Brighton and Hove Albion 1-1 Watford
- Goals: Adrian Mariappa (£4.2m) own-goal | Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.7m)
- Assists: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (£5.8m) | Etienne Capoue (£4.8m)
- Bonus: Capoue x3, Doucoure x2, Davy Propper (£4.8m) x1
A calamitous late own-goal from Adrian Mariappa (£4.2m) ruined what would have been a fifth clean sheet in ten league matches for Watford under Nigel Pearson.
The unfortunate Mariappa, who went on to record his third minus Fantasy Premier League score of 2019/20, needlessly turned in an Alireza Jahanbakhsh (£5.8m) cross in the 77th minute to gift-wrap struggling Brighton a point in a game low on quality.
While listless Albion had perked up a little in the second half, Watford’s low block had comfortably dealt with what little had come their way and Ben Foster (£4.9m) wasn’t troubled until Aaron Mooy (£4.8m) forced an excellent save from him shortly before the hosts’ equaliser.
A half-chance for Leandro Trossard (£5.8m) late on was barely worthy of mention, with the Belgian spooning the ball over from a narrow angle.
Pearson said of his side’s defensive display after the game:
It’s a game in which we worked very hard out of possession, we were very disciplined and we frustrated them. Apart from Foster making one save in the second half, we didn’t really give them too many opportunities to hurt us.
In terms of frustrating a side who are possession-based, we worked very, very hard. Our mixture of being defensively deep but pressing from the front was very good, the problem was that sometimes we didn’t quite make enough of our own possession when we had it.
As Pearson alluded to, there wasn’t much happening at the other end either, with Watford having only five attempts on goal all game.
It was fitting in such a scrappy match that the opener had come from a Brighton error, with Mooy’s loss of possession resulting in a well-taken solo goal from Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.7m).
That was Doucoure’s fifth attacking return in the last seven Gameweeks, with the cut-price FPL midfielder evidently enjoying his new role in ‘the hole’ of a 4-2-3-1.
Gerard Deulofeu (£6.1m) and Troy Deeney (£6.3m) have enjoyed a renaissance under Pearson too but had few sighters of goal at the Amex Stadium, with the Catalonian winger trundling a shot wide early in the second half.
Perhaps the Hornets have been missing Ismaila Sarr‘s (£6.2m) presence down the right flank over the last three Gameweeks, with the Senegalese winger again sidelined on Saturday due to a muscle injury.
Roberto Pereyra (£5.6m) has his own qualities but he does not quite provide the same direct outlet down the right wing and it’s no coincidence that Watford’s chance creation figures have taken a tumble while Sarr has been unavailable.
Sarr should be in line for a return in Gameweek 27 but Watford’s next four fixtures aren’t great, with Manchester United, Liverpool and Leicester City all to come before Blank Gameweek 31.
One of Watford’s five clean sheets under Pearson did come against the Red Devils, at least, with Foster banking a double-digit haul against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s troops in Gameweek 18.
United are also without a single goal to their name in Gameweeks 23-25.
Brighton’s fixture list isn’t much better, with trips to Sheffield United, Wolves and Leicester to come over the next six Gameweeks along with home matches against Arsenal and Manchester United.
Where Watford at least have a guaranteed match in Blank Gameweek 31, meanwhile, Albion could very well be without one.
Pearson’s Hornets also offer us the security of starts and the prospect of clean sheets, which Albion do not at present.
The Seagulls have registered just one shut-out in 15 Gameweeks, while Graham Potter’s constant tinkering of his starting XI – he changed three of his back four on Saturday and Neal Maupay (£5.9m) was again a substitute – is becoming a real annoyance.
We can swallow a bit of rotation with Manchester City because of the high rewards on offer but Albion’s players are seldom going to give us double-digit hauls when they do start.
While Brighton are a markedly different side to the one playing under Chris Hughton, the anxiety at the Amex on Saturday conjured up bad memories of the nervy run-in (and the anticlimactic Double Gameweek 34) in 2018/19.
Reflecting on the game, Potter said:
We’re all quite positive because the performances certainly in the last two games have been there. We have had a never-say-die attitude which we had at the start of the season and it’s nice to get that bit back.
We are a confident group, but we’ve seen good teams go down in the past so we’re aware that we need to keep grafting and keep going.
Solly March (£4.6m) and the fit-again Dan Burn (£4.5m) returned to the starting XI at the weekend, with Potter saying of the pair:
Solly is another player who on his day can be the best player at the club – he knows his talent and potential and so do we. If you give him a run of games – and he hasn’t had that in a while because of his injury – his potential is there. We just need him firing but he was good on Saturday.
We missed Dan a bit. Bernardo has done well, but Dan gives us something different and it was good to see him back out there. They are important players for us going forward.
Brighton XI (4-2-3-1): Ryan; Schelotto (Jahanbakhsh 72′) Duffy, Dunk, Burn (Maupay 56′); Propper, Mooy; March, Gross (Alzate 61′), Trossard; Murray.
Watford XI (4-2-3-1): Foster; Mariappa, Cathcart, Kabasele, Masina; Capoue, Hughes; Deulofeu (Welbeck 85′), Doucoure, Pereyra (Pussetto 81′); Deeney.
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