First Team 3 weeks ago

Doucouré: “Everyone Is Committed”

By Kevin Affleck

Abdoulaye Doucouré feels Watford have sent a message to the rest of the Premier League that they are on the charge after the heart-stopping win over Wolves.

The Hornets looked to have given themselves a mountain to climb when a draw at home to Crystal Palace left them six points adrift of the side fourth from bottom, but a run of three wins and a draw in four games has put them within striking distance of safety and changed the landscape.

 

“We need to forget the table when we are on the pitch and just play like a team,” said the all-action midfielder on Added Time. “We need to look after ourselves and only look at the table after the game. We need to fight and now all the other teams look at us and say, ‘Ah, they are coming back.’ We have ended our struggle and are on a good run. We need to keep going until the end. Now everyone believes anything is possible.”

Doucouré has looked transformed since Nigel Pearson walked through the door. He has thrived playing in a more advanced position and his ability to stretch the play and go from box to box has energised the team.

“I used to play in this position when I was in France,” he said. “Now Nigel is playing me in this position. I will play wherever but I’m pleased with this position as I can get forward and also get back to protect the midfield. The spirt is fantastic and, as Troy said last week, we have energy to burn. You can see it in the pitch and we must keep going.”

Doucouré slammed in his second of the season on New Year’s Day and his first at home since April. He felt it was about time he chipped in after some opportunities he would usually gobble up went begging this season.

“I need to score more goals,” said Doucouré, who got seven in 2017/18. “I need to push myself. I scored one today and I need to keep going. I missed some big chances this season, especially against Liverpool and Man United but today I think I deserved to score that goal. It was deflected but I’m so happy as it was an important goal.”

The goal represented a perfect birthday present for the midfielder, who turned 27 on New Year’s Day. It also gave the team a two-goal cushion and meant they were able to withstand a late assault from Wolves and hold on for a hugely significant win.

“The team played so well,” said Doucouré. “We deserved to win. We fight a lot, we are all together. It’s 10 points from 12 and we are so happy. We want to carry on. We managed the game well, everyone is committed with the team and we are showing it on the pitch. We dropped too many points this year and now we are on a good run. We have to carry on, we have to push forward and get out of this position as soon as possible. Nigel is here to push the team, Craig [Shakespeare] as well and we are happy to have this kind of coach.”

First Team 3 weeks ago

Deulofeu: “Nothing Is Done Yet”

By Kevin Affleck

Gerard Deulofeu scored one and made another for this resurgent Watford team yesterday, but it was perhaps his willingness to track back and get his hands dirty that summed up the spirit the team played with against Wolves.

The Spaniard showed his stomach for the fight inside two minutes by pick-pocketing Adama Traoré, his former teammate at Barcelona, deep in Watford's half and launching a raid upfield. It was the sort of manoeuvre you'd expect from Étienne Capoue. Deulofeu is never going to be the sort of player who takes one in the mush like Adam Masina did at the end or be sliding in full length like Troy Deeney did on the edge of his own penalty area in the dying throes, but the 25-year-old is certainly buying into the sort of defensive work Nigel Pearson demands.

“He has changed a lot of things,” said Deulofeu. “If you play on the left wing you have to help your left back and I'm doing a good effort defending. We had to defend a little bit more because Traoré is amazing and I had to do it for the team. We are really organised on and off the pitch, like how we play with a high press all together. We defend with a good shape, creating chances on the wings too. It is tough to beat us, but we have to continue playing like this and not defend the whole game.”

The Hornets were able to sit back and absorb a bit of pressure at the death as Deulofeu had curled in a sweet opener and then laid on the pass for Abdoulaye Doucouré to ram in the second. Joint top-scorer Deulofeu has scored three goals in all competitions against Wolves for Watford – he's only scored more against Cardiff City for the Hornets – and he loves nothing more than cutting in on his wand of a right foot and clipping or steering one into the far corner.

“It was really quick,” he said. “Ismaïla gave me a good pass and I have the angle and pace for a quick finish. It was a nice goal because the team needed it. I love that type of goal, like the one in the semi-final. Football is really quick and you have to decide quickly what to do. It was good.”

The win was the Golden Boys' third in their last four matches and they now have picked up more points in the last ten days than they did in the previous four months.

“We are very, very happy because it was a tough period,” said Deulofeu. “The consecutive wins at home puts the team higher in the table, not at the bottom. Now we can achieve what we are working towards with this new manager. We play better and that's why we are winning. We have to continue as nothing is done yet. The most important thing is how you finish, not how you start.”