‘Watford Slightly Exceeding Expectations’

Mid-table is around where Watford could have hoped to be in the Sky Bet Championship this season, according to Andrew French from the Watford Observer.
More on this story...

- Watford host Leicester City in the Sky Bet Championship on Saturday
- Watford Observer journalist Andrew French previewed the 3pm kick-off
- The Hornets sit 11th in the current league standings
- Recent form has been poor but there is still an outside chance of reaching the play-offs

Their second campaign at this level since Premier League relegation, the Hornets welcome Leicester City to Vicarage Road on Saturday (3pm kick-off) aiming for an upturn in recent fortunes.  

Defeat to Southampton in Tuesday’s Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round replay came three days on from a 1-0 home league defeat to Cardiff City. Valérien Ismaël's side haven’t won since beating Queens Park Rangers by the same scoreline on 14 January.

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Tom Dele-Bashiru
Tom Dele-Bashiru

Watford rang the changes and were beaten by the Saints in midweek.

“We’re not in good form with two consecutive defeats, three games without a goal and five games without a win,” French explained. “That’s the second long trip in a week after playing Sheffield Wednesday last Tuesday.

“Then the game with Southampton came before another midweek match next week. We made seven changes against Southampton but all the seven took out were on the bench and six of those came on.

“We didn’t have a particularly good transfer window. We only brought in one player in Emmanuel Dennis, who isn’t fit, and let three go. We haven’t got the biggest of squads, it’s thinner now and there’s not a lot of players to rotate with.”

Following a tough start to the season, a more favourable run of form led to rising expectations among the fanbase, though that has now been tempered by recent results. There is hope that more stability can lead to a future push for promotion, however.

The reporter continued: “We went on a really good run and lost two in 12 games and had some good away wins and looked to be building something, but it’s gone pear-shaped in the last few weeks. It’s not a disaster because mid-table is where we were probably going to be.

We had a poor start and quite early on, we were one point above the relegation zone. To be up where we were after that, was exceptional and punching above our weight.

Andrew French Watford Observer

“If anything, they are slightly exceeding expectations. But when you go within a point of the play-off places and it starts to slip away, you get fans who think it is going to tail off. I don’t think Ismael is the sort of manager who is going to let that happen, but when you haven’t won for a while, there is a little bit of concern.

“We aren’t in a relegation battle, but the question is whether the season picks back up to get into a fight for the play-offs, or whether they become mundane, tedious mid-table games which have nothing on them. The last thing we need is to be playing against the runaway league leaders.

“After a particularly poor season last year and a lot of change in the summer with players going out and fewer coming in, as well as a new manager, all that adds together. Had we had a middle of the table nothing season, then that would have been what most fans were expecting.

“We had a poor start and quite early on, we were one point above the relegation zone. To be up where we were after that was exceptional and punching above our weight. There is now a feeling that the season is disappointing, but we’ve been a little bit spoilt.”

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Ryan Andrews
Ryan Andrews

The full-back celebrating his goal at Plymouth Argyle.

Attacking full-back Ryan Andrews has been singled out as one to watch out for within the Hornets’ ranks, with the youngster producing some impressive displays this term, including two goals and an assist.

“It’s a young side; we’ve got quite a few in the 17-22 age bracket,” the journalist added. “They are all learning and growing up together. One to look out for who isn’t in an attacking position but has caused teams a lot of problems is Ryan Andrews, the right-back.

“He’s an England Under-20s international who came through the academy. His dad played for Watford and he has been a revelation. He broke into the team at the back end of last season and is exceptionally fast.

“The way Watford play with the full-backs either underlapping or overlapping depending on where the winger goes, he’ll often end up as the furthest player forward. He’s scored a couple of goals, created a few and when he goes, it’s hard for any defender to stop him. He’s a threat that you might not expect.”

All times GMT.




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