Ask the Opposition

Ask the Opposition 2 – Watford

Manchester City left the King Power stadium on Tuesday night with a point, ruing the many chances they failed to convert. Up next, City face another of one this season’s surprise package teams in Watford in a game where City’s title credentials will be tested. City still haven’t scored away in the league since September 12th and their disastrous away form is threatening to derail their title challenge.

As City prepare to play to their fourth game in 12 days, we spoke to Andy Lewers, who runs the Watford blog: The Hornets’ Nest.

During your 3-0 victory over Liverpool, to everyone’s astonishment the PA announced that you were one point away from the Champions League spots. You’re doing phenomenally well. You’ve shot up the table and stayed there. Was there ever a feeling before this season that this might be your year or were you not expecting this at all?

Before the season I think the majority of Watford fans felt positive about our chances of staying up, but I don’t think even the most optimistic of fans would have dreamt about being two points off Europe at the start of the new year. We have great owners at the club who have a proven track record of getting clubs to the top league in their country and staying there in Udinese and Granada. Even though the pundits were quick to put us down as relegation favourites, as fans we were confident we could compete and stay in this league, though definitely not to the extent we’re seeing!

You seem to have one of the most balanced sides in the league. The 4-4-2 formation is the shit right now and you’re deploying a version so beautiful Pellegrini probably had tears in his eyes watching you ahead of our game. Talk to me about it.

Football’s a simple game and our formation works because we have an excellent core to our squad. We have the experienced hands of Gomes in goal, Cathcart and Britos have formed an excellent centre-back partnership, Ben Watson and Etienne Capoue work tirelessly in midfield and of course the strike partnership of Deeney and Ighalo is becoming legendary. All the other players fit around that core spine and we can switch them about as much as we like and it won’t drastically affect the balance. I think it works also because we have players who are willing to work hard for their spot. Just recently we pulled out of a possible move for Roma’s Juan Iturbe after he reportedly expected first team football, it doesn’t work like that at Watford.

Odion Ighalo is superb. That scoop thing he’s done a billion times to everyone in the league is utterly surreal. To think I might’ve never got to enjoy him had he gone to China in the summer almost makes me sad.

We love the scoop! It’s even got its own Twitter account @IghaloScoop! I’m surprised opposition players still fall for it. As Alan Shearer so eloquently put it “he’s sending them for ice creams” every week and we can’t get enough! We’ve made our stance as a club very clear that he’s not for sale in January. Selling him wouldn’t make sense as Premier League survival would be more financially beneficial for us in the long term.

Watford decided not to extend Slavisa Jokanovic’s stay in the summer, choosing to appoint the experienced Quique Flores. How much of an effect has he had on your season since he came in in the summer?

After last season Watford and Jokanovic (known affectionately only as ‘Slav’) were unable to come to an agreement regarding a new contract. At the time as fans we were upset but it’s worked out for all parties, Slav has had an opportunity to manage in the Champions League with Maccabi Tel Aviv and is now back in England as manager of Fulham, so it would be great to see him come back to The Vic for a game. As for Flores, he has brought a certain professionalism and class to one of the best and most organised Watford sides I’ve ever seen at Vicarage Road. With that he’s created an excellent team spirit and unity between the players and fans.

Looking at the #stats, your defence looks very mean, which is never the case for newly promoted teams. Only five teams in the league have conceded less. Why is that?

Our defence is well-drilled and organised, something we’re still getting used to as Watford fans! We still look dodgy when defending set pieces however, but that’s probably always going to be the case. Like I said earlier our centre-back partnership of Cathcart and Britos is solid and then we have one of my favourite players to ever wear a Watford shirt Allan ‘zero fucks given’ Nyom at right back. I remember him swiping a leg at Sterling to send him flying earlier in the season after he’d had rings run round him throughout the first half. I enjoyed that. Other qualities of Nyom include sprinting away from the referee when he’s in trouble and smashing the ball against the opposition players with no thought of the consequences. At left back we’ve got on-loan Nathan Ake from Chelsea, although he’ll be suspended for the City game following a red card against Spurs. When the defence has been broken however we have the outstanding Heurelho Gomes (ex-Spurs) in goal. Gomes has saved us countless times in our promotion push last season and has arguably been our best player over the last two seasons.

One Manchester City player you’d take at Watford?

David Silva

Your prediction for the game?

Late kick off at a noisy Vicarage Road under the lights… An optimistic 2-1 to Watford.

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