Where did it all go wrong for Watford against Stoke City?

Before Christmas the Hornets were looking at potential European qualification, now they are looking nervously over their shoulder at the relegation zone.

Where did it all go wrong for Watford against Stoke City?
Troy Deeney put in another shift at the weekend, but he lacked support from teammates. (Photo: Watford FC)

Watford find themselves stranded in the bottom half of the table, with just two wins from their last 13 league games, as they failed to build on their FA Cup success against Arsenal last weekend.

Lack of support for the front two

The Hornets have relied a lot on the goals of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo this season, and with their captain netting their only goal of the game late on, the pair have now scored 77 per cent of their team's league goals this season.

Last weekend, we saw the Watford midfield flying forward on the counter-attack as they knocked Arsenal out in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, yet against Stoke City the midfield runners were few and far between.

Even at 2-0 down at chasing the game, there was often no midfield player within 20 yards of the front two when Watford had the ball. The introduction of Nordin Amrabat went some way towards rectifying that situation, but he could not force an impact alone.

Outnumbered in wide areas

Stoke's greatest outset came on the right flank through Jonathan Walters and Phil Bardsley, with them playing around 50% of their football down that side. Watford also struggled to cope with Marko Arnautovic on the left wing and both their full-backs, Nathan Ake and Allan Nyom, were outnumbered two against one on a number of occasions.

This was due to Quique Sanches Flores' continental style midfield where his four players are extremely narrow.

It also meant that Watford had no real width to attack as so much of their play went through the middle, nullifying the aerial threat of both Ighalo and Deeney. Stoke found such an easy tactic relatively straight forward to defend using their two defensive midfielders.

When the Hornets did eventually play with some width towards the end of the game, Ikechi Anya was able to get one over Bardsley as he created a consolation for Deeney. Unfortunately it was too little too late for the Hornets.