Miguel Britos makes a welcome return from suspension this weekend, leaving Head Coach Marco Silva with his first selection dilemma at the heart of Watford's defence.
Britos has served the final game of his three-match suspension following his dismissal against Brighton and he comes firmly into contention to feature against West Bromwich Albion, particularly given the Baggies' prowess from set-pieces.
With Sebastian Prödl, Younès Kaboul and Craig Cathcart all injured, Silva must decide whether to keep faith with Adrian Mariappa and Christian Kabasele, or whether Britos and Molla Waguè come into his thinking, especially if he opts for a remodelled three-man defence again.
"I am really happy with the performance of Mariappa and Kabasele last week," said Silva.
"I am happy with how they react to the defeat we had against City. We now have four centre-backs ready and we haven't repeated the same centre-backs often. I hope we can do that in some games in a row. It helps our defensive process if you have some stability there."
Silva also has another decision to make at the base of Watford's midfield following the injury to Nathaniel Chalobah. Does he again opt for Etienne Capoue to partner Abdoulaye Doucourè or does he move Tom Cleverley, who has been excellent in a more forward role, into a deeper position and then decide between Roberto Pereyra and Troy Deeney as to who plays in the role just off Andre Gray?
"Chalobah is a really important player for us," said Silva, "not only because of what he gave for us but he's strong for set-pieces too. Capoue has different qualities. We can also play Ben [Watson] there and play with Cleverley more back."
Silva conceded the blow of losing Chalobah to injury is "difficult news" for both the team and the player to digest, but vowed everybody will be rallying round the England midfielder in a bid to nurse him back to full health.
The club announced earlier this week that the summer signing from Chelsea will undergo surgery to his knee after he sustained an injury in training, meaning the Head Coach will be without a player he has built his new-look and vibrant team around.
"It is difficult news for us," said Silva.
"It's a pity to us as a team and most of all a pity for the boy. But this is football. Now is the moment we need to support him and put him in good condition to help him return as soon as possible. It's a difficult situation. We need to find a solution, to be strong and be strong in our way."
The injury comes as a body blow to Chalobah, 22, who had just been called up to the England senior squad for the first time on the back of his trail-blazing start to the Premier League season with the Golden Boys.
"In two months with us, he has achieved important things with us," added the Head Coach.
"He did well, with good performances and the national team coach called him up. Now it's important to be calm, for him to recover and show again what we can do. We expect that [he'll be back in 2017] but we'll see. You never know what can happen. We'll see after the surgery."
Opposition Focus | West Bromwich Albion
Matt Wilson, the West Brom reporter at the Express & Star, gives us an idea of what we can expect from the Baggies on Saturday.
West Brom started the season with a bang, winning their first two and keeping a clean sheet in both. What have they been like since?
“They haven't won in five in all competitions and only scored in three of those games, so it doesn't bode well ahead of the visit of you guys who are in form. But, strangely, they have done well in the last two games, against Man City in the cup and against Arsenal.
“There have been patches of promising football and encouraging signs. They've switched to a 5-3-2 formation, which has given them more impetus going forward and meant they have been playing more on the front foot. The wing-back system has worked well, particularly down the left where they have looked good.
“There have been a few grumbles about the recent form but it's clear major improvements have been made. The form has been poor but the performances haven't. Hal Robson-Kanu had two or three really good chances against City and then Jay Rodriguez had the same against Arsenal. It could have been a different story.”
The Baggies did some impressive transfer business in the summer window. Have expectations risen as a result?
"They have. They finished top top ten last season after spending majority of the season in eighth. They've had a very successful summer in the transfer market and expectation level has been raised slightly. Fans do realise they are not going to break into that top six or seven but what they do want to see is an evolution of style on the pitch and become less reliant on winning games through set-pieces.
“They have definitely been more of a threat from open play, although it was ironic they won away at Burnley with their poorest performance of the season.”
How have the summer recruits performed?
“Kieran Gibbs has been very good, When he arrived Pulis was clear he wanted him to bulk up a bit and he's taken that on board and done plenty of work on his strength and conditioning. He's dived head first into things here and looks really good going forward.
“Grzegorz Krychowiak came with a massive reputation from PSG and he's looked very good, He's improved as each game has gone by. Jacob and Livermore have been in the middle of the park before, along with Darren Fletcher, but they are all quite similar. Krychowiak has been more box to box and that's what the team really needed.
“The surprise package has been Ahmed Hagazy, the towering Egyptian. He's started every game and is keeping Gareth McAuley out of the side, which is saying something. He's looked really comfortable in a back three and has been very good.
“Ollie Burke been injured but is back in training this week. They spent a lot of money on him but Pulis has tempered expectations by reminding everyone he's only 20 years old. He's young and raw and needs time, weeks rather than months. The only thing is they are not really playing with wingers at the minute, which means Phillips, McLean and Brunt are all not getting a game either.”
We suffered the blow this week of losing Nathaniel Chalobah for an extended period through injury. What's the latest from your treatment room?
“They've got a clean bill of health so far. Burke is back in training this week and Nacer Chadli played for the Under-23s on Monday. He was going to start against Brighton at the start of the month but he picked up a muscle strain on the Thursday before the game. I'm hearing he's fit now and it will be interesting to see if he's included as he wasn't getting picked before.”
Allan Nyom got a bit of a frosty reception from our fans the last time we met. How's he been performing?
"He didn't have a great game on Monday at Arsenal, giving away a penalty – and a clumsy one at that. He's done that a couple of times for Watford and now Albion. He was something of a fans' favourite last season and his pace and power really does lend itself to the wing-back role. He was played on the left a lot last season so he deserves a few games at right back to get into the groove. But there are always question marks over his erratic style and if they were playing four at the back, then Craig Dawson would be playing there instead of him.”
One man guaranteed a good round of applause from our 2,700 traveling support is former Hornet Ben Foster...
“He's been brilliant. He had a rare sketchy game against Brighton, when they lost 3-1, but apart from that he's been as good as ever. He was Players' Player and Fans' Player of the Season last season and deservedly so. He also got nominated in the FWA team of the season. He's a class act.”
The last encounter between us two at The Hawthorns was a bit lively to say the least. Do you think we can expect another tempestuous encounter?
“For a start, I'd be surprised if McLean played. They are others ahead of him and he doesn't really fit into a 5-3-2. However, he might play if Pulis feels how the team were set up worked against Watford in the past.
“The Albion are a physical side and are always up for a battle. Indeed they picked up a few yellows against Arsenal and arguably could have had someone sent off down there. But this Watford team don't look soft centred. I can't see someone like Andre Gray being bullied around. There is a steel in this Watford side now and there could be some titanic clashes.”
The Baggies only played one up top the last time we met. Is it all change?
“They have been playing two up front, which is very unlike Pulis, It's been Hal Robson-Kanu and Jay Rodriguez, with Robson-Kanu keeping his place despite some glaring misses against City. Rondon will come into contention but he's been poor the whole of 2017 and didn't do much when he came off the bench against Arsenal on Monday night. I'd say he'll persevere with Robson-Kanu and Rodriguez. What will be interesting is if he sticks with 5-3-2 or matches Watford and goes 4-2-3-1.”
We've been pretty pleased with our start, which includes three successive wins on the road in the top flight for the first time in our history. Are we making waves in the Midlands?
“Everyone up here has been pretty impressed with how, very quickly, Marco Silva has managed to get that team going. There are plenty of new faces and he's managed to gel that team quickly, but he's also made difficult decisions like leaving Troy Deeney out.
“There was that blip against Man City, but we played against their second string in the cup and they were fantastic, so heaven knows what their first team is like. You've got three away wins on the bounce and that doesn't bode well for Albion.
“The Albion have been the best of the rest for a period now but there is a feeling up here that Watford could take over that berth this season. You look very good.”
Off and Away!
Richarlison’s shirt is off – and so is the cost of name & number printing on away shirts purchased between now and kick-off this Saturday (Sep 30, 3pm) in-store at The Hornets Shop or online at thehornetsshop.co.uk.
All purchasers will also be entered into a prize draw to win the signed shirt worn by Andre Gray, who scored his first Watford goal at Swansea.