First Team 01/12/2018

Match Report: Leicester City 2-0 Watford

By Kevin Affleck

This is turning into a tricky little spell for the Hornets.

This defeat at Leicester this afternoon was the third in four games and the third time in four games they have failed to score. It's not the sort of form you want to be in ahead of a game with the reigning champions Manchester City on Tuesday night. And to make matters worse the team are going to have to do without Étienne Capoue for three matches after he was sent off very late on for a tackle on Kelechi Iheanacho. 

The annoying thing for Javi Gracia, apart from the loss of his midfield general, will be that Leicester did not have to work too hard for this win, their second in seven matches. They scored on 12 minutes through Jamie Vardy, again on 23 minutes via James Maddison and that was it, the game done and dusted. They then sat back with two banks of four, as they had done prior-to and in-between the goals, and were content to let the Hornets have the ball. It was a smart tactic from Claude Puel.

The fact Gracia's side were not as precise as they have been in possession helped the Foxes, as did the team's continued wastefulness in front of goal on the road. Isaac Success, Troy Deeney and Andre Gray, twice, all missed chances where you would have bitten someone's hand off had they offered them to you pre-match. Kasper Schmeichel did not make a save all afternoon.

The Golden Boys actually had the first attempt of the half and the last, but in-between times Leicester were the more decisive. Playing off just 33 per cent possession, they played like the away side and effectively killed the game with two goals in the space of 11 minutes. They were utterly ruthless when they got within range, possessing that killer instinct that is just eluding the Golden Boys right now.

Vardy won a penalty in similar circumstances here last season, drawing a foul from Molla Wagué and this time he sucked Foster into making a rash challenge. The striker has the pace to make sure he just pips the on-rushing tackler to the ball and he did Ben Foster like a kipper, going hurtling over the keeper's challenge. He then got up and slammed in his spot-kick, sending Foster the wrong way just for good measure.

An uphill task became a mountainous one on 23 minutes when Maddison scored a beauty. The Hornets were deep in Leicester territory pushing for an equaliser when they turned the ball over and were punished on the counter. Maddison fed the ball to Vardy who played in Marc Albrighton down the right flank. He clipped the ball over to Maddison who controlled the ball in an instant, managed to elude Capoue, Craig Cathcart and Adrian Mariappa, benefit from a lucky break from the Watford captain and then fire it past a helpless Foster. It was a goal reflective of an England squad member.

Shell shocked and starring down the barrel of a defeat just midway through the first half, the Hornets had to pull something out of the fire here and quickly. They had a good go, playing some nice stuff in the middle third of the field without forcing Schmeichel to break sweat. 

The best chance of the half and indeed the match presented itself to Success on 36 minutes. The Hornets were defending a corner and then turned defence into attack in an instant. Gerard Deulofeu carried the ball through two thirds of the pitch before releasing Success with one of the few well-timed passes from the Golden Boys. Success held off Ricardo Pereira with another stunning display of strength and only had to really roll it past Schmeichel, but he snatched at the chance and blazed it over.

Deulofeu then did likewise from a long-range free-kick at the end of the half and that was that for the first period. 

Gracia would have had a big team-talk on his hands at the break as he sought to navigate a way back into this one and the only surprise was that he didn't make any changes at the interval, instead waiting for a further 10 minutes before hooking Roberto Pereyra and Deulofeu.

The bold move to bring on both Deeney and Gray could have paid off after only 10 minutes, but Gray, 10 yards out and completely unmarked, could only direct a header wide from a Holebas cross. It had a big chance feel about it.

Gray got another bite of the cherry minutes later, but failed to connect with his weaker left foot from a Success centre and then Deeney, who is usually so good in the air, failed to get anything on a decent cross from Kiko Femenía. 

Gracia used his third sub, chucking on Nathaniel Chalobah for Hughes but whatever he did, however bold he tried to be, it wasn't going to work. It was just one of those days when nothing went right. The only real positive is that Chalobah will get an extended run in the side in the absence of Capoue, but that is really clutching at straws.

HORNETS | Foster; Femenía, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas; Hughes (Chalobah 76), Doucouré, Capoue, Pereyra (Deeney 55); Deulofeu (Gray 55), Success.

Subs not used | Gomes, Kabasele, Sema, Masina.

First Team 30/11/2018

Hughes: “We Have Nothing To Fear”

By Ollie Floyd

Hornets midfielder Will Hughes insists his side have nothing to fear ahead of tomorrow’s trip to The King Power Stadium. 

Speaking to Premier League Productions, the Englishman said: “It’s a very difficult place to go to and Saturday will be no different, but we know we’re in a good place mentally and physically and we’re playing well as a team, so we’ve got nothing to fear going there.”

The week leading up to the clash with The Foxes has been dominated by the news of Javi Gracia’s new four-and-a-half-year contract and Hughes is another man heaping praise on the Spaniard. 

“Well really, I think he very much deserves it” said Hughes. “The start we’ve had a lot of credit goes to him. A lot of people outside of Watford thought we wouldn’t do very well this season and I think so far we’ve proven a lot of people wrong and he’s a big part of that.”

Delving deeper, Hughes spoke of the Head Coach’s management style. 

“He’s very demanding in what he does and how he wants us to train and how he wants us to play as well,” said Hughes. “He’s got a very good mixture of man-management of individual players and as a team, so it’s paying dividends on the pitch and hopefully it continues.” 

However, he made it clear that the Head Coach is more than happy to instil discipline into his side as and where necessary. 

“He’s very composed and calm but if he needs to tell you off, he will, whether that’s in training or in a game,” said Hughes.

Hughes is speaking on the back of a fantastic run of form, having cemented his place in the Watford midfield following some injury problems last season. 

Asked how much he was enjoying wearing a Watford shirt, he said: “I’m loving it. It was a tricky one for me last year being out of the team and then the injury came at a bad stage when I was doing well, so it’s part of football. I’m enjoying it this season playing the majority of the games, so I can’t complain”

Watford will go into Saturday having failed to win in their three previous trips to The King Power Stadium. The former Derby man is under no illusions as to how tough of a challenge it will be. 

“Every game’s important in its own way and obviously some are difficult and more challenging than others and I think Leicester’s a chance for us to get three points,” said Hughes. “On Saturday, both teams will be looking at that for three points and it’s going to be an interesting battle.”

Wrapping up the interview, he refused to be drawn on rumours linking him to a potential call up to the England squad. 

“If you’re English and you’re playing games in the Premier League, people are always going to be looking” said Hughes. “It’s a long way off for me to be in that squad, so I’ve got to keep my feet on the ground and keep playing games as there’s a lot of players in that squad who have been doing it season after season.”