How can Watford improve on their awful away record?

Watford face Burnley at Turf Moor on Sunday in their first away match of the season. After an encouraging victory against Brighton last weekend, can they repeat the performance and finally found some joy on the road?

How can Watford improve on their awful away record?
Opinion: How can Watford improve awful away record?

Watford will look to build on their opening day victory over Brighton when they face a tricky match against Burnley this Sunday.

However, travelling Hornets fans won’t be too optimistic given how the team performed away from home last season in the Premier League, losing 13 matches and conceding 33 goals in the process.

Watford’s first away match last season was an impressive 2-0 victory over Bournemouth but the side failed to repeat their displays on the road for the remainder of the campaign.

In fact, the Hornets have only managed to secure 13 victories on the road since returning to the top-flight three years ago – the 2015-16 campaign being the best in terms of results away from home, picking up 21 points including six wins.

Securing points away from home is vital in the Premier League and if Javi Gracia wants to improve on a 14th place finish in his first full season in charge, he should consider the following when preparing his side for an away match:

Park the bus against the top six

With Jose Mourinho at the helm at Old Trafford, we’ve seen that even the best managers are content with setting up defensively against the top teams.

Watford should adapt this approach if they want to nick unexpected but important points on the road against the likes of the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal.

On their visits to last season’s top six, the Golden Boys lost every match and conceded a total of 18 goals in the process, which was damaging to both the team morale and goal difference.

Although it might be seen as a negative to go out and defend against the top sides on the road, Watford have shown that they can beat them at Vicarage Road with wins over Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea all achieved in the last three campaigns.

Gracia should set-up to frustrate the top six teams but if there is a chance to nick a win on the counter-attack, he shouldn’t be afraid to have a go in the latter stages but going toe-to-toe with them from the outset away from home is just suicide.

Be clinical at both ends

Defensive lapses cost Watford on numerous occasions last season and Gracia must find a way to eradicate these mistakes especially when it comes to away matches.

The Hornets must learn to keep their concentration and stop allowing the lead slip on the road as these points could turn out to be vital by the end of the campaign.

Watford led in away matches against Chelsea, Everton and Crystal Palace last season but still managed to come away from all three without a single point to their name.

The Golden Boys must also be more clinical in front of goal because mistakes will be punished – Richarlison’s missed chances proved costly at Stamford Bridge whilst Tom Cleverley missed a last minute penalty at Goodison Park.

Watford must be more ruthless at both ends of the pitch in away matches in order to improve on last season’s away record, which saw them record only four clean sheets and score 17 goals in the league.

Be more adventurous against the teams around them

One of the main reasons why Watford recorded such an impressive away record during the 2015-16 campaign was their approach against the so-called lesser teams.

Former boss Quique Sanchez Flores decided to play two strikers in Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney and it paid dividends, with both men forming a formidable partnership – scoring a combined total of 28 goals in the Premier League.

Although Flores also gambled and adopted a similar approach against the top sides which was less successful, it turned out to be the right move against the sides around them as the Hornets secured away wins at Stoke, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.

Deeney is still leading the line at the club and record signing Andre Gray needs to step up and attempt to emulate the success that Ighalo enjoyed three years ago.

Gracia should look to play both Deeney and Gray up top against Burnley and look to hurt them early on with Roberto Pereyra acting as another attacking outlet.