The Warm Down: Watford lucky to get a point as Newcastle fail to take their chances
Ismaila Sarr's goal rescued a point for the Hornets | Serena Taylor - Newcastle United via Getty Images

After last week’s victory away at Norwich City, there was a sense of optimism surrounding Watford’s chances heading into Saturday’s clash with Newcastle United at Vicarage Road.

After all, Newcastle were without a win in all five of their Premier League matches so far this season, and were making the trip to Hertfordshire without some important players in Callum Wilson and Captain Jamaal Lascelles. 

Pre-match optimism soon faded though, after a disappointingly poor first half from Watford. The visitors were firmly on top before eventually finding a breakthrough after some sustained pressure on Ben Foster's goal.

A short corner was taken, the ball given to Allan Saint-Maximin, who dribbled towards the 18-yard-box and laid the ball off to Sean Longstaff in acres of space at the edge of the box. Longstaff, who had already been finding his radar with long-range efforts on goal, found the net on this occasion, beating Ben Foster, who perhaps should have done better.

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After a string of missed Newcastle chances, and a second-half improvement from The Hornets, an equaliser was eventually found when Ismaila Sarr found the net in the 72nd minute after a Josh King flick on and some good movement left the Senegalese winger with a free header at the back post.

King thought he had stolen all three points for Watford in the 87th minute when he tapped in from close range after following in Moussa Sissoko’s effort from outside the box. There was pandemonium at Vicarage Road as the Norwegian found the net, only for VAR to eventually rule it out for offside.

In what felt more like a basketball game than a football match at the end, Josh Murphy also had the chance to win it for Newcastle when he found himself one on one with Ben Foster in injury time. Murphy though, elected for a chipped effort, rather than putting his foot through it, and failed to clear Foster with the ball. It lacked conviction and summed up Newcastle’s day in front of goal.

Newcastle fail to take their chances

Newcastle United fans will be coming away from the match at Vicarage Road baffled as to how they didn’t come away with all three points after missing a number of clear-cut chances throughout the game.

When they were still 1-0 up, Allan Saint-Maximin found himself through on goal after a poor Craig Cathcart back pass sent him on his way. Saint-Maximin tried to take it around Foster, who got the slightest touch with his foot to knock it away from the Frenchman. Saint-Maximin then laid it off to Longstaff, who failed to find the net with the goal gaping in front of him.

Joelinton also had a decent chance to extend Newcastle's lead after he found himself with a free shot at goal inside the box when Ben Foster parried a shot from Miguel Almiron in his direction. The Brazilian’s effort did find the target from a tight angle, but was stopped by the feet of Foster as Newcastle once again failed to make Watford pay.

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When Joe Willock found himself one on one with Foster, just as Murphy would in injury time, and didn’t find the net, you just sensed it wasn’t going to be Newcastle’s day.

Whether they were good saves by Foster, or just Newcastle showing a real lack of clinical nature in front of goal, Watford could have easily conceded three or four goals on another day.

Midfield Balance and Ozan Tufan impact

After a summer of transition in the position, with plenty of incomings and departures, Watford’s midfield continues to be an issue, as new signings continue to gel.

It is clear that Xisco Munoz is yet to find a consistent balance in his midfield three, and it was proven once again on Saturday, as Newcastle controlled the game for large periods.

On the opening day of the season against Aston Villa, the midfield three of Juraj Kucka, Peter Etebo, and Tom Cleverley, were fantastic, but since then, the midfield has looked unbalanced and lacking someone who can receive the ball from the defence, and get the Hornets moving forward.

Imran Louza was signed in the summer as somebody who could play in the ‘Will Hughes’ role, dropping deep in midfield, receiving the ball, and looking to get Watford on the attack, but looked lost on his full debut against Brighton and hasn’t featured in the Premier League since.

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Ozan Tufan though could be the solution.

Tufan made his Premier League debut on Saturday after joining Watford on an initial loan from Fenerbache this summer, and the Turkish international made an immediate impact. Watford looked a different side with him in the midfield, with Tufan always looking for a forward pass and to get The Hornets on the attack when in possession of the ball. 

Yes, at times, there were moments where his quality could’ve been better, misplacing the odd pass here or there, but we saw enough to suggest he may be the man that can add some creativity to a midfield that has been desperately lacking it.

After having such a positive impact, It will be interesting to see whether or not Xisco will name him in the starting eleven away at Leeds United on Saturday.

Sierralta's absence

One man who will also be hoping to get back into Xisco’s plans is Francisco Sierralta, who missed out on even making the bench for the second Premier League match running.

Not many people would argue that he was Watford’s best central defender in the Championship last season, and he was widely expected to be a mainstay in the defence this season, yet, he seems to have been cast aside after his mistake against Wolves.

In that Wolves match, Sierralta scored an own goal to give Wolves the lead, and the following week against Norwich, Craig Cathcart was named alongside William Troost-Ekong at the heart of the defence, with Xisco explaining he had opted for more experience at the back.

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Despite Xisco’s comments, many presumed Sierralta must have an injury of some sort, but that was put to bed when the Chilean played midweek against Stoke City in the Carabao Cup.

Cathcart was once again named in the starting eleven against Newcastle, with Christian Kabasele the central defender on the bench, which suggests there is an issue with Sierralta that is nothing to do with injury.

It’s unclear what that issue is, but Watford are a stronger defence with Francisco Sierralta at the heart of it, last season proved that much, and surely he must find his way back in soon.

Craig Cathcart has been a loyal servant to Watford, but both against Norwich and Newcastle, there were times he was caught napping, and players found themselves through on goal in spaces he should have been occupying.

Teemu Pukki’s goal for Norwich came that way, and Newcastle had a couple of chances that they failed to take from similar situations.

Perhaps that is harsh, but, he is hardly putting in performances that warrant he absolutely must remain in the side, which makes Sierralta’s continued absence even more peculiar.

Final Thoughts

Whether or not there is something going on behind the scenes with Sierralta remains to be seen, but if his absence is performance-related, it is a confusing one after making only one error.

Elsewhere, Ozan Tufan's impact on a much improved second-half performance was a huge positive to take from the game, and the Turkish international will hope to make his way into Xisco Munoz's starting eleven as Watford continue to search for the right balance in their midfield.

All in all, Watford were lucky to come away with a point at Vicarage Road on Saturday, and it was certainly a point gained, rather than two lost, with Newcastle failing to take so many chances.

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