When Arsenal last met Watford in the Premier League back in November the Gunners were 6th, just like today, but so much else has changed. Watford fired Claudio Ranieri and brought in their third manager of the season, Roy Hodgson. The Hornets now sit 19th in the table (16th at the time of the November match) but have recently picked up several crucial points. Meanwhile, Arsenal is in control of the race for fourth and continues to see their new and young players develop.
Watford’s nil-nil draw against Manchester United and 1-0 result over Aston Villa came on either side of a 4-1 loss to Crystal Palace. A side capable of pulling off results, but is it too late? We caught up with The Watford Way once again to get their take on the manager changes, the relegation battle, Emmanuel Dennis, and their prediction for Sunday.
TSF: Since we last spoke Claudio Ranieri was let go and Roy Hodgson was brought in. How exhausting is the Watford managerial merry-go-round?
TWW: Very exhausting and arguably the football we are playing under Hodgson is even worse! Hodgson and Claudio Ranieri are both similar in the fact they have vast amounts of experience however even just six games into Roy’s tenure, it’s evidently clear this isn’t going to be a long-term appointment.
Roy has been brought in to do one thing and that’s to keep Watford in the Premier League by whatever means possible and unfortunately for Watford fans that means the football on show is going to suffer as a result.
TSF: Whether Watford stays up or is in the Championship next season, is there any chance the owner can find a manager who will last not only one year but over a period of time?
TWW: A manager needs time to implement a philosophy at a club and since the owners took over this hasn’t been possible and arguably has been our downfall over the past two years. We thought Xisco Munoz would be the answer to your question but at the first sign of trouble, they pull the trigger.
Dyche at Burnley and Potter at Brighton are two clubs who I envy because even when the times get tough they back their man. Lose 4 games at Watford and your job is in jeopardy, it’s embarrassing.
TSF: It’s been just four points from the last five league matches as Watford finds themselves in 19th place. Do you see a way out of the relegation zone for them this season, and if so, what are the three teams you think they will finish ahead of?
TWW: Of course we still have hope. Until it's mathematically impossible there will always be a chance. Home form is the key. Roy has come in and solidified us away from home and made Watford tough to beat but we are still yet to win at home since beating Manchester United in November. If we can continue this away form and start to pick up points at home I think there is a real chance we could get out of it. A victory against you lot would help of course!
TSF: It’s safe to say Emmanuel Dennis was a smart purchase this past summer. He leads the club in goals (9) and assists (5). Do you anticipate his quick exit and profit at the end of the season or might the club be able to hold on to him longer if they stay up?
TWW: Sarr will probably be the biggest exit of the summer, but if we do manage to do the unthinkable and stay up I don’t see any reason why Dennis wouldn’t stay for another season. That is of course unless we receive an offer we can’t refuse however I can’t see that happening as things stand.
TSF: Which key players have underperformed so far this season that you believe can still turn it around to help in this relegation battle?
TWW: Central defence has been a real chop and change area of the pitch however this has since been rectified in January with the signings of Kamara and Samir. I can’t pin the blame on one specific player for not performing as the whole team has been culpable for it at times but there is no denying Joshua King should be contributing more. No goal contributions since December for your central striker is clearly not good enough.
TSF: What formation should Arsenal expect Watford to use this weekend and who is in your predicted starting XI?
TWW: Hodgson has played quite negative, passive football since taking charge and I don’t expect that to change when we face Arsenal. Out of possession, Watford sits very deep and with two banks of four, but with the ball we switch to a 4-3-3.
Prediction: Foster, Femenia, Cathcart, Samir, Kamara; Kayembe, Sissoko ©, Louza; Dennis, Pedro, Sarr
TSF: And finally, give us your prediction for how the match will go.
TWW: I expect a comfortable win for Arsenal. There is something in this for both sides. You’ve got Arsenal vying for a Champions League spot and Watford facing the looming threat of relegation. It’ll be a cagey game but ultimately I expect the Gunners to come out victorious.
Score prediction: Watford 1-2 Arsenal
Once again thanks to James and The Watford Way for taking some time to discuss Watford FC ahead of the fixture this coming weekend.