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First team

Media view: Expert insight on Watford


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping for a similar outcome to last season when they meet Premier League rivals Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

Two goals from Joshua King, his first a penalty, together with efforts from David Brooks and Callum Wilson earned the Cherries a 4-0 win at the venue in October.

All four goals came in the opening 47 minutes as the Cherries registered their first top-flight victory over the Hornets who had Christian Kabasele sent off in the first half.

Watford are currently propping up the table after starting 2019/20 with a nine-game winless run in the Premier League, their two victories both coming in the Carabao Cup against Coventry and Swansea.

Talismanic striker Troy Deeney has been sidelined by injury since August, while a change of manager saw Quique Sanchez Flores return to the club to replace Javi Gracia in September.

Despite failing to open their win account in the Premier League this season, the Hornets have drawn their past two games, against Sheffield United (0-0) and Tottenham (1-1) and appear to have steadied the ship after losing 8-0 at Manchester City five weeks ago.

Ahead of the game, afcb.co.uk caught up with Ryan Gray, who covers the fortunes of the Hornets for the Watford Observer.

afcb.co.uk: Has Watford’s start to the season come as a surprise?

RG: To an extent, yes.

Reaching the FA Cup final last season papered over a few obvious cracks that were fairly clear to see from their league form.

The start of the current season was more or less a continuation of that. However, I would have expected them to have at least won a game by now.

afcb.co.uk: How big a miss has Troy Deeney been and when is he expected back? 

RG: Both his leadership and experience have been noticeably absent on the pitch, although I believe he has still been in the changing room and trying to offer support to the team as much as he can on matchdays. 

Putting a time on his return is difficult as you get different answers from whoever you speak to.

Deeney himself seems to think it won’t be too long, but Quique Sanchez Flores wants to be a bit more patient. I expect this weekend will be too soon for him, though.

afcb.co.uk: What were your thoughts on the timing of the managerial change which saw Javi Gracia (pictured above) leave after five games in September?

RG: It was a bit of a shock, especially given how well he had done last season. 

However, there was obviously something not right and his stubbornness was becoming a bit of an issue – he seemed reluctant to make changes, even when they very clearly needed to be made. 

I still think he could’ve changed things around as he was a good coach. Hopefully, he can find another job somewhere soon.

afcb.co.uk: Have you noticed a difference in the short space of time Quique Sanchez Flores (pictured below) has been back? 

RG: After conceding 12 goals in his first three games in charge, things have settled down and, in the past two games, Watford have looked a completely different side. 

Defensively, they’re now a lot stronger and have managed to collect their first league clean sheet since February.

There are still one or two problems going forward, but I think that’s more an issue of confidence than tactics.

afcb.co.uk: Who is Watford’s player to watch? 

RG: Recently, Roberto Pereyra has looked a real force, while Gerard Deulofeu can be a real handful on his day.

However, against Spurs, Abdoulaye Doucoure (pictured below) seemed to rediscover the spark that had him linked with big-money moves away from the club in the past few transfer windows and, if he dominates the midfield the way he can, Bournemouth might find him difficult to deal with.

afcb.co.uk: What’s the mood among the supporters?

RG: The supporters are a lot more buoyant now than in recent weeks.

Following the 8-0 loss to Manchester City, there seemed to be a few who were resigned to the fact Watford would be going down.

But now, there’s greater optimism that the start of the season has just been a blip that can be overcome in time.

afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?

RG: If they play as well as they did against Tottenham last Saturday, there’s no reason Watford can’t pick up their first win of the season. I’m going for a narrow 2-1 win to the Hornets.

You can follow Ryan on Twitter – @ObserverRyan

Match officials: Mike Dean (referee), Ian Hussin (assistant), Darren Cann (assistant), Tom Nield (fourth official), Andre Marriner (VAR), Scott Ledger (assistant VAR).

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