It was another game against a very below average team, one in which the Hornets dominated again, but came away fortunate to draw level on a late goal by Abdoulaye Doucoure off the bench. The numbers only tell part of the story, as boss, Javi Gracia made six changes to the team after their 2-1 loss, midweek to Chelsea. This after comments from “tired” players after the midweek fixture, “But I have to make decisions about that and knowing we are going to play three games more in the next days, to manage the players maybe in the next games I have to change something to compete at our best level,” said Gracia
We need to look no further than the back line of Watford as Adrian Mariappa, Adam Masina and Daryl Janmaat, were given starts. Bottom line on Saturday, they weren’t good enough against the 15th place team that had scored just two goals in their last four games. On the day Masina was a step behind and was playing catch up on the Salomon Rondon goal. On the left, he wasn’t the quality we’ve seen from starter, Jose Holebas and unfortunately, it showed against Newcastle.
Janmaat returned to the starting XI after missing 13 weeks due to a knee injury and looked a shade of his former self. He was able to get forward through out the match, sending in three crosses. Defensively, he was exposed on the Matt Ritchie cross that was converted by Rondon to give the Magpies a 1-0 lead. Mariappa stepped in, as he’s done much of the season, due to the injury to Christian Kabasele when he collided with the goalpost midweek. He and Cathcart had their hands full with the Venezuelan big man all day due to this physicality and prowess in the air.
Doucoure didn’t partner in the middle, giving Domingos Quina his third start in five games, partnering with Etienne Capoue. It wasn’t the same command control sort of game Watford is known for in the middle. While he started well, over the course of his 53 minutes, he struggled. Knock this off to his inexperience, at age 19 but he was dominated much of the day by the Newcastle midfield. The goal would come, thanks in part to Doucoure, who would head home the goal from a nice Gerard Deulofeu cross to equalize in the 82′.
“I have to choose in all the games different players and in this moment playing every three, four days I have to give the chances for all of my players. “I’ve many times said all my players deserve the chance to play because they are working very well. We are a good squad, not only a good team and if I don’t do it in this moment when can I do it,” said Gracia in defense of his changes on Saturday.
I’ve been high on Deulofeu when he signed with the Hornets earlier this year, since returning to the pitch as a regular starter. I’ve tapped him as the best attacking option in our starting next. He’s got the speed and skill, playing OOP with Troy Deeney or Issac Success to complement these big men. The interplay with Roberto Pereyra has been excellent as well, but one aspect he’s lacked, finishing. Deulofeu had change, one on one to beat Martin Dubravka, but was unable to convert, sending the ball at the keeper. Pereyra on the day was inconsistent at best, which is what we’ve seen all season long from the Argentine.
Going to be a tough run for the Hornets, who play six of their next eight games away from Vicarage Road, where they are 3-3-3 on the season. Spurs in game week 24 and Liverpool in game week 28 look to be the most challenging fixtures. ‘ Gracia remains positive, “I think we started well, created good chances, clear chances and didn’t take them and after that we knew the game would be very demanding for us, but after conceding the goal it was even more difficult for us. At the end I’m happy with my players and maybe the game could have a different result, but after the game I’m happy with how behaviour and how we are keeping believing to the end.”