Musings from the mind of veteran player Jon Ounsworth better known as FPL Coach. The Coach has vast experience having played the game for over 12 years, has witnessed everything that can happen in the game and has probably forgotten more than you know…
This week the Coach explores the differing immediate fortunes from one particular game from the weekend Watford vs Liverpool.
Watford Turning Heads
The biggest shock of the weekend arose at Vicarage Road on Saturday evening as Watford not only ended Liverpool’s 44 game unbeaten run in the Premier League but made a total mockery of it.
Back in December many questioned the appointment of Nigel Pearson as the former Leicester and Derby manager had been out of a job for some time but the Englishman has really galvanised the team and took them back to basics.
Pearson has instilled a hard working philosophy into the team while bringing a direct attacking style of play looking to move the ball quickly through the lines of play. The change has clearly been for the better with Watford claiming 15 points from 10 matches.
The timing of the appointment was also a blessing for Pearson as it coincided with a return to full fitness for talismanic striker Troy Deeney following a three month absence. Deeney is not only important for the team as a goalscorer as his 5 goals in 10 games have proven but under Pearson is also being asked to do a lot more for the team.
Very often in FPL we when stats are analysed the number of touches in the opposition’s half and in the final third are something that we look out for but in Watford’s case it is actually the overall contribution which is turning out to be so influential. Pearson’s tactics involve dropping his forwards into deeper positions in possession to support the midfield and present more options.
The table below shows that while they are actually scoring more goals the strikers have had more touches on average in their own half than under previous manager Marco Silva suggesting that they are being asked to work harder for the team.
Pearson’s change in tactics and philosophy are clearly working especially the combination of Deulofeu, Doucoure and Sarr behind Deeney and anyone who watched them vs Liverpool will agree that they are an organised unit, with physically strong players who are capable of springing fast counter attacks.
The emergence of Ismaila Sarr especially is a huge boost for the Hornets and is a very exciting talent. If it wasn’t for a brief injury which saw him miss three Gameweeks his ownership would have rocketed long before now.
Unfortunately after going off this weekend it’s been confirmed that Gerard Deulofeu will miss the rest of this season which will be a huge blow for Watford and a problem that Pearson will have to try and address and quickly. Roberto Pereyra is the most likely replacement but he does not offer the same dynamism as the Spaniard.
The biggest pull though for Watford assets is that they do not blank in Gameweek 31. The Hornets travel to Burnley on FA Cup weekend quarter final and currently is one only 2 fixtures scheduled to definitely go ahead that weekend. With their impressive form and fair upcoming fixture run the London team deserve more attention in the coming weeks.
Just two weeks ago we couldn’t have even begun to predict what has happened to Jurgen Klopp’s team in his last four games. Three defeats and 8 goals conceded has seen their unbeatable record shattered, witnessed them crash out of the FA Cup and facing up to a second leg in the Champions League already 1-0 down to Atletico Madrid.
It’s no coincidence that Liverpool’s change in fortune has come at the same time that captain Jordan Henderson has been forced to miss out with a hamstring injury. The Englishman has been a huge influence this season and was probably on some of the best form of his career having grabbed 2 goals and 3 assists in his last four matches. With Milner also unavailable to deputise up to now the scousers have really lacked a leader in the middle of the pitch.
Whilst it’s hardly time to panic as they should still comfortably capture their most coveted prize of the Premier League crown next month it might leave FPL managers questioning the importance of Liverpool players in their teams especially those with a defensive double-up.
Their defeat to Chelsea in the cup though probably affords them a stay of execution as they are now guaranteed to play their matchup vs Crystal Palace at Anfield in Gameweek31.
These results will reinforce to Klopp though just how important his captain really is and all FPL managers will be hoping he is back in the team sooner rather than later.