First Team 2 weeks ago

Sánchez Flores: “The Team Is Growing Every Single Week”

By Kevin Affleck

Quique Sánchez Flores is steadfast in his belief that his evolving team are on the right lines and are creating a platform of the rock solid start on which to mount an escape act.

The Head Coach has been around the block long enough to know the team needed a win this afternoon of any sort, especially now we are over a quarter of the way through the season. But as he wasn't able to choreograph that, he'll settle for a shut-out that he feels is the basis for any sort of decent run of results.

“I am confident and I am realistic too,” he said. “I know we have to work really hard and I know we are working really hard. I know how the players are training every week. They deserve to win. We are creating something solid for the future. I believe that. I want to think in a positive way and that this was a good base for the future.”

The Head Coach launched his first spell in charge with three straight draws, two of which were goalless. He's done the same again now, albeit three games in, and he has the feeling it could be the basis for something more uplifting, like that thrilling run he went on his first season with wins over Stoke, Norwich, West Ham, Sunderland and Liverpool.

“This draw was good,” he said. “This is the base for something better. The necessity is something bigger [than last time] and we need to get to another part of the league, but we are not losing and we are not losing confidence. We are more mature defending and we don't concede too much. The feeling in the team is growing, every single week. I can feel it. We go with a passion to win and I can feel it's close. We try to keep with this feeling.”

Sánchez Flores agreed his ‘keeper played well, Ben Foster making three fine saves in the first-half, including a cracker from Arnaut Danjuma, but also wanted to point out that Aaron Ramsdale played well, too, the 21-year-old pulling off fine saves to deny Gerard Deulofeu and Will Hughes. He knows the team are struggling in front of goal, scoring five goals in ten games, but he takes solace from the fact the chances are being created. 

“It is better we don't create a drama,” he said. “It's true from the numbers we don't score too much, but the most difficult thing in football is to create attempts. We have very clear attempts, so we don't need to be worried for that. The moment we stop creating attempts we should be worried.”

The cause is not being helped by injuries to Troy Deeney, Danny Welbeck and Ismaïla Sarr, but the Head Coach likes the unpredictability Roberto Pereyra and Gerard Deulofeu are providing in attack. They tried to unpick the lock several times today and almost succeeded.

“They are not completely strikers, but they have different qualities, different skills,” he said. “They cause problems for the defensive line. Pereyra is good at getting good balls in the last third and creating spaces on the side. Deulofeu has an amazing shot close to the box and they tried with their character.

“We created attempts from the first minute and had one of the most clear attempts. We were really close, but we are not creating a drama. Sometimes we are not making good decisions in the final third as the players don't feel completely relaxed, but I want to think in a positive way. The belief is that we are creating something for the team.”

First Team 2 weeks ago

Match Report: Watford 0-0 Bournemouth

By Kevin Affleck

Quique Sánchez Flores launched his first spell in charge with three straight draws. He has repeated the trick here now he has his feet under the table to firmly establish a foundation, but the only trouble this time is the Hornets are now ten games in, over a quarter of the way through the season, and wins are the currency the team needs to be trading in.

There was no lack of ambition in trying to beat Bournemouth here in a typical high-octane encounter with the Cherries – eight yellow cards were testament to that – and certainly no lack of effort. This wasn’t a bore draw and a smattering of boos at full-time were a touch harsh.

Everyone is just feeling the frustration that a team with this sort of talent, this sort of depth, somehow remains without a win. Three points, in any size of shape, should, by law of averages, arrive soon, perhaps in the most unlikely of places, and instead of a season that peters out, we might just be in for a thrilling one. It could be strap-yourself-in time.

At least Sánchez Flores has sorted the defence out – that’s now one goal in three games after 12 in his first three – and when the goals start coming, and they should once Troy Deeney gets back to full fitness and provides a spearhead, the team know it might only take one goal to win a game. It’s not all doom and gloom. The team aren’t leaking goals or getting rolled over every week. However marginal, the gradual signs of improvement are there. It’s just we are behind the eight ball and playing catch up.

The Hornets came racing out of the traps and could have been ahead inside a minute. Daryl Janmaat nipped in front of Arnaut Danjuma in a classic piece of high pressing, sparking a move down the right that resulted in Gerard Deulofeu whipping a teasing centre across that fell into the path of Abdoulaye Doucouré. The Frenchman was ever so slightly off balance and couldn't keep his shot down, but it was a hugely promising start. 

Tom Cleverley was at the heart of everything the Hornets did well early on, setting the tone from midfield, so it was a blow when he limped off after nine minutes. He had just made a perfectly executed tackle on Joshua King in the middle of midfield, too. 

The loss of Cleverley, particularly his energy, resulted in a period of adjustment and allowed Bournemouth to, slowly but surely, establish a foothold in the game. They got into their stride and hit the bar with a thumping header from Steve Cook, forced Ben Foster into flying low saves to deny Philip Billing, Diego Rico and then the save of the match to deny Danjuma at the far post. It was one out of the very top drawer, classic Foster. The Vicarage Road crowd loved it. They knew how important that save could turn out to be. 

Sánchez Flores knew his side would feed off less possession and they did their best to make the 41 per cent they had in the first period count on the counterattack, particularly down the right through Janmaat and Deulofeu. They prompted and probed, twisted and turned but the ball just wouldn’t drop for Deulofeu, Roberto Pereyra or Doucouré in the middle of the area. It was helter-skelter stuff towards the end of the half and both teams probably needed half-time to catch their breath.

Whatever was said to Deulofeu during the break did the trick as he was at it in the first three minutes, at his corkscrewing best. He did Steve Cook like a kipper, twisting him one way, turning him another before attempting delicately chip one over Ramsdale. The idea was right, the execution was neat but Ramsdale pulled off a sprawling save.

Sánchez Flores sensed the game was there for the taking and made a surprisingly early attacking change, bringing on Andre Gray for Nathaniel Chalobah and asking Doucouré to sit deeper. It was a bold move by the Spaniard. The switch allowed Pereyra to get on the ball more centrally and slightly deeper and there was a period when he ran the show, dictating the game at his pace. 

Tempers flared briefly in what was a full-blooded game following a challenge by Callum Wilson and it needed some cool heads to restore order and a bit of composure. Will Hughes is one of the team’s more cooler customers and he rose above a bit of scrappy, fractious play to almost find the bottom corner with one left-footed effort from distance. Ramsdale, though, pulled off a fine low save to his left and turned the ball away for a corner. Hughes couldn’t believe he hadn’t scored. Neither could Sánchez Flores who turned to his bench in utter despair.

There was a free-kick from Deulofeu that flashed across the face near the end while Harry Wilson, on as a sub, almost curled a free-kick past a helpless Foster, but that was about it really and a game that promised so much, one everyone had pinned their hopes on winning, fizzled out. There was a bit of despair in the stands at the final whistle, and understandably so in some quarters, but keep the faith. There is still a long way to go and many twists and turns to come. Hold onto your hats.

HORNETS: Foster (GK); Kabasele, Dawson, Cathcart; Janmaat, Chalobah (Gray 58), Cleverley (Hughes 10), Doucouré, Masina (Foulquier 73); Pereyra, Deulofeu

Subs not used: Gomes (GK), Prödl, Mariappa, Quina