Newcastle United seek their fifth win of the 2017/18 Premier League campaign with a win against Marco Silva’s Watford FC.
Watford have had a steady season so far in the Premier League with many arguing that the Hornets are potentially over achieving in this campaign as they sit in a solid 8th place.
After coming off the back of a 2-0 win against a struggling West Ham to end their three game loss streak, Watford will be sure to look for back to back victories to get back on track as they chase a European spot.
After starting off the season so well, United have hit a wall after only winning one game in four and scoring a disappointing two goals. Should Aleksander Mitrovic be brought back into the starting eleven to try and revitalise our suffering goal scoring form? Is Dwight Gayle the answer after notching against Premier League big boys Manchester United? Or should Rafa continue his faith with the Spaniard Joselu?
I spoke to Mike Parkin (@rookerymike), Co-presenter of the Watford podcast “From the Rookery End”. He gave us an insight to Watford, telling us what to expect on Saturday.
Hi Mike, thanks for doing this interview for us! I would like to know which player is your ‘star man’?
Brazilian winger Richarlison was a relative unknown when he was brought in over the Summer. He has fast established himself of one of the hottest properties in the Premier League. He’s caused problems for every team he’s played against, marauding down the wing with purpose, skill and guile. He’s also shown himself to be tougher than his slight frame might suggest. As his reputation has grown, so has the attention he’s received from opposition defenders and he’s relished it. Underestimate this tough 20 year old at your peril!
Kiko Femenia has been a revelation, too. Captured on a free, the wing back is fast looking to be one of the signings of the summer. A neat and tidy defender, his attacking play is a joy to behold, breaking quickly whenever possible. There’s a doubt over his fitness for Saturday, though, so you may have to wait for your visit to Vicarage Road to see him in action. I also have to mention Abdoulaye Doucouré. The French midfielder is going from strength to strength in the centre of the park and with each performance, the question as to why he was so criminally underused last season becomes harder and harder to answer.
You bought the likes of Andre Gray, Richarlison, Tom Cleverly and Nathaniel Chalobah in the summer. How do you think they’ve fared so far this season?
For the first time, Watford have a Premier League squad, not just a Premier League team and this is due to the excellent transfer business the Hornets’ conducted in the summer. I’ve already mentioned Richarlison and we knew what we were getting in Tom Cleverley (a committed, clever combative and vital part of our midfield) as we had him on loan last season. Will Hughes made his home debut against West Ham at the weekend and has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water. Obtaining his services after so many have admired him for so long was a real coup.
While Hughes was a great deal, the signing of Chalobah for around £5m was an extraordinary piece of business. Unfortunately he is out with a serious knee injury and is unlikely to return until the new year, but his performances before the injury were stunning. He’s so positive, always looking for a ball forward, and he was the catalyst for many of Watford’s impressive early performances. A brilliant, brilliant player.
Andre Gray hasn’t been scoring regularly and as Watford’s record signing, this means that he is dividing opinion. Personally, I think he’s done well for Watford, with the tireless effort and intelligent runs he makes freeing up space and making opportunities for the likes of Richarlison. He may not grab the headlines, but Gray is proving to be an important part of this Watford side.
Marco Silva has been heavily linked with the vacant Everton job, are you worried in losing your manager to The Toffee’s?
We’re a realistic bunch, in as much as we understand that talented players and staff are always going to move on from Watford. As a Premier League side we’re attractive up to a point, but if a club in the Champions League places offers a big wage increase and a realistic chance of silverware, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what will happen.
The disappointing thing with Marco Silva is that it appears he was willing to move so soon. The supporters have really taken to him and he has a fabulous squad at his disposal. The belief amongst most was his plan would be to prove himself with Watford and then take a bigger job in a year or two. To have his head turned by Everton, a team embroiled in a relegation scrap, has been a bit surprising. On the plus side, in dealing with the interest from Goodison, Gino Pozzo (the owner) and Scott Duxbury (chairman) have shown that they aren’t going to be pushed around. I suspect there may still be a lingering belief that Watford are in the top flight to make up the numbers and that they should take whatever is offered when a “bigger” club comes calling. If nothing else, the Silva saga shows that this simply isn’t the case.
You’re currently sitting in 8th position so far in the Premier League. Where, realistically, do you think you will finish this season?
Improvement is the watchword at Watford, so simply put, as long as we finish higher than we did last season, we’ll be satisfied. It’s important to understand that this club is serious about being an established top flight outfit, but also that there’s an acceptance this won’t happen overnight. The owners and the club are in this for the long haul and the supporters are on board with that.
Of course the great start to the season has raised expectations and hopes (we wouldn’t be football fans if we didn’t dream of midweek European trips), but as it stands we’re happy with the style of play, happy with the squad and happy with the direction we’re going. A top half finish would be superb and would represent a considerable improvement on last year’s fractious and forgettable season.
Abdoulaye Doucoure has scored an impressive 4 goals this season, has he been your unsung hero so far this season?
“Unsung” is the one thing Doucouré isn’t – he’s a bona fide fans favourite and it’s his song that you’re likely to hear above all others! You’re right to focus on him though, as his performances have been relentlessly impressive. He covers an extraordinary amount of ground, is tough in the tackle and provides an attacking threat, too. What’s not to love! An odds on favourite for player of the season already.
How do you think Newcastle have performed so far this season?
Much like Watford, recent results haven’t been great and of course matches are currently being played against the backdrop of takeover talks, which potentially isn’t easy. That said, with the team safely in mid table and plenty of other teams struggling, I’d imagine that most at St James’ are quietly satisfied with the start they’ve made. A lack of goals may be a cause for concern, but at this stage I’d say 6.5/10.
Are there any Newcastle players which could offer threat and could potentially be the difference on Saturday?
I haven’t seen much of Newcastle this season, so won’t pretend to be an expert. We’ve had plenty of experience of Matt Ritchie during our tussles with Bournemouth, so he’ll certainly be someone we’ll keep an eye on. The same goes for Dwight Gayle who will be fancying his chances after seeing some of the chances an out of sorts West Ham managed to create at Vicarage Road last Sunday. Watford defend zonally and have struggled at set pieces and corners, so I expect to see the home sides’ big men cause problems.
Describe how Watford like to play against an opposition like Newcastle United?
Watford have tended to go toe to toe with every opposition they’ve faced this season. A prime example was the visit to Stamford Bridge where arguably the Hornets could have won, but instead came away on the wrong end of a 4-2 defeat. Despite having our fingers burned like this on a number of occasions, I don’t expect Watford to change the way they play on Saturday. Silva has confidence in his team and they are fully behind him, so he’ll send them out there to play his way.
Watford will be happy to let Newcastle have the ball, sitting deep. The transition to attack has been excellent all season and this is where they will hope to have success; winning the ball and quickly moving upfield, looking to get into threatening positions as soon as possible. The default approach when on the ball is to be moving forward, to be positive, and it’s worked well so far this season. I don’t expect this to change for our visit to the North East.
Where do you think Newcastle will finish this season?
I’m sure Newcastle will be looking to strengthen in January and I do think that a striker should be a priority. If Benitez can put together a team with a more consistent attacking threat, then there’s no reason it can’t be a decent season. I’d assume that staying up is the first priority, but it already seems as though there are plenty of teams worse than The Toon, so the focus should be on consolidation instead of survival. How would you feel about 13th?
Could you predict the Watford starting 11?
I’d expect Watford to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation:
Gomes; Holebas, Mariappa, Kabasele, Britos; Zeegelaar, Cleverley; Doucouré, Hughes, Richarlison; Gray
Finally, a score prediction?
I’ll go for an entertaining 2-2 draw with Richarlison and Holebas on target for the Hornets.