Watford Report Card: Mid-Season Review for the Hornets in 2019/20

​Three permanent managers, two league wins and the worst goal difference in the Premier League, Watford's first half of the 2019/20 season was certainly memorable, even if not for the right reasons. 

After reaching the FA Cup final and comfortably securing a mid-table finish last campaign, the Hornets must have been fairly confident in August - there was even hushed suggestions in some quarters that Javi Gracia could lead to them to a European finish.

This confidence soon dissipated however, with the Hertfordshire side having to wait until their 12th game of the season to register their first win. Although there has been a slight upturn in their dire form of late under Nigel Pearson – see the hammering of Aston Villa this weekend – Watford's opening act of the 2019/20 campaign has been disastrous. 

Note: We're talking first half of the season here, so Saturday's win – good as it was – will be skimmed over.

League Performance

Gerard Deulofeu

​Terrible. Awful. Horrendous. Choose any adjective you want to describe Watford's start to the campaign - it simply has not been good enough. As alluded to earlier, it took the Hornets 12 league games to register their first win of the season and during this run they endured some distressing results. 

An 8-0 defeat away to Manchester City, just a few months removed from the Citizens thrashing them 6-0 in last season's FA Cup final, must have been particularly humiliating and there were plenty more grim afternoons to accompany it. Quique Sanchez Flores paid with his job when they failed to defeat fellow strugglers Southampton in November, a move which ushered in the Pearson era and finally some improvement. 

Since the former Leicester boss took over at Vicarage Road, Watford have looked more organised and resilient. This revitalisation has led to a number of eye-catching results and performances, with the Hornets gaining a win over Manchester United and two credible draws against Crystal Palace and high-flying Sheffield United. More of this is required is they are to have any chance of avoiding the drop this season.

Cup Performance

Mason Holgate

​For a brief moment it appeared that the Carabao Cup might be able to offer some welcome respite from the Hornets' dire league form. A 3-0 victory over Coventry in the second round was straightforward enough, and set up a third round tie against Swansea City.

That one was a tighter affair, with a late Roberto Pereyra goal securing the Hornets a much-needed 2-1 win over the Championship side. However, dreams of a return to Wembley were cruelly ended by one of the club's many former managers, Marco Silva, whose Everton side bested them 2-0 in the last 16.

Watford have a good chance to progress in the FA Cup at least, as they face League One Tranmere Rovers in the third round in January. 

Biggest Strength

Ben Foster

​Erm...this is a tough one. 

Watford fans can, arguably, take comfort in the fact that if you remove some of the goals conceded from that freak 8-0 loss to Man City, their defensive record is not the absolute worst. 

In fact, since Pearson has taken over, the Hornets have performed well at the back, letting in just three goals - with two of those coming against world champions Liverpool. That's quite an impressive record, and something for Watford to build on during the second half of the season.

Biggest Weakness

Troy Deeney

​The Hornets biggest issue is their ridiculously goalshy forwards. For all of his alpha male passion and desire, captain Troy Deeney managed just one goal in eight appearances in the first half of the season (he did, of course, score twice in game 20 this weekend) while the once prolific Andre Gray has managed just two in his 17 games. 

Watford's wide forwards offered little in the way of support, with Gerard Deulofeu and club-record signing Ismaila Sarr only getting six between them. 

The Hornets 12 goals scored in this season's first 19 games was pitiful, and needs to be addressed as soon as possible. 

Areas to Address in January

Joao Pedro

​Watford are crying out for an injection of flair into the forward line but this may be a weakness that they have already addressed...

They will be hoping that 18-year-old Joao Pedro can be the man to provide the creativity and attacking impetus that they have been missing, when the ex-Fluminense starlet finally becomes a Hornets player on 1st January after being granted a work permit in October.

The signing is very Football Manager-esque, so...hit or miss?

Best Players

Ben Foster

​Watford fans can take considerable comfort in the fact that despite their lowly league position, they are not among the three weakest squads in the Premier League.

Ben Foster remains a very reliable stopper and has made the fifth-most saves in the division this campaign, while on his day Deulofeu is capable of winning a game on his own.

If the Spaniard is able to find some consistency, he will be a vital cog in the Hornets' bid to avoid relegation. 

Predicted Finishes

Nigel Pearson

​Despite being reduced to a figure of ridicule by some, Nigel Pearson is an extremely competent manager. During the 2014/15 season, Pearson masterminded a much more challenging great escape with Leicester and early signs at Vicarage Road suggest that he will repeat the trick with the Hornets this campaign. 

The former Hull boss' record in the FA Cup is unspectacular though, and progress in this competition will likely be sacrificed to ensure Premier League survival. 


Premier League: 17th

FA Cup: Fourth round


Grade: F

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Source : 90min