My area of study is philosophy. I frequently deal with abstract questions, question the nature of reality, and walk away from class with more questions than answers. Yet even I am asking myself what on earth just happened between Watford and Coventry this afternoon. In a 90-minute end-to-end scramble with both teams throwing the form guide in the bin, Watford put on their most entertaining performance since opening day… and still dropped points in a 3-3 draw.
In the first half-hour, the Hornets seemed to have regained the attacking hunger that head coach Valerien Ismael has been trying to instill. They gave Coventry very little space to operate and tipped a number of passes away to spring counterattacks. However, that intensity led to panic in attack. Watford looked to instantly throw the ball forward and chose low-percentage or complicated passes in hopes of opening a chance. Although they began sort that out as the game progressed, they will still need to maintain more control in attack to create chances and help their defensive cover.
Goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann has taken some stick from the fans for his timidity in distribution and box command. Despite allowing three goals, he was by no means the cause of Watford’s failure today. In the 20th minute, he faced a penalty shot for a handball from Ryan Porteous but parried the shot away strongly to keep the game scoreless.
Throughout the day, he kept command of his box, was careful with his passing, and made saves where necessary. Coventry scored their first goal from a free kick in the 41st minute, and while Bachmann maybe could have positioned himself better, the shot came in the only place where it could hit the back of the net. In my view, it came down to being the perfect shot more than anything else.
New Danish signing Mileta Rajovic earned his first start for the Hornets and seems to fit in spectacularly. In the 35th minute, he moved forward to the penalty spot as Tom Ince carried on the right wing. Despite falling, Rajovic sprang up and stuck a foot out to direct Ince’s cross into the top corner. In the 87th minute, he and substitute Vakoun Bayo sprang forward to intercept a bad back pass. Rajovic took Bayo’s pass and calmly slotted it past Coventry keeper Ben Wilson. We certainly cannot expect him to score a brace every game, he looks to be the finisher in the 9 spot that Watford desperately needed.
Photo credit Watford FC
Matheus Martins also answered his critics with a goal today. The talented Brazilian winger has received flak for taking speculative curlers from outside the box instead of looking to create a better chance. Today, he attempted a similar shot and put just enough curl on it to tuck it into the bottom corner for Watford’s second goal. If he is able to hone his finishing, the Hornets could have some dazzling attacking prospects.
For all the excitement that Watford’s attack brought, their defensive shortcomings were also on full display. Coventry’s second goal came from a Wesley Hoedt back pass with far too much power which surprised Bachmann and dribbled into his own net. Given his form this season, it was a shocking moment. I suspect that he will make sure that never happens again. Coventry’s final equalizer exposed Watford’s issues with defensive cover on counterattacks. Haji Wright sent a cross in from the right wing to Matt Godden on the edge of the box, who hammered it past Bachmann to the left side. Watford had some defenders back, but Mattie Pollock game Godden too much space.
While the season is young, and this result is not a disaster, it is evidence that the squad and play style are still a work in progress. Ismael has plenty of decisions to make in terms of personnel and formation. The current strategy forces Watford into situations where they live and die by the sword, and perhaps he is looking to induce more stability in the squad. It is also unclear just how lenient Gino Pozzo will be given his previous attitude toward managers. It’s unlikely that we will see more six-goal scrambles in the weeks ahead, but I would expect Ismael to continue experimenting and testing new strategies to see what really works for this team. What the team is and can be are still complete unknowns, and for the time being, we can only wait and watch.