Ahead of Southampton's next Premier League match, we spoke with Watford Observer reporter Ron Walker to get the lowdown on the Hornets...
What has the start of the season been like for Watford?
It’s been a very solid start for Watford, who haven’t had much to complain about from any of their games thus far.
There was a danger of the wind being taken out of the club’s sails with a poor start after so much optimism following Marco Silva’s arrival and so many new signings, but they’ve had a real grit and determination which was missing for long periods last year, and that is largely what earned them a last-minute draw with Liverpool on the opening day.
Since then, they outplayed Bournemouth in their own back yard to win away from home for the first time in seven months, and ground out a draw with Brighton last week despite playing more than an hour with ten men, in a game they would have found a way to lose not too long ago.
What difference has Marco Silva made?
He’s got a better connection with everyone around the club. The old head coach, Walter Mazzarri, was very stand-offish with the press, and more dangerously the fans, but it has since turned out that extended to the dressing room too. Silva, in contrast, is much more straight-talking, honest and likeable, and clearly has the respect of his players.
He’s always had his team well-drilled and, even at the start of pre-season, you saw him pulling players aside and giving them tactical tidbits after games. That’s carried on into the Premier League so far, and tells its own story with back-to-back clean sheets.
Whether it’s come from him or upstairs, there has been far more of an emphasis on a British core since his arrival, which has been useful in terms of getting up-and-running quickly in the Premier League. I would imagine it has also helped to create more of a unit in the dressing room.
What is the style of play and approach like under Silva?
Silva has always favoured a 4-2-3-1 wherever he’s been, and he’s played it from the moment he walked through the door at Vicarage Road. Watford are compact out of possession, but can be expansive in it, playing with two genuine wide-men and using the pace he’s brought into the team to good effect. The club has often been accused of being ‘physical’ in recent years, which seems a nice way of saying ugly to me, but they definitely have more about them to mix it up this season than they have done previously, with some very gifted technical players.
Who have been the standout performers so far this season?
Brazilian winger Richarlison has played less than three games and is already becoming a cult hero. He scored his first goal at Bournemouth the other week and is full of tricks, and always direct, but has more physical strength than a lot of wingers. He’s only 20, so he will have his ups and downs, but he’s started very well.
Elsewhere, midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré has been going under the radar for a good six months now – so I’m not sure whether I should mention him – but he’s Watford’s Mr Dependable in the middle of the park. He nearly left the club last summer when Mazzarri didn’t want him, but he’s forced his way into contention and is one of the first names on the teamsheet now. He’s composed on the ball, can play his way out of trouble, works hard and can tackle. I saw something once that compared him to a young Vieira, and there’s some truth to that.
Are there any other players you think could be key for Watford this weekend?
Andre Carrillo arrived only a couple of days before Watford’s last game, so he only came off the bench against Brighton. Since then, he’s been away with Peru and only arrived back in Watford on Wednesday, so he could be among the substitutes again. But, either way, he’s got pace to burn and worked under Silva at Sporting Lisbon, where he had the best season of his career so far. He looked bright when he came on last time out and he could give Ryan Bertrand a tough time if he appears again.