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Watford 2 Swansea City 0 (08/05/2021) 08/05/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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2.3  Parsimony
Since all models are wrong the scientist cannot obtain a “correct” one by excessive elaboration. On the contrary following William of Occam he should seek an economical description of natural phenomena. Just as the ability to devise simple but evocative models is the signature of the great scientist so overelaboration and overparameterization is often the mark of mediocrity.
2.4  Worrying Selectively

Since all models are wrong the scientist must be alert to what is importantly wrong. It is inappropriate to be concerned about mice when there are tigers abroad.

Box, G. E. P. (1976), “Science and statistics”, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 71 (356): 791–799

From which is derived the aphorism “all models are wrong, but some are useful”.  In other words, a statistical model which approximates to the real world is never going to be a perfect representation of the thing it describes.  I can help scientists generate data that allows me to create a model that will predict an output from certain inputs.  If I know the recipe of a product, perhaps I can predict how quickly it will melt at a given temperature, or how much consumers will like it.

My predictions will be wrong.  Most of them.  In as much as it’s possible to tell.  The point is, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is if my prediction, or more generally my model, is close enough to be useful.

2- It doesn’t feel much like the last day of the season.  It doesn’t feel much like anything really, enjoyed as it is from this season’s detached vantage point in the study, window slightly ajar, snacks and drinks in place, match on the big screen, other stuff on the smaller screen. WhatsApp is accessible but carefully hidden and muted to guard against unwanted telegraphs of what’s about to happen from folk with faster streams than mine, we’ve all gotten better at this with experience.

But of all the things that it doesn’t feel like, the last day of the season is one of the things that it feels like least.  At this stage you’re normally looking forward to summer holidays for starters;  these are a moving target at the very best in these unprecedented times.  There might well be alcohol involved on the final day but I’m not cracking open a beer on my own at 12.30pm. There’d certainly normally be some effort to cross paths with the mates that you won’t see again until the next one, the high five-cum-handshake and “see you in August, mate” with people who you’ve known for years but never seen outside of Vicarage Road.  Not this year. And of course it’s normally sweltering on such occasions, rather than pissing it down with rain.  Sunshine was surely a reasonable expectation, a minimum requirement, unaffected as it is by Stuff and Things, one assumes.  Apparently not.

At least the club are putting on an obstinately excited performance.  There was a risk that after the lord mayor’s show the season might end inappropriately blandly, the irrelevant disappointment of defeat at Brentford last week case in point.  Not that anyone’s complaining, these last two fixtures being of no consequence is a tremendous result all round, but a repeat showing wouldn’t have sent us into the close season with quite the spring in our step that we should have for all that last Saturday was far from a catastrophe.

So the fabulously over the top explosions, flares, torches as the teams emerge, let alone the overdue return of whatever it is that shoots ridiculous volumes of yellow streamers into the heavens, are a defiant clarion call.  The streamers respect tradition by fastening themselves to the roof of the Sir Elton John stand forming a theatrical curtain above the stage for all wide angle shots (and for the man himself, to whom the camera returns frequently).

This buoyancy is evident in the players as they emerge;  grins everywhere and fists bumped with Nate Chalobah, Joseph Hungbo and the others restricted to the sidelines.  Swansea boss Steve Cooper, who limited screen time has occasionally presented as peevish and joyless, seems to be readily bumping fists too, in contrast to his captain Matt Grimes who noticeably refrains from any handshakes or fist bumps as the teams greet each other.  Perhaps he’s mindful of Stuff and Things.  Perhaps he’s just a miserable bastard.  Like Ivan Toney, if for different reasons, that ship has probably sailed so it’s all the same to us one way or the other.

3- Xisco has named virtually a second pick eleven.  It would, you suspect, be an entirely second pick eleven if Joe Hungbo hadn’t done his hammy at Brentford; the steadfast Ken Sema (steadfastness a rare quality in a winger but then Ken, a winger with the build of a heavyweight boxer, is a rare specimen) the only incontrovertible first choice from a fully fit squad amongst the starters.  There are nonetheless eight full internationals in the eleven, which tells some of the story of our success this season.

Swansea, meanwhile, have gone strong with what looks like a first-choice line-up.  With last week still front of mind things look a little ominous as the visitors get in down the left in the first minute;  Navarro gets away with a slide tackle from the wrong side in the box but that’s the last cheap opening they’re going to get;  for all that we’ve bemoaned the erstwhile absence of a physical specimen like Sierralta as one of the many things that might have prevented relegation a year ago we don’t half have some smart defenders as Cathcart and Kaba remind us throughout.  Within a minute Hourihane does his side no favours with a ludicrous dive some distance from the bemused Isaac Success within the penalty area;  it screams desperation this early in proceedings, marks his side’s card and probably plays a part in the official’s interpretation of subsequent optimistic but slightly less daft City claims.

Swansea are a bit odd.  At the Liberty Stadium in Xisco’s first away game they looked a tidy side;  solid defensively with enough going forward to be productive.  Plausible shouts for automatic on that evidence.  Subsequently they’ve undergone the sort of character transformation usually reserved for soap operas that choose not to write out a popular anti-hero at the end of their story arc.  On this evidence they look both blunt and get-attable, and have still contrived to finish fourth.  Not difficult to understand why FiveThirtyEight have them fourth favourites, a one-in-eight shot for the play-offs (anyone but Bournemouth, etc).

Swansea’s positive start doesn’t last long.  The first half hour is enjoyably open for all that it doesn’t produce any goals, and Ken is a key protagonist.  Three minutes in (we’ll pick up speed I promise, my dinner’s ready…) he tricks his way down the flank and pulls a ball back slightly too deep for Zinckernagel who does well to get as much power and direction as he does on the shot, but not enough. Back at the other end Ayew wriggles outside of Cathcart and shoots optimistically from a tight angle, Ben Foster is equal to it.  Sema thunders up the left flank again.  Gosling crashes in on Ayew, not for the last time, in a manner that suggests untold previous.

It calms down a bit, but only a bit.  Swansea get bursts of conviction that fizzle out on the flood barrier that erects itself around the edge of our box.  Lazaar becomes more prominent in what will comfortably be his most convincing outing in yellow, ending the half with an outrageous one-touch lay-off to a surprised Gosling to kill the pace on a crossfield ball.  Hourihane finds the space to shoot but from outside the box, Foster pushes wide.  Sema holds off two challenges to progress down the left and then slugs his cross out for a throw.  The half ends.

4- Lucky half time chocolate is a bowl of chicken and leek soup, which curtails note taking at the start of a second half that continues in much the same vein as the first. Swansea slowly, deliberately, work themselves a half-chance which sees Cullen curl over from Lowe’s lay-off, perhaps their best move of the game;  Watford break with far more vigour but can’t find the final ball for all that Andre Gray has been charging around looking for it since kick-off.

Until we do.  We get lucky with a kind deflection off Marc Guéhi which sees the ball drop onto the unwitting head of  Gray in a manner reminiscent of the opener here against Bristol City when All This Started, but to mark it down as a fluke would be to do a disservice to Ken Sema’s first assist of the calendar year, another bomb of a cross from the left flank.

From this point on the destination of the points is never in doubt.  In part this reflects the changing of the guard on both sides;  the Swans give it ten minutes, but then make four changes with the forthcoming play-offs in mind.  Meanwhile on come a combative Will Hughes, a deft João Pedro and ultimately Troy Deeney…  looking heavy and making limited impact but a very welcome arrival whose “Troy….Deeney?” introduction by Tim Coombs  on the tannoy is well-judged.

Lazaar becomes more prominent, blossoming as the season comes to a close.  A formidable double block in the box sees him emerge with the ball and surge upfield.  Later, as the game closes, a João Pedro lay-off bounces helpfully and the winger, by now forming a Moroccan left flank with Adam Masina, clouts a shot that Woodman does well to repel.  Too little too late, probably, but he doesn’t do his chances of a contract somewhere any harm.

The same of course is true of Isaac.  With the game trundling to a close he’s released by Marc Navarro and belts home…. muscles bulging, top corner, the net protruding with its ferocity.  A Roy-of-the-Rovers goal.  “Freddie Woodman didn’t even sniff it” would have come the speech bubble from the Rookery, if it hadn’t been empty.  Isaac’s few champions have been desperate for something to go in off his not inconsiderable backside, in the absence of that This Will Do.  The inevitable damburst that would follow this development cruelly curtailed by the end of the season.  If only.

The game, and the season, ends.

5- Someone asked me this week if I’d enjoyed this season, all things considered.  And the answer is…  well, not as much as any season which involves, you know, being at games and that.  On that basis, the logic follows, this is the worst season ever.

And yet.  The imperfections have almost exclusively been down to Stuff and Things outside of our control.  No, it hasn’t been a “real” season in that sense.  It’s been an approximation, a pastiche but… “All models are wrong, but some are useful”.

And hasn’t this been useful.  However hard it’s been, the last year, imagine doing it without Watford.  On the pitch, all but flawless.  Automatic promotion with games to spare, ninety-one points, nineteen home wins in 23, equalling Reading’s record of 30 goals  conceded in a season at this level, clean sheets in half of our league games.  A team that, since the mid-season changes, has screamed unity…  it’s much easier to be unified when you’re winning every week of course but each fuels the other.

Off the pitch.  Hornet Hive has been a thing of joy;  Emma, Jon, Tommy Mooney, Robbo and the rest have been utterly magnificent.  Gifton Noel-Williams’ unexpected pre-match candour, professing that it’s enabled him to feel “part of the club again”…  remembering the sight of the awkward figure being celebrated in the back of the stand at St Andrews in 1999, the trajectory of his career already  knocked cruelly off path at the age of 20 I’m almost in tears.

The decision to dispose of Ivić.  Even if you agreed at the time, would you have been bold enough to do it in the circumstances?  If you had the responsibility of making that decision, if you knew what the consequences would be irrespective of the fact that your track record involves leading a club whose centre of gravity had previously been roughly fourteenth in he Championship (and lower still, pre GT) to promotion, a cup final and five seasons in the Premier League?  Big, bold call.  Crucial call.

Hornets at Home.  The Community Trust.  The support offered to the hospital for goodness sake, selflessness when it was absolutely needed.  The fact that there’s almost certainly significant stuff that I’ve forgotten…

Everyone thinks their club is unique, is special.  That’s how it should be.

Everyone else is wrong.

See you next season.  In the Premier League.

Yooorns.

Foster 4, Navarro 3, Cathcart 4, Kabasele 4, Lazaar 4, Sánchez 3, Gosling 4, Zinckernagel 2, Success 3, *Sema 4*, Gray 3
Subs:  Hughes (for Zinckernagel, 65) 3, João Pedro (for Sánchez, 65) 3, Deeney (for Gray, 72) 2, Wilmot (for Gosling, 82) NA, Masina (for Sema, 82) NA, Troost-Ekong, Sierralta, Perica, Bachmann

Comments»

1. gardnersb63 - 08/05/2021

A joy to read as always. From remotest Dorset (having moved here six years ago and having relinquished my season ticket) these thoughts, mutterings and insight’s keep me connected to my club. I am not one to write this type of comment but today, bizarrely, I am moved to do so. Thank you.

Matt Rowson - 08/05/2021

many thanks for doing so

2. JP - 08/05/2021

Everyone else is wrong. No more need be said.

3. Olly - 08/05/2021

Thanks for guiding us through another season, when bhappy has been needed even more then ever – just as valuable as Hive Live in remaining connected to this incredible football club we all love. In the virtual way that we’ve become all too used to: ‘See you in August.’

4. Ray Knight - 09/05/2021

Many thanks Matt for your intelligent musings and balanced reports during the strangest of seasons. One that I have enjoyed more than I like to admit. There are many positives going forward besides actual promotion. Plans to either revamp Vic Road or move to a new site. Traditionalist that I am the latter would still represent welcome progress. Gratitude to Pozzo for making the right call on changing the coach mid-season, even though Ivic did lay down solid defensive foundations. Gratitude and pride for the support for our hospital and the community when most needed. Gratitude that Munoz has got the squad all pulling in the same direction. Gratitude that we know exactly where to strengthen I.e. up front. Most of all optimism that we should be getting back to the stadium very soon. Best wishes to you Matt and all loyal Horns fans. Keep safe and enjoy the summer!

5. David Wray - 09/05/2021

Thanks to you both for your excellent reports as always. Thanks to Hive we’ve had even more to enjoy
As you say Matt Watford have helped us through some tough times this year.

Matt Rowson - 09/05/2021

Thanks David

6. paullbaxter - 09/05/2021

Many thanks for providing the best football writing to be found anywhere, Matt (and Ian, too). I like the fact that I can tell which one of you is writing the report from the first couple of sentences as you both have your own styles.

I have seen Watford play more games this season than any year since I began watching in 1967, and I guess I will never see so many matches again. That is just one reason why the season has seemed so strange. For one, I don’t remember finding games so unenjoyable when we have been doing well as under Ivic so it was great to actually enjoy most of the second half of the season. Next year will be tough and the recruitment team are going to have to be on top form but I’m happy to worry about that on another day.

Matt Rowson - 09/05/2021

Cheers Paul

7. Ian (Royston ROF) Dell - 09/05/2021

So in anticpation I wait for “where is the Wobby Clock”, “red shorts or Black” out of season debates..but for now I think I,ll have a wander around Stevenage Bus Station and look for the good bits.

..thanks Matt, look forward to next seasons wanderings..

..ohh and has anybody said…”WE ARE PREMIER LEAGUE, SAY WE ARE….”

Matt Rowson - 09/05/2021

Cheers Ian. Look forward to intel on Stevenage bus station.

8. Andy hoarenet - 09/05/2021

Hi Matt, thanks for another season of the best match reports any supporter could wish for. I just want to express how much I look forward to reading yours and ig’s musings each week, it’s rare to find intelligent and often amusing stuff on the net, and even rarer to find it relating to football.

It has been great to see the emergence of Nate and that Will has been placed in his correct position. As for Gifton, he was just getting going when Paul Butler of Sunderland broke his hip all those years ago, I was just 10 yards or so away and I can still feel the anger and injustice of it. It’s great that he has a connection to the club again and long may that continue.

Young Mr Hungbo seems to have a huge talent and reminds me of a certain Mr Young. The perfect summer for me would start with the return of Ash. I have been waiting/hoping for that to happen for 15 years.

Anyhow thanks again to Matt and Ig reading your thoughts means so much to me.

Matt Rowson - 09/05/2021

Cheers Andy. Agree about Gifton. Few things in football have made me quite as angry. Hungbo… a bit more powerful than Ash was at the same stage? But yes, I’d have Ash back like a shot.

9. Harefield Hornet - 09/05/2021

Agree with all of the above and with last seasons escape act cruelly scuttled by the C19 lockdown I cant help feeling that a wrong has been righted. Strange to think though that if C19 hadn’t happened we could have been relegated this season and be facing a year or longer in the Championship? Sliding doors ! – Have a good summer all and looking forward to the end of term reports.

10. Fabian - 09/05/2021

I too would like to add my appreciation to all the hard work that you (and Ian) have put into this blog over not just this season, when it has been needed more than ever, but also the many years you have been doing so in this and the previous guise. I thoroughly agree with the positive comments Hive has been receiving as well – that has fast become a highlight of my week, and it didn’t go unnoticed that following your appearance on it, you finally updated your blog photo! Have a good off-season, and ‘see’ you next season back in the Premier League.

Matt Rowson - 09/05/2021

Cheers Fabian

11. Stuart Sharkey - 09/05/2021

This is the 50th season I have supported ‘the Horn’s’ and what a journey it has been. So proud of what the club has done on and off the pitch this season. As a result of the wonderful Hive Live I have seen more games this season than any other, and have almost got use to the lack of crowd noise! Thanks Matt and Ian for your reports which have helped me, and I’m sure others, keep some kind of perspective when things looked difficult this season. Going back to Hive Live the one thing that I am puzzled by is that Luther has never been a guest. Has there been a falling out? I know he was not happy about the reference to him in the Gray interview, but don’t think that is the reason.

Matt Rowson - 09/05/2021

Thanks Stuart. Luther… no idea.

12. Steve G - 09/05/2021

At the risk of being repetitive, but I do think it’s worth saying, huge thanks to you, Matt, and to Ian, firstly for the sheer volume of your writing over this strangest of seasons – that level of commitment to this rather wonderful online Hornets community is something for which we are all grateful, I’m sure.

But to maintain such a consistent level of high quality writing that combines intelligent analysis, passion, rational logic and humour is truly remarkable. Thank you so much for all that you have done to help lift our spirits during what has been a difficult year in so many ways.

As I type this while wearing my Philosophy Football ‘Shankly’ shirt, could I also commend you, Matt, for managing to tread that delicate line of standing up for decent, progressive values in the context of the game, while ensuring that this remains a footballing, rather than a political blog.

Onwards and upwards and here’s to being back at the Vic in the new season.

Matt Rowson - 09/05/2021

Cheers Steve. My own Camus top has long since departed to wherever lost t-shirts go… to be rectified

13. franelynn - 09/05/2021

Thank you so much, Matt (and ig), for providing these reports this season. The motivation to report on a match that you have watched on a screen must have been hard at times. The fact that you found it is admirable and has been another positive in this season which was far more enjoyable than it had any right to be

Matt Rowson - 09/05/2021

Thanks Fran. No bonus points for getting George Box into a match report?

franelynn - 09/05/2021

This reader appreciated it anyway 🙂

14. John Parslow - 09/05/2021

As someone who still occasionally reads old match reports on BSaD – the writing in the lower league games is always better as it comes without the upper league tinsel.
A great read and thanks both for a great season !

Matt Rowson - 09/05/2021

Thanks John

Graham French - 09/05/2021

Thank you Matt & Ian for all your musings, insights & hugely entertaining writing in this strangest of seasons. Over such a grim period in our history, football has been, for me, one of several lifelines. Like you, Matt , I’m proud of what the club has done off the pitch – & on the pitch it’s been pretty decent too.
Obviously we wanted to be promoted but it’s hard to see next season being quite as much fun as the 2nd half of this one – although we should have the huge bonus of going to the Vic. But I look forward to being proved wrong!
And undoubtedly our club is unique & special, as are our bhappy writers.

Matt Rowson - 10/05/2021

cheers Graham

15. Joseph - 10/05/2021

Another big thank you, Matt and Ian, for your truly excellent reporting throughout this season. Like many, BHappy has become a cornerstone of my Watford-supporting experience over the years. Whatever the result, I look forward to reading your posts every week and often come back for the comments which your entertaining and insightful words inspire. Bring on next season! COYH

Matt Rowson - 10/05/2021

thanks Joseph

16. Straightnochaser - 10/05/2021

I can honestly say that I would not have missed Hive Live anything like as much as bHappy had either suffered enforced absence.

Keep on keeping on and more power to your collective elbows!

Matt Rowson - 10/05/2021

😊


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