West Brom are hanging to their Premier League status by a thread and they go into this weekend’s game with Watford knowing that they pretty much need a win or the gap above them could become insurmountable.
To get the low down on all things Watford (and to see if the Baggies have a chance to win!), we spoke to Anthony Matthews, the Sports Editor of Newsquest North London.
Here’s what Anthony had to say:
1. Another season, another new manager for Watford! What are your initial thoughts about Javi Gracia and the start he’s made?
Moving on from your opening remark because Watford do not sack managers every five minutes, contrary to popular belief, Javi Gracia has made an encouraging start at Watford, taking seven points from his first four league games and winning both homes matches so far, including a very impressive 4-1 victory over Chelsea.
Gracia comes across as approachable, has instilled more confidence in the players, is willing to work with what he has available and is tactically flexible. Watford have started with three and four at the back under his stewardship and against Everton last week for example, he started with a 4-2-3-1, but was bold and changed it to a more attacking 4-4-2 ten minutes into the second half and twas rewarded with a win.
2. This is a must win game now for West Brom, are there any weaknesses in the Watford side that you think Alan Pardew’s men could exploit?
In terms of weaknesses, Watford were susceptible to set-pieces – one of Albion’s traditional strengths – and crosses a lot earlier in the season when Marco Silva was in charge. They have improved in these respects but these are still areas I suspect the Baggies think they can exploit.
3. Troy Deeney was linked with a move to Albion in the winter. It looks unlikely that he’ll join the Baggies this summer as they’re likely to be relegated, but how’s he been performing and do you see him moving at the end of the campaign?
It’s been a difficult season for Troy Deeney. He missed pre-season through injury, has had a few other niggling problems at times, was in and out of the side under Silva because he started with only one striker and has missed seven games through suspension. Recently though, there are signs he is getting back to his best. He is looking more mobile than he has arguably done all season and will be boosted by scoring his first goal from open play in this campaign against Everton last week.
Will he move in the summer? Possibly, but only if the club can bring in someone who they believe is better. Deeney’s relationship with Watford is also quite unique, given how the club stood by him when he was imprisoned for affray in 2012 and how he has paid them back since, not least by scoring 111 goals so far. He is the club captain and remains a very influential figure on and off the pitch.
4. Other than Deeney, who else do Albion need to be wary of?
Abdoulaye Doucoure has been the player of the season in my view. A box-to-box midfielder who has the ability to develop into a top-class player because he can break up play, link attacks, has a fine passing range and can score goals. The 25-year-old has been continually linked with a move to ‘big’ club in the summer – talk he has hardly been playing down – and there are also suggestions he may force his way into France’s World Cup squad.
5. Finally, care to make a prediction.
A Watford win.
Thanks to Anthony for answering his questions.