After making only two appearances for Norwich in their first 12 league games, Andre Wisdom has started to find his feet at Carrow Road.
The Reds loanee has enjoyed his first sustained run in the side recently, dislodging regular right-back Steven Whittaker for the last four matches running.
He helped the Canaries claim four points from their previous three games prior to the Vicarage Road visit – including a credible draw against Arsenal – earning the praise of boss Alex Neil in the process:
“Andre is someone I left out of the squad not so long ago. Now he is starting regularly at right-back. That is credit to him coming in and taking his opportunity. When you get your chance you have to perform as well as you can.”
Wisdom’s solid displays saw him handed a fourth consecutive start against Watford, and though it would prove to be a disappointing afternoon, slumping to a 2-0 defeat, for the Reds defender individually, it wasn’t all doom and gloom.
Starting at right-back – where he flanked a struggling central defence pairing of Ryan Bennett and Sebastian Bassong – the 21-year-old turned in a reliable, if unspectacular performance for the unambitious and direct Canaries.
Most importantly, he wasn’t at fault for either of the sloppy goals conceded, with Neil having to look in the direction of his centre-backs, and Alex Tettey for answers on Troy Deeney and Odeon Ighalo’s strikes.
While the central pair in particular floundered, Wisdom himself was largely untroubled for most of the game.
His tight marking and clever positioning made it hard for Watford to bring Jose Manuel Jurado into proceedings early on – forcing the Spaniard to drift inside in search of space and easing the pressure of his defensive duties.
Wisdom stepped in to intercept well on a couple of occasions as the hosts applied presure, reading developing play before passing simply thereafter, and also cleared his lines well when instructed to take no risks by the Norwich boss.
Wisdom may have to brace himself for some serious adaptation on his eventual return to Merseyside, something he is looking forward to after discussions over his progress and future with the Reds boss.
The ex-West Brom man was frustrated in his attempts to play from the back with a lack of option provided by Nathan Redmond – who was withdrawn at half time – and lone-striker Lewis Grabban who also offered nothing for attacks to be built upon making for a dysfunctional right side first half.
But despite playing in a system unsuited to playing from the back and marauding to contribute to attacking play, Wisdom did try to offer offensive help.
In the remaining minutes of the first 45 he delivered two decent crosses but both of which came to nothing with City lacking any remote presence in the box.
The visitors struggled in the blustery conditions at Vicarage Road, prompting Neil to act by introducing Dieumerci Mbokani, switching to a 4-4-2 with Jonny Howson moving across to play ahead of Wisdom.
Mbokani’s presence was a welcome one, and brought threat with his hold up play allowing the Canaries midfield to support in numbers, creating a better attacking impetus.
And it was through the half-time substitute’s work that Wisdom had a chance to head his side level.
The right-back arrived powerfully at the back-post to meet Robbie Brady’s floated cross after Mbokani’s lay-off, but his goal-bound header had the sting taken out of it by a deflection off left-back Nathan Ake, before looping into the grateful hands of Huerelho Gomes.
It was a signal of intent from Wisdom who then produced two disappointing deliveries in quick succession as the away side tried to force their way back in, but the improvement was only short lived with Watford in control.
The Hornets’ dominance ensured the visitors remained at arm’s length, but Wisdom dealt well with the little he had to, as Quique Sanchez Flores’ men centred their attacks through the middle with Bennett and Bassong labouring.
The home side enjoyed greater threat down City’s right as the second 45 minutes wore on, but it was more for the improved positional play of Jurado in conjunction with Ake and Deeney overloading him, rather than the right-back being beaten.
Wisdom’s only moments of struggle came when engaged in physical battle with the goal-scoring handful that is Deeney, who forced him into some hurried and unconvincing defensive play as he attempted to rough up the youngster.
There’s certainly no reason, on Saturday’s evidence, why he can’t go on to cement the right-back spot and enjoy a productive second-half of the season at Carrow Road.