making much of a mark. As mentioned by others thought Hughes was great.

9. Sam Barratt (@samdbarratt) - 22/06/2020

Thanks as always Matt for your writing, as a statistician, what do you make of FiveThirtyEight’s call of an 18% chance of going down? No mention of lucky half time chocolate / the girls watching it with you, i assume you had the former and hope the latter are doing well. https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/soccer-predictions/premier-league/

Matt Rowson - 22/06/2020

Thanks Sam. “All models are wrong, but some are useful”… and this analysis looks absolutely tremendous. Strong in both execution and communication, the reflection of the relative probabilities of each league position based on Monte Carlo simulations communicating the uncertainty in the results effectively. It’s not a “THIS is going to happen”, dumbed down and oversimplified, it’s “here’s how likely these outcomes are” which sits much more sensibly alongside the randomness that we know affects outcomes in all sorts of ways.

Where it might fall down, and can’t hope to succeed, is in reflecting the impact of COVID/empty stadia etc etc. A key player(s) not responding well to the absence of a crowd might affect outcomes in an unprecedented and therefore unpredictable way. But 18% “feels” about right to me, for what it’s worth,

Chocolate – an oversight, borne of disruption to routine. Not to be repeated. Thanks for the heads up.

10. Lincoln Hornet - 22/06/2020

Number 4 sums it up perfectly for me, yes we’re shite sometimes but I wouldn’t have it any other way!! Good read as always, thanks.


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