Bottom of the Premier League after the opening seven matches and having yet to register a win, Elton John and his Watford brethren must surely be guessing That’s Why they Call it the Blues.
Having picked up only a single point from the first four-game weeks, Javi Gracia vacated the managerial hot seat on September 7th and whilst the return of prodigal son Quique Sanchez Flores to the breach briefly had fans Feeling the Love (Tonight), the 8-0 hammering away to last year’s cup final conquerors Man City a fortnight ago certainly has some at Vicarage Road fearing that they could be bidding farewell to a Premier League shaped Yellow Brick Road come May.
I hate me too!
Whilst not in possession of very many points at this juncture, they hold the rather sickening title of having conceded the most goals so far this season (20); their misery compounded by the fact that no side has scored fewer than their four goals at the other end of the field.
A check of the stats, however, throws up a rather strange, if telling, anomaly.
The Hornets rank 4th – behind high-flyers City, Chelsea and Liverpool – for attempts on goal as we hurtle toward the quarter-point in the season. The fact that they’ve only managed to convert four of those 105 efforts – that’s a blood curdling 3.8% conversion rate folks – rather explicitly shows Flores’ where indeed his problems lie.
Forced to do without the poaching talents of talismanic skipper Troy Deeney (£6.2m) since going down to Everton in their first away game of the season, it’s been the sting in attack that these wasps have so desperately craved. A look at the xG data rams home the point – a delta of -5.91 reflecting that they are short almost 6 goals of where they could reasonably expect to have been given their chances.
And whilst damning on paper, that particular stat may just be the stiff tonic that all the Watford faithful need to ensure they keep perspective.
City game aside, Flores’ sides haven’t performed too badly since his return.
31 shots reined down on Bernd Leno (£5.0m) as Arsenal just about hung on to claim a draw at Vicarage Road in the Spaniard’s first game back in the dugout on September 15th, whilst Argentinian playmaker Roberto Pereyra (£5.7m) scored one and assisted for Danny Welbeck (£5.9m) as the Hertfordshire side booked a place in the last 16 of the EFL Cup with a win over Championship front runners Swansea City.
Last week’s 2-0 demise in Wolves’ backyard was a game that saw our would-be heroes more or less dominate, forging 14 attempts on goal, five of which forced Rui Patricio (£5.1m) into saves. They also enjoyed the lions share of possession at Molineux.
Tomorrow’s game with Sheffield United undoubtedly affords Flores and co. the best opportunity so far to capture that elusive first win of the Premier League season. Admittedly, Chris Wilder’s Blades come into the contest having yet to taste defeat away from home this season and their stout defence, which has only offered up 42 shots on the road, should make life difficult for the likes of the aforementioned Welbeck and Pereyra, Gerard Delefeou (£6.1m) and Andre Gray (£5.8m) up top.
But, crucially for all involved, it’s winnable. Like, actually winnable.
They’ll have to find a goalscorer first however and in these lean times for their striking options, it’s very interesting to note the stats thrown up by someone quite unexpected amongst their midfield options..
I’ll happily concede that I thought Tom Cleverley (£4.9m) had retired or been shipped off to some faraway place before he made the most of Sokratis Papastathopoulos’ (£5.0m) gaff to pull his team back into the game last month against Arsenal.
But, when struggling to find myself an enabler in the midfield in a quest to bring in Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang (£11.0m) into my own forward line, the man I so often referred to as a clown, proved himself to be more of a potential ringmaster.
The former United and Everton man leads the way in terms of penalty box attempts from midfielders £6.0m and under this season, forging himself a pop at goal just over every half-hour. For players in that particular sub six mil price bracket that have played at least 300 minutes this term, he’s an agonizingly close second to John McGinn (£5.8m) as far as Minutes per Chance goes.
He acts as a viable differential alternative to other popular choices around his immediate price-point lying only second to Todd Cantwell (£5.0m) – owned by more than a quarter of all managers in the game – in terms of expected goals and expected goal involvement with players £5.0m and under. Cleverley’s ownership stands at just 0.3% at the time of writing.
He also has a say on set pieces, with two of his fifteen efforts this season coming from free-kicks. With Pererya not exactly guaranteed a starting berth, it increases the Englishman’s chances of standing over a few corners also.
Fixture wise, the Hornets are about to embark on what looks to be a favourable run of fixtures, starting with tomorrow’s game against the promoted Blades. A trip to Spurs after the international break is followed by a home tie with Bournemouth. Chelsea then visits Vicarage Road before a run of five games – the toughest of which is an away trip to Leicester in Gameweek 15.
At some point, things will turn for Watford. They have to if they are to remain Still Standing come the end of the season.
And, in the absence of Deeney, who’s to say not-so Blind Tom won’t turn into Vicarage Road’s very own Rocket Man over the coming weeks?
The stats suggest he certainly has a chance. Are you Ready?
Ok, I’m leaving. Just put down gun….