Time running out for Watford
Watford travelled to the South East to take on out of form Brighton in what could only be described as a 6 pointer for both teams. With the clubs deeply invested in a relegation battle, this was a must-win game for both teams, despite Brighton manager Graham Potter playing down the significance of the fixture in his pre-match press conference.
Brighton implemented their possession-based philosophy throughout the first half, although even with an impressive 65% of the ball, they found themselves struggling to have the beating of the Hornets, as Pearson's side most definitely had the best of the first 45.
Abdoulaye Doucoure blasted the Hornets in front from 18 yards out after the French midfielder carried the ball from the halfway line following Aaron Mooy's misplaced pass, with the help of a great interception from Étienne Capoue. Watford cruised to the end of the first half and comfortably went into the break leading the home side.
Brighton came out in the second half a completely different team, with Pascal Groß operating closer to Glenn Murray, as well as keeping their passing based ideology and pressurising the Watford defence, who found themselves sitting deeper and deeper as the game went on. Eventually, the Brighton pressure was far too much for the visitors, as Alireza Jahanbakhsh's low cross from the right was beaten into the Watford net by fullback Adrian Mariappa. The Watford defender had absolutely no pressure on him but a slight glance at a wondering Glenn Murray before the ball came in, clearly put Mariappa off, leading to a freak own goal. Pearson was asked about the mistake after the game and responded by stating, "the players understand what is needed and we have to push on from here." Foster and a few other Watford players went over to try and pick Mariappa up at full time, but deep down the team will acknowledge it's a massive two points dropped. Nigel Pearsons Watford still find themselves sat uncomfortably in 19th position, level on points with fellow struggles West Ham.
Has the Nigel Pearson new manager bounce gone?
Watford's Ismaïla Sarr has been out injured with a hamstring swelling for a few weeks. His absence from the first team has become evident, as Watford continue to become exposed down their right side. It's no secret Mariappa lacks pace and there is a feeling around the club that he isn't Premier League standard. Unfortunately for the Hornets, Daryl Janmaat and Kiko Femenía are still struggling with injury problems, and return dates unknown for the two fullbacks.
The opposition consistently comes with a game plan to exploit Watford's stand-in right back. Aston Villa did this simply by playing their most influential player in Jack Grealish, out on the wide left to take on Mariappa and it caused Watford to suffer a great deal against a very poor Aston Villa side.
Argentine Roberto Pereyra has been assigned the wide right position since Sarr has been away. The former Juventus man brings such a varied technique and ability to Watford football club. Some fans at Vicarage Road believe he's one of the best players to ever wear the shirt, but Roberto does come with his problems. Pereyra's lack of work rate and pace is often criticised, as he's consistently deemed not fast enough to play out wide in this current Watford side. He is traditionally a number 10, but in more recent years he has drifted to the far left position as this allows the tricky midfielder to cut inside on his stronger right foot, often providing to be an effective goal threat for the Hornets.
Pereyra has been linked away from the club in the summer and it's looking likely the Argentinien will return to Italy. Ultimately, the issues go much further, as Watford's lack of investment is seeing one of their most gifted and capable players, operate in a position he isn't comfortable in. Sarr offers much more than his offensive attributes, his incredible work rate combined with immense pace, allows him to cover the right-back position and consistently work up and down the right-hand flank. Pereyra is a completely different player to Sarr, it's arrogant by the board to expect him to carry out the same type of performance as the Senegalese winger.
In recent weeks Watford fans are rightly criticising the board's frailness in recent transfer windows. This is the first season under the Pozzo ownership that the board have been questioned by the fans. On the lines of the investment, Watford have necessitated a solid centre half for a few years, having required an upgrade at the back ever since Quique Sánchez Flores left at the end of his first spell in the 2015-2016 season. While at the other end of the pitch, questions have been consistently asked of Troy Deeney, many believe he doesn't offer what he used to and that Gino Pozzo should have brought in a proven Premier League striker in prior windows.
Regardless of where the team needs to strengthen, Watford's survival is looking increasingly bleak. If Pearson can't turn it around, further questions of the hierarchy have to be asked, as three proven Premier League managers would have failed to guide the club away from the relegation zone.