Cathcart says Watford "will learn" from Brighton loss
Photo by Getty Images/Matthew Impey/Offside

Cathcart says Watford "will learn" from Brighton loss

The Northern Ireland defender mulls over an abject performance in the season-opener.

Jake Horwood

The opening weekend of the new Premier League season did not disappoint. With ten games, 27 goals, and VAR controversy to satisfy anyone's intermittent desires, the most-viewed tournament in world football attracted plenty of eyes as 2019/20 kicked off.

Arguably the most eye-widening events took place at Vicarage Road. New Brighton & Hove Albion manager Graham Potter oversaw an emphatic 3-0 win for the Seagulls in his first competitive game in charge, effortlessly dispatching a poor Watford side.

It was not necessarily the result which delivered the surprise factor, although many were tipping Watford to win. Instead, it was the passivity and utter mundaneness of the Hornets which drew a large proportion of popular attention to the game.

What, people wondered, had happened to that team which were good value for an 11th-placed finish last season, one of the leaders of the pack in the race for European football until the final stages of the campaign, and which also reached the FA Cup final alongside their league exertions?

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"It was something we didn't see coming," centre-back Craig Cathcart admitted. "We came in fully prepared to give our all and give a good show, and we are very deflated. But it's early doors and we need to pick ourselves up pretty quickly."

What went wrong?

Five days have passed since that nightmarish afternoon at Vicarage Road, and still the thought of explaining the proceedings of the match brings total perplexity for anyone holding an affinity with Watford.

The whole stadium was buoyant ahead of the curtain-raiser after a thrilling end to the transfer window in which the Hornets acquired England international Danny Welbeck and club-record signing Ismaïla Sarr — both were revealed to the crowd prior to kick-off.

But it took less than half-an-hour for that optimism to drain amidst the pouring Hertfordshire rain, as Abdoulaye Doucouré bundled the ball into his own net to put Brighton ahead.

Goals from Florin Andone and Neal Maupay sealed the win for the visitors, but they felt like nothing more than salt in the wounds from the home team's perspective. The Hornets were never really in the game, victims of their own inextricably shoddy performance.

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"We'll have a look in the week and see what we did well and didn't, but it's a hard one to take, especially being at home in the first game. We are disappointed and we'll have a look and try and learn from it."

Nothing should be taken away from Brighton or Potter, who were extremely good value for the victory they went on to vehemently secure, but it was concerning to witness such a lacklustre display from their opponents.

Watford were haphazard in defence and worryingly insipid in attack. Everything which ought to be perfected during an effective pre-season — positional organisation, transitions, cohesion, and so on — seemed deficient of practice or routine and, at moments, chaotic.

"It was just one of those games," the 30-year old said. "We felt in the game in the first-half, but just the final ball let us down. We had a chance and if we had taken it that might have changed things completely, but we are disappointed with the goals we conceded.

"They were clinical and we weren't, and sometimes that's just how football goes."

Bouncing back

The silver lining to this, a start to the season which could not conceivably have gone any worse for Watford, is that plenty of time and games remain to set the record straight.

As head coach Javi Gracia put it in his post-match press conference, "it is the first game so we have a lot of time to improve."

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Preparations for the upcoming weekend began early on the morning after the game, as the Spaniard met with his subordinates and consultees to carefully scrutinise the 90 minutes against Brighton before relaying their findings to the players in a tactical briefing.

But, judging by the events on the opening day, fitness and mentality are the facets of performance in need of a reboot and reinvigoration within the Watford squad, and perhaps a trip to Everton and Goodison Park to face former manager Marco Silva will go a long way towards providing just that.

"We can't look at this game too much," said Cathcart. "We have to pick ourselves up and move on. We have lots of players to come in, pick us up and push the lads to do better.

"We look forward to doing better in the next game."