On Saturday afternoon, Watford host Burnley at Vicroage Road in what promises to be a hard fought match. Both teams will be full of confidence after winning their match before the international break but Quique Sanchez Flores and Sean Dyche will be desperate to keep that momentum going.
Former manager Javi Gracia’s biggest struggle was trying to replicate the overachievement of last season. A steady decline at the end of that campaign foreshadowed the struggles that were to come, however, many people were still confident that there wouldn’t be too much of a struggle for the Hornets. How wrong they were. Complacency that stemmed from an underwhelming summer of transfer business alongside Gracia’s stale tactics meant that Watford were in disarray. So, in stepped a familiar face in Quique Sanchez Flores.
Flores switched the system to a five-at-the-back. It gives them solid defensive foundations to build from. Two 0-0 draws last month showed signs of progress as it illustrated the tighter structure that Flores was trying to implement. Though more defensive, Watford have still managed to create chances in this structure and, with more clinical finishing, they really could have taken another victory from those stalemates.
Watford’s midfield and attack often changes. Sometimes they go with four in midfield and just one up-top but they have deployed three in midfield with two strikers. The only consistent department is the defence. The back-five at least gives some defensive assurances which means that Flores can tinker between the midfield and attacking numbers.
Up-front, Andre Gray and Gerard Deulofeu are options who can punish a high line. The back-five encourages teams to push up which will allow spaces in behind for counter attacks with their pace. Troy Deeney is thought to be in contention for a return as well and the Watford captain would pose a different kind of dilemma for Burnley.
The Clarets should be unchanged from last weekend. Phil Bardsley and Charlie Taylor gave life to the full-back areas and Chris Wood’s return was also important. The striker gave a better point of reference than Jay Rodriguez. The two strikers will be looking to find space in between centre backs.
Dwight McNeil will be looking to limit Daryl Janmaat’s ability to push forward but Jeff Hendrick shouldn’t be stretching Jose Holebas or Adam Masina too much. His role on the right-hand side is more related to shape and linking the play but he will be able to do a good job of nullifying Holebas’ attacking threat.
This won’t be an easy game for the Clarets but they will be confident about getting something from the clash. James Tarkowski and Ben Mee will believe they can withstand the Watford attacking threats and will hope that someone at the other end can deliver the attacking goods.
It will be a challenging clash for Watford too. They will be out to prove that their first win of the season against the league’s current whipping boys, Norwich City, wasn’t just because of their struggling opposition. Nonetheless, with their recent upturn in performances, the win did seem like it was going to come sooner rather than later.
Daryl Janmaat v Dwight McNeil
Watford’s back-five gives them more defensive resilience but McNeil will be a tough test for the wing-back. The 19-year-old winger has started the season really strongly; he plays without fear and always wants to fire a cross into the box. His pace is very difficult to live with.
Craig Dawson v Chris Wood
Wood has really found his feet after a slow start to the season. The New Zealand international was again on the score-sheet in the 3-0 victory over West Ham United. Dawson is a big, strapping defender who loves an aerial duel so it will be interesting to see how these two tussle at Vicorage Road.
Andre Gray v Ben Mee
Gray is no stranger to Burnley fans but the former Claret has struggled since making his £18-million to the Hornets. He has been in and out of the team but, after scoring off the bench last week, the striker once again illustrated his danger when in-front of goal. Whether starting or coming off the bench, it will be up to the Clarets captain to marshal his defence and not let him burst clear of a high-line.
This may not be a classic for the neutral but it should be a competitive fixture. Anybody could realistically pick up the three points but a draw is probably the safe bet!