Watford 1-2 Chelsea
- Goals: Gerard Deulofeu (£6.1m) | Tammy Abraham (£7.9m), Christian Pulisic (£7.2m)
- Assists: None | Jorginho (£5.1m), Abraham
- Bonus: Abraham x3, Pulisic x2, Deulofeu x1
Chelsea continued their fine away form at Vicarage Road on Saturday evening, registering their fifth successive victory on their travels.
The narrow winning margin flattered Watford, who had Ben Foster (£4.8m) to thank for keeping the scoreline down as Chelsea swarmed all over their hosts.
Any Fantasy manager who opted to back the Blues ahead of their fixture swing in Gameweek 7 has been nicely rewarded, with Frank Lampard’s side scoring 13 goals and winning all five league matches since their defeat to Liverpool in September.
It’s away from home where Chelsea have really shone this season.
No Premier League club has scored more goals or registered more shots on the road than the Blues in 2019/20.
It took just four minutes of Saturday’s encounter at Vicarage Road for Lampard’s side to add to their tally, with Tammy Abraham (£7.9m) latching onto a majestic Jorginho (£5.1m) pass and lobbing Foster to put Chelsea ahead.
Abraham turned provider for Christian Pulisic (£7.2m) to tap in after the break but there were numerous other chances besides, with Abraham wasting the best of them when being denied by Foster from ten yards.
The busy Watford goalkeeper also prevented Mason Mount (£6.9m) from recording a fifth attacking return away from home, pushing one of the midfielder’s efforts onto the bar, and did brilliantly to claw out a looping Pulisic header from a Willian (£7.1m) corner.
Mount was again thwarted by Foster after the break and Pulisic was only prevented from scoring a second goal when the hosts’ shot-stopper stuck out a boot to deflect the American’s shot wide.
Abraham was also inches away from turning in a Mateo Kovacic (£5.3m) cross-shot and there were some real positive signs for owners of Chelsea’s cut-price attacking assets, with Mount, Pulisic and Abraham registering 12 shots between them on Saturday.
Lampard was full of praise for his troops, whilst also bemoaning the Blues’ profligacy and Foster’s goalkeeping:
We dominated the game, played some great football for big periods of it and created enough chances. You have to give credit to Ben Foster because he made some great saves but we feel ourselves that there’s at least three or four goals in that game.
Two goals is never enough to put a game to bed. We’ve felt that already this season and it’s been a bit of a story of our season at times, especially away from home, but that shouldn’t take away from how well we played.
I enjoyed watching a lot of the play. For 25 minutes, it was outstanding and we controlled it, then we got a bit sloppy but again in the second half the link between Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount a bit higher was really good. They’re all comfortable on the ball, they have the ability to find a forward pass and break the line and Kovacic, in particular, drove from midfield a couple of times. I thought they were outstanding.
Asked about why his side were so potent away from west London, Lampard added:
Maybe away from home teams open up against us slightly more. I don’t think today was one of those days but it’s happened in certain games, which then gives us the opportunity with the pace we’ve got in forward areas that we can counter-attack and create chances. Whereas at the Bridge, teams come and make it difficult for us to do that with as much freedom.
Those cautionary words from Lampard may well be at the back of Fantasy managers’ minds, too, with three of Chelsea’s next four league games being home fixtures against Crystal Palace, West Ham United and Aston Villa.
While Mount maintained his ever-present league record and Abraham started his ninth top-flight game in a row, regular starts aren’t something that Callum Hudson-Odoi (£6.0m) can count on – at least for now.
Following his blank in Gameweek 10, the Chelsea winger served up a one-point cameo off the bench on Saturday with Pulisic handed another start down the left flank.
Speaking of the USA international and his poacher’s goal, Lampard said:
It’s great to see Christian scoring a goal from four yards out. I love to see that because he could have decided not to go the extra mile and then that ball flashes across the face but nobody gets on the end of it.
If he continues doing that sort of thing then the goals will rack up because there are a lot of goals to get in the six-yard box. I thought his general performance was top as well.
There was also frustration for owners of Chelsea’s defensive assets, who were scarcely troubled and cruising towards a third clean sheet of the season before some over-playing at the back resulted in Jorginho fouling Gerard Deulofeu (£6.1m) – the contentious spot-kick being awarded and subsequently converted after VAR intervention.
Emerson (£5.5m) returned from injury to depose Marcos Alonso (£6.3m) from the left-back slot, while there was an eighth straight start for Fikayo Tomori (£4.8m) at centre-half.
Tomori and Kurt Zouma (£4.7m) drew praise from their manager after full-time, although Lampard did also highlight the looming return of Andreas Christensen (£4.9m) and, further down the road, Antonio Rudiger (£6.0m).
The Chelsea boss said:
Andreas is nearly fit and Rudi’s got some problems so he might be a bit longer, but I need that competition.
‘I’m very pleased with how they’re both playing, I think they looked very composed against Watford and didn’t look bothered at all throughout the whole game. It’s nice they’ve been able to form a little bit of a partnership, but we need all four so when the others come back it’ll be even better for the competition.
Christensen, N’Golo Kante (£5.0m) and Ross Barkley (£5.6m) were indeed all pictured in training on Monday morning and the French midfielder has been passed fit for the Champions League game against Ajax.
Kante’s services may well be needed in Gameweek 12, with Jorginho suspended for the visit of Palace after collecting his fifth booking of the campaign.
Easier tests await Watford over the approaching three Gameweeks, with Norwich, Burnley and Southampton to come for the Hornets.
Most Fantasy managers are likely to be shying clear of the Watford attack despite the favourable fixture swing, with the Hornets having scored only two goals in the last six Gameweeks.
The fact that their two big chances in this game came from a gift of a penalty and the head of Foster – up for a corner in injury time – said much about their offensive threat, with one off-target curler from Deulofeu in the first half about the best of their opportunities from open play.
The imminent return of Troy Deeney (£6.2m), a favourite of Quique Sanchez Flores during the Watford manager’s first spell, can’t come soon enough based on recent evidence.
Sanchez Flores has made a definite improvement from a defensive perspective of late but the Hornets’ back five couldn’t live with Chelsea’s potent attack and it’s safe to say that Foster has kept his side in it over the last two Gameweeks – only Paulo Gazzaniga (£4.5m) has made more saves than the Watford custodian during this period.
Matches against out-of-form sides likes Norwich, Burnley and Southampton, of course, ought to offer better clean sheet opportunities for the likes of Daryl Janmaat (£4.3m).
Sanchez Flores was greeted with boos when withdrawing Janmaat late in the game, with Kiko Femenia (£4.2m), rather than an attacking option, thrown on in his place.
The Watford manager said afterwards:
It’s normal because sometimes in the stands we are reading a different match and probably they are thinking we have one striker on the bench. But from my point of view I have the feeling with Janmaat, we are not deep anymore.
He made a very, very good first half but he’s not deeper anymore and we need someone deeper, so the only player we have to do that in this moment was Kiko [Femenia]. Someone fresh and the position was normal, player for player.
One defender who Watford may well be without next weekend is Craig Cathcart (£4.4m), who was withdrawn with a back injury in the first half.
Sanchez Flores said:
I think he had some spasm in the back. He didn’t report anything during the week and even in the warm-up, it’s okay, nothing. But I told you in the press conference this week I said the players, when they are playing with these kind of pressures – so heavy, so bad – the body could react in a lot of directions that we can’t control.
Probably it’s the first time I’ve seen Cathcart leaving after five minutes but now the pressure is there, it’s inside of the players and the muscles are reacting differently.
Watford XI (5-4-1): Foster; Janmaat (Femenia 75′), Dawson, Cathcart (Mariappa 20′), Kabasele, Masina; Deulofeu 6.5, Chalobah (Hughes 67′), Doucoure, Pereyra; Gray.
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Tomori, Zouma, Emerson; Kovacic, Jorginho, Mount; Willian (James 90′), Abraham (Batshuayi 87′), Pulisic (Hudson-Odoi 83′).
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