Cleverley | “The Mentality Is Changing Here”
Tom Cleverley says there will be no inferiority complex when the Hornets host Arsenal at Vicarage Road on Saturday tea-time (5.30pm KO).
Despite not yet recording a first home win of the campaign, Watford sit eighth in the Premier League table, just a point behind Arsene Wenger’s men in fifth.
The Hornets come into the contest off the back of a 2-2 draw at West Brom prior to the international break, thanks to Richarlison’s 95th-minute equaliser, and Cleverley says confidence is high in the camp ahead of the visit of the Gunners.
“The mentality is changing here,” he said, speaking to Premier League Productions earlier this week.
“We won’t go out there feeling inferior or like we have to change our game. We want to be on the ball and creating chances, as well as keeping it tight and not being silly.
“I feel like we’re evolving into having that mentality of being a top-half team.”
Cleverley knows Watford will have to improve defensively from their last home performance, when Sergio Aguero inspired Manchester City to a 6-0 victory, however he doesn’t expect the Hornets to be on the back-foot on Saturday, and doesn’t believe they have anything to fear from Arsenal.
“Man City punished us every time we made mistakes, and that cost us a little bit,” he said.
“But the lads are really excited about these next two games [against Arsenal and Chelsea] and we’ll go into them with massive confidence. Hopefully we can get stuck in during the first 10 minutes and get a positive result on Saturday.
“You’ve got to look at us and how well we’ve done considering we haven’t won at home yet, which we’ll really be pushing for. To be up there is really encouraging.”
Cleverley added that if the Hornets are not targeting a top-10 spot this season, under the guidance of Marco Silva and with the quality of players they have, he thinks they’ll be aiming a little low. However, like most clubs outside of the top six or seven, the first target for the Hornets is getting to the magic 40-point mark.
“We’ve got two really tough games coming up, but what the manager has got into our heads is that, even if we get a bad result, not to let it get us too down,” he said.
“The Man City result was a really bad result but we bounced back with four points from two away games. I think we’ve got a really good balance in the squad and it would be really nice if we could finish in the top-half.”
Silva joined the Hornets in May and the new gaffer has clearly already gained the respect of senior players, such as Cleverley, and the rest of the Watford squad.
Cleverley has played for some of the most respected managers in football, breaking into the Manchester United first-team under Sir Alex Ferguson, and he says Silva has all the signs of being a top boss.
“He carries that fear factor, but at the same time he is approachable,” said the midfielder.
“He speaks a lot to the more experienced lads and takes players’ feedback on board. His training is the right balance of tactics and enjoyment. You can see all the right signs that he’s a top manager. We’ve all got massive confidence in him.”
As one of the older, more senior heads on the pitch, Silva has entrusted Cleverley to get his message across to some of the younger players during matches.
“It’s nice that the manager has that confidence in you. To trust you with instructions, to be a voice on the pitch, which I feel that I am,” he said.
“Playing in a central role, you need to be that voice. It needs a couple of us to talk to the players, the younger players, and it’s nice that the manager trusts me to do that.”
The Hornets saw off long spells of pressure to come away from the Emirates Stadium with a surprise 2-1 victory last season, and Cleverley knows the side will have to be similarly focused and organised to get a positive result this weekend.
“Everyone really did their jobs,” he said.
“We saw out long spells of pressure in the second-half, but in the first-half it was a very, very strong performance from us.
“We thoroughly deserved our 2-0 lead. We know it’s going to be a tough game for us on Saturday but they’re in for a tough game too.”
Watch the full Premier League Productions interview with Tom Cleverley at the top of this article - free to view, no sign-up required.
By Daniel Darlington