A few weeks ago I explained that I would not be doing any kind of season predictions until the summer transfer window closes - that, for me, only make perfect sense; seeing how strong or, otherwise weak, squads then look.
And so with that, you’ll just have to believe me when I say that not only did I have Watford earmarked as a bit of a mystery team but also...I can reveal that I’m gonna place them as-finishing a very creditable ‘mid-table’ or there abouts.
What ARE they about?
Well having FIVE managers in little over 12 months and shipping in at least 12 new players heading into a new, higher-level of football doesn’t, on the face of it, sound like good preparation at all. Far from it in fact – it sounds like utter madness!
HEAVILY influence by their Italian businessman Gino Pozzo; a lot of their head coaches and playing staff hail from that region. I don’t know much about Watford in detail if I’m being honest but what I have picked up in ‘bits ‘n’ pieces’ is that throughout all of their managerial changes, Watford are a team who like to play with a certain flare and like to ‘go at’ teams.
In the Championship they had, what was generally considered to be, the best 4 strikers in the division (not sure if they’ve all survived the ascent into the Premier League) and I’m sure the foreign invasion of signings since their promotion are of decent quality.
When I look at their squad list, however, I do wonder how the HELL they’re getting away with the home-grown quota rule! Perhaps some Watford (or other) fan could explain it to me (although it has very recently been suggested to me that promoted teams get a year's grace?)
Watford squad source: Wikipedia
And in their CURRENT manager (although by the time I click ‘publish’ on this article that situation may well have changed again) they have someone who looks like he’s been ‘around quality’ most of his playing and, in some respects, managerial career.
And in Quique Sanchez Flores Watford also have a manager who looks quite like Hugh Laurie! Well in this picture he does at least…
As if to underline my (again you’ll have to believe me) pre-season feeling that Watford will make good on their return to England’s top division - a start of 3 games, 0 defeats, 2 clean sheets against Southampton (H) & West Bromwich Albion (H) and conceding just 2 goals against Everton (A); then they appear to be handling the ‘top flight’ pretty well for starters at least…and it looks like they can defend a bit too!
Okay…taking the ‘positive spin’ off their mini-Premier League record a little – they haven’t won a game yet and have failed to score at home twice…and they did lose to Preston North End away 1-0 in the League Cup on Tuesday night (another ‘nil’ in the ‘goals for’ column).
But I share Jesus Navas’ sentiment when I say that we need to be wary of not thinking we can simply ‘rock up’ to the Etihad and roll these over on Saturday. The same determined performances that we’ve seen so far from our electrifying Blues will be needed again to get past these unscathed on Saturday afternoon (a rare 3:00pm KO BST).
|Still can't find a decent aerial shot with the newly extended South Stand...|
Predicted line-up, subs and outcome…
4-5-1 come 4-3-3:
A ‘Copy & Paste’ starting 11 again but on the bench, a few surprises forced on Manuel Pellegrini through injury, which I’ll come on to.
As for the new additions there is, of course, some considerable room for error in my prediction. But with the only available substitute striker being Kelechi Iheanacho, I’ve gone for the inclusion of new signing winger / forward Patrick Roberts to 'get the nod'.
It’s a bit more difficult to guess what EDS defensive cover our manager might give a 'bench spot' to and I’ve only really gone for right-back Pablo Maffeo because ‘The Engineer’ mentioned his name in his pre-match ‘presser’. Also, should anything happen to Aleks Kolarov then I suppose the young Pablo can take the right-back slot whilst, perhaps, the more experienced Bacary Sagna swaps sides to cover.
Other possibilities in terms of young defensive cover could come in the form of pre-season debutants James Horsfield (Defender / Midfielder – Right / Centre) or Cameron Humphreys (Defender – Right / Centre).
Notable absences: Gael Clichy (injured again, this time out for 6 to 7 weeks with an ankle problem), Pablo Zabaleta (injury – another 3 to 4 week with knee ligament trouble), Nicolas Otemendi (work permit issues), Fernando (recovering from a muscular injury – length unknown), Wilfried Bony (injured with a cut to his leg received in training – should be fit for the resumption after the international break).
Result? Our manager, in his pre-match press conference, also continues the theme of not dropping our guard at home to newly-promoted Watford. Although he OFTEN uses the words “…same concentrate” & “…same intensity” he is, of course, correct to do once again.
This relative ‘unknown quantity’ could throw us a ‘curve ball’ and provide an in-game shock or two…but Pellegrini & Co. will have studied more footage of The Hornets than I have, which is zero by the way.
And it’s comforting also that we should be starting with the same 11 who have played so very, very well in the opening 3 games. No complacency whatsoever of course…but this should, eventually, be a comfortable home win.