Unprepared. Watford vs Blackburn Review - Jack Foster (US)
Irony can appear in the cruelest of forms in football. A passionate, welcoming fanbase who have endured the bumpiest of rides over the past few seasons arrived at Vicarage Road today to watch a club who hardly seemed to know why they were there. Everyone in the building is (or should be) aware of Watford’s position in the table, and the tightly packed nature of the Championship this season. Yet Watford gave a performance that began as lackadaisical and became panicked. Watford presented a starting lineup that had the fans salivating, with the captaincy given to Joao Pedro and Imran Louza returning to the bench, but the first half provided anything but the anticipated fireworks.
This game was an opportunity to pick apart a team that were collapsing in their own right, but Watford’s lack of confidence, as ever, prevented them from firmly taking control of the game. It was plain to see that Blackburn believed Watford were the better team, but Watford frequently made one pass too many in the final third and discarded multiple chances. Then, as has come to be expected, Blackburn scored a counterattack in the 24th minute that capitalized on Watford’s lack of killer instinct and attention to detail. Bradley Dack slotted home an easy finish after Daniel Bachmann parried the initial shot back into the six-yard box. It was clear that the Watford players were not expecting this, and the defense reacted laughably slowly. It was only at that point that Watford seemed to realize they had a job to do. For the remainder of the game, Watford frantically attempted to throw the ball forward. Pass after pass went just outside the receiver’s reach, or a nice bit of buildup play would result in a weak shot into the keeper’s arms. It took Wesley Hoedt hammering a strike home in the 79th minute to equalize, but that proved to not be enough to spark Watford into making a final push for a win. Watford now drop to 6th in the table on 45 points, staring down the barrel of a packed race for the play-off positions.
At this point, it’s quite difficult to envision Slaven Bilic remaining Watford manager much longer. It’s practically impossible to say what Gino Pozzo’s goals for the club really are, but he has given Bilic a longer leash than a Watford manager would normally have, particularly with the team’s current run of form. While Hoedt and fellow new signing Ryan Porteous looked lively in defense, you need more than to players with the urgency and composure to drive the team forward and get results. It’s not entirely Bilic’s fault, but his seat will be getting quite hot in the coming days. However, as I’ve said before, sacking Bilic at this point in the season would be futile, and would just shed light on the Pozzo regime’s complete unwillingness to stick to a plan.