Watford were picked by many to go down this year. Even though their decline under Walter Mazzarri last term saw the club change manager yet again. Mazzarri was replaced by Marco Silva.
Silva had an immediate impact on Hull last season. He almost pulled the Tigers to improbable safety, and won many admirers along the way. From the infamous rants on Sky Sports when he was appointed, Silva has proven himself as one of Europe’s finest young managers.
Silva has Watford almost unrecognisable from last term!
The Hornets are the only team breaking up the expected top six at the time of writing. With three clean sheets already notched, Silva’s side look like they could be the story of this season.
After a brutal drubbing against Manchester City, they bounced back last weekend to take three points from Swansea’s Liberty Stadium. The significance of this cannot be overstated, their early season momentum has been resorted. Winning tough away matches like that will make the difference between a season in the bottom six and pushing towards the top six.
Shrewd summer business has been the bedrock of Watford’s early success. To put it solely down to that, however, does a disservice to a manager who has made them almost unrecognisable from last term.
A definitive moment for Watford?
Where Mazzarri’s back three was picked apart by opponents during the early months of 2017, Silva’s back four has been solid against their peers. Nathaniel Chalobah’s arrival has reinforced the midfield, and Kiko Femenia has been made a stellar start to his Hornets career. Chalobah has slotted perfectly into the midfield alongside Abdoulaye Doucoure, with the pair balancing their defensive duties well with support of the forwards. Chalobah could turn out to be the signing of the season; that pair will dominate many matches this term.
The defence sits a little deeper than last year. Jose Holebas’ attacking instincts down the left still provide impetus when required, but the presence of wingers up the pitch allows the full-backs to be more selective in their forays forward. This, combined with the adding of pace and skill to the frontline, has reinvented a Watford side that were too often uninspiring last season.
The acquisitions of Richarlison and Andre Carillo provide spark that was previously lacking. Andre Gray, Troy Deeney and Stefano Okaka give options to lead the line, enabling Silva to switch to a more direct approach when trailing. Improving the squad should bring improved results, but Silva deserves praise for how quickly he has made use of the summer arrivals.
From February 28th to the end of last season, Watford picked up nine points in 12 matches, conceding 25 in the process. The defence has been vastly improved, and the new look forward line poses a far greater threat.
This weekend they face one of the trickiest away days of the season as they head to the Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion. Tony Pulis’ side are on a slump of late, and will make it a battle. It is a definitive moment for Watford in the final third. If they can continue to create against Pulis’ regimented back line, they pose a threat to any defence in the league.
West Brom are likely to be one of the leading teams in the ‘best of the rest’ race. Watford have the physique to combat their set piece threat, and a midfield capable of competing to find space in what will be a congested middle third.
With so many yet to take notice of the work Silva has done at Vicarage Road, a victory at the Hawthorns change that.
It might only be a match between two mid-table teams, but that speaks volumes for what Silva has already done. A tussle to avoid the drop looked likely at the start of the season, yet Watford have arguably been the most impressive side outside the top six in the opening weeks of this season.
After their tricky day in the Midlands this weekend, clashes with Arsenal and Chelsea follow before the visit of Stoke.
The schedule only exaggerates the importance of their day at the Hawthorns. Win there, and confidence will be high ahead of the visit of Arsenal. Should this early season form build into something more than a good start, Watford need to show the form that brought a 3-3 with Liverpool against Arsenal and Chelsea.
Bolstered by their summer additions, they certainly have an attack to trouble the top six sides. The concern, though, is the defence having conceded nine goals in their two top six encounters so far.
Watford’s season will be defined by matches with fellow mid-table clubs. They have done exceptionally in that regard to this point. Building on that to make this season a real eyebrow-raiser will require heroics in October.
Safety has quickly become an expectation rather than a hope for the Hornets, however, and Silva is quickly making them one of the teams to watch in the Premier League.