Much can change over the course of 12 months, be that as it may, Watford have struggled against David Wagner’s Terriers. Last season, Huddersfield was promoted to the Premier for the first time ever and finished 16th (37 points) in the league table. That was just four points off of Watford at 14th. In both games last season, the Terriers were victorious, as they posted a 4-1 victory last December at Vicarage Road and 1-0, earlier this year. Going back to the Championship League, Huddersfield have won the last four out of five, as Wagner has won all three matches he’s faced Watford.
History being what it is, I put it in the past. This is a different Watford team under Javi Gracia than it was with Marco Silva, who was was in the midst of running the team into the ground before being dismissed in May, 2017. The Hornets have a three game run that sees them travel to Newcastle and So’ton after this weekend before the table turns through early December. “They defeated us twice last season and we know it will be a very difficult game for us. We have to show our best and try and be demanding,” said Gracia.
Last weekend, it took just 58 seconds for the Hornets to put two goals past Rui Patricio and defeat Wolves at Molineux, 2-0. Gracia made four changes ahead of the fixture, with suspensions to Jose Holebas and Christian Kabasele. Troy Deeney didn’t travel, due to a nagging hamstring injury and Andre Gray started on the bench. Issac Success was the further Hornet forward on the day. “We were playing with one striker and Roberto [Pereyra], Gerard [Deulofeu] and Will [Hughes] behind him. You can find a different style of play than you can with two strikers,” said Gracia. The formation worked very well on the day, which gives the Watford boss much to consider ahead of the Terriers visit.
With Deeney still sidelined and doubtful for the game, Success could be called upon for this second start, Gracia said,”I have doubts if Troy will be back, he is in the same process of recovery from the original injury and I do not know if he will be available or not.” Success looked lively up top, holding up play, using his power and strength to frustrate the Wolves defense. Given the chance, he faces a defense that has conceded 18 goals on the season.
Gracia has some decisions to make ahead of Saturday, as Adrian Mariappa and Adam Masina both started on defense and played very well. “I am confident in all the players and the problem for me is that I have to choose only 11 to start the game. I think the players can feel that I trust them and if they do not start they can make an impact later,” said Gracia. While Masina played well enough to keep a starting spot, Holebas was missed with his pinpoint deliveries in dead ball situations. Craig Cathcart has partnered centrally with Kabasele, who has turned into a defensive force ahead of Ben Foster, but much like Masina, Mapps put in a strong shift to warrant a second start.
Across the starting XI, Gracia has some trough decisions to make. Last week’s formation moved away from the traditional 4-4-2 with Deeney and Gray leading the attack to a 4-2-3-1. While Gerard Deulofeu started up top with Success, he dropped with Roberto Pereyra and Will Hughes to support the attack. The central midfield positions held by Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure have been the highlight of the season. This partnership, like those in the defensive end and up top have really matured. Capoue went “ka-pow” last weekend from 25-yards to score his first goal on the season, while Doucoure added two assists.
Their important can’t be understated in the Watford team, as their play in the midfield has dominated games, allowing the Hornets to maintain possession and help to create on the attacking end of the pitch. Both midfielders are near the top of the league when it comes to pass completion, Capoue with 83% and Doucoure with 82 %. Both midfielders continue to command the middle of the pitch, dropping back to support the defense, based on their heat maps.
While Wagner has Watford number during his tenure at Huddersfield, this Saturday could see the trend reversed. The Terriers played well last weekend against Liverpool in their 1-0 loss, but created just one chance on target. The Hornets need to maintain the level they were at against Wolves or Huddersfield could surprise, as they have scored in every game this season away from John Smith’s Stadium. Given their struggles at both ends of the pitch, I do feel confident in Watford’s chances.
The return of Deulofeu to the starting XI given the Hornets more pace and creativity going forward. As mentioned, Success could be in line for his second start against a Huddersfield defense that has just one clean sheet on the season, conceding 83 shots inside the box this season. Every aspect I look at comes up Watford. Biased? Maybe. Based on last week, Watford has regained form and looking to build on last weekend’s win.
Prediction: Watford 3 Huddersfield Town 1