A return to the Championship for the Hornets? – Watford 2018/19 Opposition Preview

9 August 2018

Watford feel like an unknown quantity heading into the 2018/19 season, with relegation or a mid-table finish both more than possible in the Premier League.

When we play them: November 24 (away); February 27 (home)

Last season: Won 5-0 (home); Drew 3-3 (away)

The Hornets were one of the Premier League‘s most forgettable sides last season.

They were never really in a relegation scrap, nor did they ever threaten to get anywhere close to a spot in Europe.

Javi Gracia took charge in January following the shock sacking of Marco Silva, guiding them to 14th in the table come May.

This summer hasn’t exactly been an earth-shattering one at Vicarage Road, although the permanent capture of Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona is a coup.

Considering how strong newly promoted pair Wolves and Fulham look, as well as others around them strengthening, Watford should be worried moving forward.

There is quality within the squad without question, most notably the influential presence of Abdoulaye Doucoure—the 25-year-old signing a new five-year deal is their best piece of business all summer—but they could easily be dragged into a relegation dogfight.

The first month or two will tell us a lot about where Watford are heading—Gracia needs a solid start or he could be the first Premier League manager sacked.



WATFORD, ENGLAND - Monday, May 1, 2017: Watford's Abdoulaye Doucoure during the FA Premier League match against Liverpool at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Players in: Gerard Deulofeu, Marc Navarro, Ben Wilmot, Adam Masina, Ben Foster, Ken Sema, Domingos Quina

Players out: Richarlison, Nordin Amrabat, Mauro Zarate, Costel Pantilimon, Tommie Hoban (loan), Jerome Sinclair (loan)

Best XI: Foster; Masina, Cathcart, Kabasele, Femenia; Doucoure, Chalobah; Deulofeu, Hughes, Pereyra; Gray

We spoke to From the Rookery End’s Mike Parkin (@RookeryMike) to get the lowdown on Watford and how he thinks Liverpool will fare in 2018/19.

How optimistic or pessimistic are you for the new season, and why?

If the Hornets can add an extra attacking option to the squad before the season kicks off, then I’ll be cautiously optimistic.

Defensive recruits have arrived and the midfield is potentially as strong as it has ever been, so the missing piece of the jigsaw is a potent attack.

Andre Gray seems to have found his shooting boots in pre-season, but while both he and Troy Deeney will feel they have something to prove after a forgettable 2017/18 campaign, I’m convinced Watford need another option up front.

If Gino Pozzo and his team can unearth a half-decent striker, I think the Hornets will do just fine.

Watford manager Javi Gracia during the Premier League match at Wembley Stadium. London. (Nick Potts/PA Wire/PA Images)

What are your aims for the season?

Consistency. The past three seasons have followed an alarming pattern: a great start followed by a post-Christmas slump.

These dips in form haven’t landed us in real relegation danger yet, but it’s a trend that needs to be reversed if Watford are to truly begin to feel like an established Premier League side.

The away form needs to be addressed too. Under Gracia, Watford managed just one goal away from Vicarage Road in 2018, which is clearly unacceptable.

I believe most Watford supporters accept that incremental improvement would represent progress, so a more even season with an improvement on the pitiful away performances we were subjected to last term would leave the majority of fans happy.

We’re no different to anyone else here, but a decent cup run wouldn’t go remiss either.

Who’s your man to watch?

Work permit issues have meant that Adalberto Penaranda has spent the last two seasons on loan, but with an end to the frustrating red tape in sight, it’s hoped that the time is right for the exciting Venezuelan to announce himself to the Premier League.

He is still very young and potentially quite raw, but all at Vicarage Road are excited to see him in a yellow shirt for the first time.

* All rival supporter views taken before the end of the transfer window.


Vicarage Road

A general view of Vicarage Road during the Barclays Premier League match at Vicarage Road, Watford. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 21, 2015. See PA story SOCCER Watford. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.

Capacity: 21,577

Away fans’ pubs: The Oddfellows. It’s a decent pub with a garden, often does a BBQ and is just a few minutes’ walk from the ground.

One piece of advice for visiting fan: If you’re driving, don’t get caught out parking near the ground. It’s permit only everywhere.

If you’re not, don’t get caught out by the decision not to serve alcohol in the away end. If you want a beer or two, get them down you before entering the ground.



ANN ARBOR, USA - Saturday, July 28, 2018: Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge scores the second goal during the preseason International Champions Cup match between Manchester United and Liverpool FC at the Michigan Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

How do you rate Liverpool’s chances heading into the season?

Expectation levels will be higher after a season that so nearly ended in glory, while there will be added pressure on Mohamed Salah after his stellar performances over the course of last term.

That said, Liverpool seem as settled as they have been for a long time, with the fans and players united behind Jurgen Klopp.

With Chelsea entering another new managerial era and Man United in a bit of (relative) disarray, Liverpool could be the team to run Man City closest at the top of the table.

Who’s going to be the Reds’ Player of the Year, and why?

After a litany of failed goalkeeping experiments, it will be fascinating to see how Alisson adapts to life in the Premier League.

If the Reds are to challenge for serious honours this year, he could be the difference and I’m backing him to catch the eye.

Hopefully for you guys, the ball too!

TIA’s Watford Predicted Finish: 19th (Average of the TIA writers’ predictions)

Where Mike says Watford will finish: 12th

Where Mike says Liverpool will finish: 2nd

This is part of our club-by-club opposition previews this summer, getting the views of away fans on their club and their thoughts on LFC:

Arsenal | Bournemouth | Brighton | Burnley | Cardiff | Chelsea | Crystal Palace | Everton | Fulham | Huddersfield | Leicester | Man City | Man United | Newcastle | Southampton | Tottenham | Watford | West Ham | Wolves

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