Taken at face value, this year’s Watford team had the appearance of being a very changed team compared to last year. After eight weeks in the 2017/18 season, the Hornets were 4-3-1 with 15 points, fourth in the league table under Marco Silva. This year with Javi Gracia, we’ve hit the skids, after a come from behind, 2-1 win at home against Spurs. Eight games in and Watford are 4-1-3, on 12 points and have slipped to ninth in the league table. It’s a replay of last season. Gracia will be forced into changes this week at the Molineux Stadium against the red hot, Wolves.
Watford will be without Jose Holebas and Christian Kabasele, both players have been instrumental this season on defense. Holebas picked up his fifth red card in just eight games, suspended until October 27. Kabasele picked up a second yellow in the 32′ against Bournemouth, with a foul on Josh King that saw him sent off. Gracia now has his hand forced, after losing Daryl Janmaat a week earlier due to a knee injury. Shades of last season, as the defense appears decimated and Watford in poor form after conceding a season high, four goals ahead of the international break.
Holebas hasn’t been in form since his two assist game against Spurs in game week four, giving him four assists on the season. While his set piece ability will be missed, it looks like Adam Masina will get his Premier League debut start against Wolves. The bigger question, is how to replace the talent in central defense? Gracia can call upon journeyman, Adrian Mariappa, who’s featured just 36 minutes on the season, after playing 2200 minutes last season, after Watford was hit with a rash of defensive injuries. Seb Prodl and Ben Wilmot are also options to fill that void and partner with Craig Cathcart. Wilmot might not have the experience, but has looked good in cup competitions and on the Under-20s. Prodl has yet to see pitch time this season, but played with Cathcart last season in between his injuries.
Injuries on the defensive side of the pitch and a lack of attacking returns isn’t a good combination and the Hornets have seen the results. Their on the pitch efforts continue to be positive, but errors and concentration late in the game have cost them points this season. A late Mitrovic game against Fulham, two late goals by Arsenal, led by the Cathcart own goal, then the 4-0 debacle against the Cherries. It’s time for Gracia to change the look of the starting XI.
As it stands now, I don’t see Watford having a chance against Wolves. While they haven’t posted a massive goal tally, they have put together some excellent defensive performances, returning four clean sheets in the last five games, the only blemish a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. Newly promoted Wolves appear to be have some excellent transfers has transformed this squad in a very competitive one on the pitch, led by Nuno Espirito Santo.
Many question marks ahead of this fixture, as Watford need get back to winning ways, but that could come with new players in the starting XI. Gerard Deulofeu is back, caught 16′ last match but will play a key roll down the right flank. He’s got pace, skill and the ability to create, similar to what Roberto Pereyra brings to the left flank. It comes down the two men in the middle.
The return of Deulofeu means there could be an odd man out in the midfield. Will Hughes had been playing OOP on the right with freedom to move centrally, as Janmaat filled in down the flank. Hughes now has Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure to contend with in the middle of the pitch. Combined the duo has contributed three assists on the season, but have served as an anchor in the middle, which has benefited the Hornets at both ends of the pitch. Let’s not forget Nathaniel Chalobah, now fit and coming off his England debut.
Captain, Troy Deeney has outplayed Andre Gray through eight games based on statistic. He’s been integral in Watford’s success early in the season. Gray has scored three goals, to Deeney’s two but could it be time to introduce Issac Success?
The Nigerian moved from Grenada to Watford in 2016, had a loan spell at Malaga before returning to the Vic. He’s posted 23 appearances for the Golden Boys, but has looked good in his 103 minutes he logged this season. Who does he spell? The captain? Gray, with three goals? The partnership between Success and Deeney has looked very good, big, strong forwards, with Success having the pace, as we saw against Arsenal.
Injuries. Question marks. Lack of form might be too much to overcome as the Hornets visit Wolves. One aspect that can’t be called into question, heart and the positive outlook that has surrounded the Golden Boys since the start of the season. Unlike last season, there is a different feeling with the squad and the supporters. It’s been a rough patch, but Etienne Capoue sums up the season to date, “I want to continue this journey, we are going the same way. The club shows everyone that we want to get into the top 10. The club is fully behind the players. We have a very good energy. Even those who don’t play are focused.”
Prediction: Wolves 2 Watford 0