First Team 1 month ago

Team News: Aston Villa

Ismaïla Sarr and Abdoulaye Doucouré will be available for selection against Aston Villa tomorrow, while Nigel Pearson also had positive updates regarding José Holebas, Daryl Janmaat, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck.

“Sarr is okay, the benefit [of him going off at half-time against Sheffield United] is he only played 45 minutes so he should be relatively fresh. And Doucouré will also come back into contention from suspension,” said the Head Coach.

“We’ve got one or two that have got knocks but I don’t foresee any major problems. There’s been a bit of sickness going around, so we’ve monitored a couple of players who are a bit under the weather – myself included – but I don’t envisage too many problems.”

The Hornets have been without Welbeck and Cleverley since late October, while full-backs Janmaat and Holebas have been injured since November.

“They’re all making decent progress,” said Pearson. “Janmaat should be back at some point in January, Cleverley hopefully towards the end of January or early February, and Danny Welbeck similar. Holebas trained today, he’s got his broken ribs, but he trained today.”

Craig Dawson also appeared at Bramall Lane for the first time since he went off with a head injury against Burnley.

“Dawson got on for a bit, not a long stint, but he did what it said on the tin, he went on for a corner and won the header,” said Pearson. “He trains really well, he’s a good pro, he’s very committed and it’s important that players have to be mentally and physically ready to take their chance.”

The team has been plagued by injuries this season and has struggled for depth as a result, perhaps no more so than during this busy festive period. With big returns on the horizon, Pearson is looking forward to having a larger pool of players to pick from.

“We lost a bit of depth to our squad because we’ve got a number of senior players and regular players out, so it will be a bonus to get those players back for sure, and then it coincides with January as well and I’ve not discarded that we might as a club freshen it up, but those discussions are ongoing,” he said.

“At this moment it’s a case of trying to manage the fixture congestion, keeping players as fresh as possible and continuing our fight to find a way out of the bottom three, because that’s what it’s about for the remainder of the season. The players have worked really hard and we do feel like we’ve got quality, unfortunately at the moment some of the depth in our first-team squad is unavailable.”

First Team 1 month ago

Doucouré: “This Will Be A Massive Game”

Abdoulaye Doucouré is no stranger to the advanced midfield role he was tasked with performing against Manchester United, and said he is prepared to slot in wherever needed as he looks to return to the starting XI against Aston Villa.

“I used to play this position sometimes in France as well so it’s not something new for me,” said the midfielder, who returns after missing the draw at Sheffield United through suspension.

“The matches are about the team and whatever the team needs, I will play, whether this is further forward, near to Troy, or in midfield like Hughesy, who did a great job so far. The matches are not about thinking about personal things but thinking about the group.”

Last time out at Vicarage Road the Hornets picked up a second win of the season, but Doucouré knows many more are needed to escape this position.

“Against United it was a big win, we needed three points and we got them. We want to carry on, we know it’s only a start and we want more wins because we want to get out of trouble,” said the 26-year-old.

“Since the Liverpool game everyone can see we are improving, we are more compact, and we are together. We created a lot of chances against Liverpool but we didn’t score, against United it was not our best game but in terms of management and creating chances it’s a good start for us.”

Doucouré has put this shift of momentum down to the together-as-one attitude Nigel Pearson has instilled upon the players, staff and club as a whole since arriving earlier this month.

“He’s a good manager for the team, I think he’s what we need at the moment and everyone is happy and working hard. I think we’ll have good results,” said Doucouré.

“He comes back to the basics, he speaks well and he is a very honest person, which I like about him, because in some clubs you don’t have this but with Nigel everyone is on the same level.

“He’s very close to the players and he’ll always have a word with you when he sees you, he’ll give you a lot of advice because he has a lot of experience. That’s what I think we need, and he’ll tell you the truth as well when you’re not good, which is why I think he’s perfect for Watford.”

Now, going into a fixture against 18th-placed Aston Villa, Doucouré is not prepared to beat around the bush and knows the Hornets must deliver again.

“They [Aston Villa] are a direct opponent in the relegation battle, so it’s perfect to play them at home and of course we’ll be hoping to win,” he said.

“I think it will be a six pointer because we’re in a similar position to Aston Villa and this game will be a massive game, like against Norwich, and we have to win this game.”