Watford and Javi Gracia have so far been the surprise package of the season. No one, not even the manager, could have expected such an amazing start to the campaign. Four wins out of five Premier League matches and five from six in all competitions are not results that come by accident.
Despite Watford’s recent loss to Manchester United, they still have a great chance of going on to do something special this season if they manage to build on their 2-1 defeat and avoid dwelling on it.
Watford were flying under Marco Silva last season until an approach from Everton allegedly derailed the manager’s focus. This led to a run of 11 games without a win that saw the side slip from a top four position in October to tenth-place on the table five points above the relegation zone. The Portuguese was let go in January and was later replaced by Gracia.
The Spaniard was fresh off leading Russian club Rubin Kazan to a ninth-place finish in the Russian Premier League. He was able to steer the club clear of relegation to secure a 14th-place finish at the end of the season.
Watford were expected to continue from where they stopped. As a club lacking the financial muscle to compete against the heavyweights in English football, the Hornets will be considered successful as a mid-table club or even just staying in the EPL. But their early season form suggests Gracia is about to shatter the club’s glass ceiling.
He has maintained the core of the team used by his predecessor and has found a way to make them win. The team has secured wins against Brighton and Hove Albion, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham.
He has deployed a 4-2-2-2 formation that is difficult to break down yet deadly on the break. Club captain Troy Deeney seems to have rediscovered his best form. The 30-year-old is leading by example with hard work, discipline and dedication. He has scored two goals and assisted another in five games.
Another player that has been on top of his game is Argentine Roberto Pereyra. The former Juventus forward has scored three goals in five matches. This represents his best start to a season at the club.
The manager has found a way to get the best of his forwards while also keeping things tight at the back. Andre Gray has also been on the score sheet.
As a team, Watford have scored nine times in the league so far and conceded thrice. With an average of 12 shots and 2.3 goals per game, the team is firing on all cylinders.
The defensive side of the game is also well attended to. The defenders not only do their job at the back but also contribute upfront. Both Daryl Janmaat and José Holebas have also registered a goal each. The latter has also made four assists, the most of any defender in the league so far. This signifies an all-round performance from the team.
This also shows a team that has to be taken seriously moving forward. Some may feel that last season’s experience should call for caution. Yes, Garcia’s side will not win the league this term or even challenge for a top four finish. But a top-ten place is well within reach. That will constitute an improvement on last season’s performance.