The Inside Track: Watford

By SFC Media Wed 01 Mar Watford vs Saints
Photo by Reuters

Ahead of Southampton's visit to Watford, we get the lowdown on the Hornets from journalist Simon Mail...

How have things gone for Watford since the teams met on the opening day?

It has been an up and down season for the Hornets, but most fans would have happily taken their current position at the start of the campaign. Walter Mazzarri's side made a strong start and were as high as seventh in December, before a poor run, undoubtedly affected by a spate of injuries, left them looking over their shoulders. But the return of key players and some smart business in the transfer window have made the difference and a mid-table finish looks on the cards.

What’s the recent form been like?

Their current form has been reasonably encouraging and eased any fears of being sucked into a relegation battle. Their only defeat in the last six league games came against Manchester United, and a superb victory at Arsenal sparked their upturn in form. Watford have also been solid at home, with only Tottenham beating them in the last seven fixtures at Vicarage Road.

What sort of a system and style of play do they tend to use?

Mazzarri has shown a flexibility and willingness to alter his system both before games and during matches. He will have to do so again, as the favoured three man attack featuring M'Baye Niang, Troy Deeney and Mauro Zárate will not be available for the rest of the season, after the latter's serious injury suffered against West Ham last weekend.

In terms of the style of play, Watford have been trying to play a bit more of a passing game, with Niang and Zárate in the side. But if Stefano Okaka or Isaac Success are brought into the side then you can expect a more direct approach.

Who have been the key players this season, and who would you say are the ones to watch on Saturday?

In the first half of the campaign, defender Sebastian Prödl was the most consistent performer. But a couple of January signings have made a big impact, with Tom Cleverley and Niang catching the eye.
Cleverley has looked at home back at Watford, in his second spell at the club, following his loan move from Everton. His energy and willingness to get forward from midfield has been a welcome addition and popular with supporters.

Niang has also impressed, with his strength and ability on the ball proving a valuable asset. The Milan forward, on loan until the end of the season, got off the mark for Watford against Burnley and will be expecting to add to his tally during the rest of the campaign.

What sort of a game would you expect this weekend?

I would expect an entertaining game if Southampton can replicate their performance from Wembley. The Saints were excellent against Manchester United and Watford will do very well to keep out Manolo Gabbiadini in his current form. Watford did not play particularly well in the draw against West Ham and will be looking for a better performance. If I was to give a prediction, I would probably lean towards a draw, which has been the outcome in two of the last three meetings between the sides.

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