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Sheffield Wednesday 0 Watford 0 (19/09/2020) 20/09/2020

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

1- If, as has often been observed, and with relevance to the times when travelling to games was possible at all, you only went for the football you’d have a pretty miserable time of it.  There’s other stuff.  Lots of stuff.  Particularly for away games like this one.  The anticipation for one thing…  and, yes, I look forward to the games anyway but it’s not the same as the build up to a trip across the country.  There’s getting up early in the morning to facilitate such a trip, not remotely the same as getting up for work even if it boils down to essentially the same thing.  The sense of mission as you start your journey.  The Ginsters break on the motorway.  The conversation en route.  The visit to a local hostelry before the game, the burger or chips from a van on the way to the ground.  The anticipation as the ground fills up… and then the celebration or rumination and swearing at roadworks and 606 callers as you head back again.

We don’t get that right now, quite obviously.  Our experience is pared down to the focal point without any of the accompanying kerfuffle, and even then it’s on a screen and not in a stadium, with limited company rather than thousands of like-minded individuals.

Not the same, obviously.  Some have argued that football shouldn’t be played under these circumstances, “football without fans is nothing” and so forth. Leaving aside the likelihood that football without football won’t be retrievably football for very long…  I’d suggest that if said folk are lucky enough to have lives that are well-rounded and full enough not to have been compromised, butchered, restricted by circumstances such that they can take this version of football or leave it at the moment then good for them, but wish they didn’t feel that they had to deprive the rest of us of a bit of something that’s a bit like normal if you don’t stare too hard.  Cheers.

2- Given the tantalising talk of Ismaïla Sarr and Luis Suárez maybe coming into consideration and in the light of Liverpool seemingly filling their Sarr-shaped hole with Diogo Jota I won’t have been the only one the have been slightly disappointed by a line-up which saw one change, Glenn Murray effectively replacing Kiko Femenía with Ken Sema dropping to wing-back.  We were facing Wednesday at perhaps a slightly unfortunate time… a squad that has lost a large number of players over the summer will feel the pinch of numbers at some point but having recorded an impressive win in Cardiff will have a bit of tunnel vision in chasing down that twelve point deficit.

The start of the game was scruffy in the extreme.  We started slowly, and as at Oxford struggled to get much of a foothold for the first half.  The home side were pressing aggressively and we struggled for controlled possession all over the pitch.  For half an hour we scarcely ventured out of our own half, although Wednesday rarely looked like capitalising on their territorial advantage.  Their closest calls came from two generously awarded free kicks each taken by Izzy Brown on the edge of the box.  First Dominic Iorfa and then Tom Lees failed to take advantage of a free header in the box – Ken Sema, it appeared, the culprit on each occasion.   On another occasion Josh Windass went down in the area – described on comms as having anticipated a challenge, not found it and gone down because he didn’t know what else to do.  As an aside, I try to avoid other people’s opinions as far as is reasonable before writing this stuff – if there’s any value in these reports it’s not in reproducing second-hand verdict – but in the case of the Yorkshire Post’s hilarious “blatant penalty” I’ll make an exception.  Other than this however we again managed to navigate a period of inferiority without looking like being punished for it.

3- And having gotten a foothold towards the end of the first half we started to push on in the second.  Glenn Murray had a combative but largely ineffective hour or so with João Pedro alongside him starved of the ball, a problem since the Brazilian’s quick feet and nimbleness seemed as likely a way of navigating Wednesday’s press as any other option that we had.  With the introduction of Stipe Perica that balance of power shifted more absolutely and irretrievably;  the Croat succeeded in holding the ball up where Murray had been less effective, and suddely João Pedro was sparkling alongside him.

As we picked up steam the home side began to look ragged, and were relying increasingly on the sort of last ditch tackle that in-control defending ought to render unnecessary.  That Wednesday weren’t in control reflected our growing confidence more than any ineptitude in their part.  We were sparking into life with increasing frequency as the games progressed – it’s wasn’t enough, but it was something.  A breathlessly deft move saw four or five players combine, a blink-and-you-miss-it rattling attack that concluded with João Pedro playing a ridiculously deft flick into Chalobah who lifted a ball to the unmarked Perica.  Slightly ahead of the ball, Perica got the elevation to head downwards but straight at the keeper.  Another quick exchange, again involving Perica, saw Quina brought down on the edge of the area, Sema thumping the free kick over.  João Pedro juggled wide on the left to release Cleverley who put his shot too close to Dawson as defenders closed in.  Sema crossed from the left, Kabasele fired narrowly over.  Sema down the left again broke into the area with some clever footwork only to be denied by Rhodes. We ended the game well in the ascendancy, but over the piece while we looked solid enough and could have won the game we didn’t quite do enough in the final third to feel hard done-by with a point.

5- So what have we learned?  Hardly news given Ivić’s reported stylistic preferences but we look an awful lot better at stopping the other lot than scoring ourselves.  But for our marking at set pieces we looked pretty impenetrable today, as you’d hope from that extremely proficient back three with Cleverley and Chalobah sitting in front of them.  Chalobah, as an aside, is becoming a candidate for that all-but-forgotten mantle of boo-boy, a role largely unoccupied for a decade or so but was excellent today, strong defending and effective supporting attacks.  Better.  All that’s stopping him dominating football games at this level is a need for a bit more assertiveness.

Meanwhile wing-backs are a fine thing in general but particularly when one of them is Jeremy Ngakia, someone who only operates at full speed and puts in a beast of a cross.  On the other side, Kenzema remains a force for good and whilst it’s still not clear exactly where he fits someone who can whip in a cross like that with his left foot given no space to do it is always going to have a role if Stipe Perica is waiting in the centre.

This issues are further forward, where the periods of slower passing followed by lightning quick interchange to penetrate seem to demand Pedro’s ongoing inclusion.  Perica looks tidy and convincing. Quina was more effective today, Murray has a role but overall it’s not potent enough, not yet.

On the plus side, Deeney, Deulofeu, Welbeck and Sarr are waiting in the wings.  Each is likely to leave, but perhaps it’s unlikely that all four will, Sarr the name we’re watching as the clock ticks down.  Any one of them would render our forward line vastly more potent.  Then there’s the less familiar Suárez and the much maligned but still vital threat of Gray.

We’re not in a bad place, it’s coming together and we’re picking up results as we go.  Work in progress.


Foster 3, Cathcart 3, *Kabasele 4*, Wilmot 3, Ngakia 4, Sema 3, Cleverley 3, Chalobah 4, Quina 3, João Pedro 3, Murray 2
Subs: Perica (for Murray, 58) 3, Garner (for Quina, 73) 3, Pussetto (for João Pedro, 88) NA, Sierralta, Dawson, Sinclair, Bachmann


1. David - 20/09/2020

Completely agree about the analogy about life being about the journey not the destination. My walk to West Brompton station and train to watford junction are an integral part of the match day experience.

Chalobah needs a run of games where he is asked to do one job. Comparisons with Capoue and Doucs are not fair because they could do everything. I don’t think he has the athleticism for a box to box game but there is a role in front of the back three/four/five which he can do.

2. Kevin Bernitz - 20/09/2020

I’ll admit to have bring critical of Chalobah recently. But thought he showed signs of his old self in the second half. He keeps that improvement up and it’s like a new signing. And once again let’s give credit where it’s due to Cleverly – his work rate is astounding.

3. Harefield Hornet - 20/09/2020

That’s a very fair summing up. You’ve mentioned a few of the missing players who are likely to go but I’m a bit baffled by the continued absence of Capoue and Bobby? Did they have a clause in their contracts which said – in the event of relegation just put your feet up until someone buys you! Are they training – or doing anything at the moment?

Matt Rowson - 21/09/2020

I’ve no idea. But Adam Leventhal has suggested that Capoue is one who doesn’t have a relegation clause in his contract whilst Pereyra looked likely to move on even had we stayed up. Capoue has certainly been described as “injured” or “working his way back to fitness” but I suspect in both cases it’s a matter of not wanting to risk injuring players whose value needs to be realised, and Vlad’s commitment that he only wants players in the group who want to be there.

4. Steve G - 20/09/2020

Once again we showed that tendency, so painfully apparent at the end of last season, to start slowly – while it may have been a bit harsh, we could have gone in 2 down at half time (and almost certainly would have done against a top level attack). The second half was orders of magnitude better, though, and there were again some tantalising glimpses of what Pedro might offer us in terms of skill, positioning and imagination.

What’s the situation with Welbeck and Sarr? Are they actually injured or is it just that they are being wrapped in cotton wool pending possible transfers?

Matt Rowson - 21/09/2020

See above. Vlad was adamant post match that Sarr was training with the group… we’ll see.

5. Ray Knight - 20/09/2020

Impressed with Ivic so far. He is trying to mileage in Murray’s legs. Price impressive when he came on unfortunately Sarr to Manure is pretty nailed on if only to placate their fans.

6. PEDantic - 20/09/2020

Thanks, as ever, for your views Matt. For me, by far the best news to come out of the afternoon was that you are taking on the marvellous Watford Archive. I have missed it hugely and would be grateful for updates on progress from time to time. I’m sure it’s in good hands.
As for the game, it was one of those that makes it seem inconceivable that any match can end with a score line of 4-3 or the like, so few and far between were the chances. Unlike some, I agree with you that we are not in such a bad state at the moment but I await the transfer window “slamming shut” with great interest.

Matt Rowson - 20/09/2020

Thanks for your vote of confidence. There are a few of us, including my coeditor, working on it and trying to get it in a more sustainable and useful format. The player database is more or less updated up to end of August but the reformatting and checking is taking a while. Don’t want to be trusted with it and do a bad job but this is not strictly new. Been on the case for mire than 12 months.

7. Sequel - 20/09/2020

Kenzema. Love it.

Matt Rowson - 20/09/2020

Indeed. Not my work.

8. Roger Boon.(Hopemole) - 20/09/2020

Hi Matt. Nice to see a face after all these years and keep up the good work on the archive. Any chance you could give Gray at the Wobby some much needed tuition? Thanks for an excellent report which mirrored my view of the game entirely except of course while I was in Yorkshire you were in Oxford!

Matt Rowson - 20/09/2020

Thanks Roger. Oxford? Not me…?

9. Simoninoz - 21/09/2020

I miss the Watford Archive so much when I am in a pensive and nostalgic mood and feel the need to relive something horrible like 1975. It’s great news to hear you will be giving it the kiss of life.

Matt Rowson - 21/09/2020

It’s still up as Trefor left it, now at http://www.watfordfcarchive.co.uk. Being refreshed offline.

Simoninoz - 21/09/2020

Oooh! There it is. I wonder why I couldn’t access it recently? My incompetence probably. Thank you, Matt. I must now visit something nice like 1981/2. A Div 2 promo season; just hoping….

PEDantic - 21/09/2020

It’s not you. It definitely used to be .com, not .co.uk.

Matt Rowson - 21/09/2020

Yep. Sorry, had to be relocated.

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