WATFORD welcome Southampton to Vicarage Road on Super Sunday in the Premier League. Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) analyses the encounter.
Watford vs Southampton | Sunday 28th June 2020, 16:30 | Sky Sports
Watford host Southampton in desperate need of three points to end a poor run of form and begin to push away from the relegation zone – the sole aim of Nigel Pearson’s mid season appointment.
The early promise that the Hornets showed when Pearson joined the club – four wins from his first six matches – has been followed up with a solitary victory in the next nine games, a remarkable showing against champions Liverpool.
It is that inconsistency and glimmers of brilliance that frustrates Watford fans the most as they are clearly capable of performing far beyond their output this season. Like seemingly most teams down near the bottom, Watford have struggled with injuries across the season but a squad with the spine of Ben Foster, Craig Dawson, Etienne Capoue and Troy Deeney should not be sitting 16th in the Premier League.
Those core players will need to step up in the final weeks of this season to keep the club’s head above water but Pearson will be able to draw upon his experiences of keeping relegation at bay with previous clubs Leicester and Sunday’s opponents Southampton, the latter back in 2008.
Despite that amazing night against Liverpool, the turning point in the form under Pearson seemed to have come at Villa Park when the team succumbed to a 95th minute defeat. Gerard Deulofeu’s season ending injury was another bitter blow and his creativity has been lacking in recent matches with the team recording bitterly low Expected Goals (xG) figures in the three games since the Spaniard’s absence of just 0.45, 1.01 and 0.50.
Watford’s forward line will perhaps be buoyed however by Southampton’s defensive mistakes in Thursday’s defeat to Arsenal, the Saints paying the price for individual errors which has been the team’s downfall for many a year now.
Alex McCarthy’s miscued clearance and Jack Stephens’ last man challenge following a poor backpass from Pierre Hojbjerg gifted the Gunners their two goals. Despite the second half performance being slightly brighter once Kyle Walker-Peters and Shane Long were introduced, the Saints did very little with their increased possession and fell to yet another home defeat.
Ralph Hassenhuttl will be looking for a response from his players heading into this match although motivation could be a struggle with the team all but safe from the dreaded drop. The Austrian coach will need to make changes to his side with Stephens’s suspension and Hojbjerg picking up a knock towards the end of Thursday’s loss.
Youngsters Yann Valery and Michael Obafemi are also expected to make way after poor showings, Valery in particular looking completely off the pace since his comeback from a long spell out of the game through illness (well, that’s the official line anyway).
Saints skipper to take aim
A player that I highlighted as part of my Arsenal preview was James Ward-Prowse and his recent tendency to get shots away. With the bet I suggested landing – a shot on target for the 25 year-old – I see no reason not to go in for the same bet again. Bizarrely enough, the odds with PokerStars on JWP repeating that feat is actually bigger than the 23/20 price it was the other day, this time at 13/10.
With four shots on target in two games since the restart from six shots in total, it also makes sense to add in 2+ shots with Paddy Power at a generous looking 11/10.
Although Hojbjerg is doubtful for the game, his likely replacements Will Smallbone or Oriol Romeu are both more defensively minded than Ward-Prowse so the Englishman should be able to continue to make runs to the edge of the opposition box to support the front two players.
Ward-Prowse is known for his free-kick prowess as Watford know all too well from the reverse fixture when the midfielder placed one into the top left corner from 25 yards out. With the Hornets having conceded the joint highest number of fouls in the league, along with Southampton, ‘Prowsey’ may get a few opportunities around the box to try and repeat the feat of the 2-1 success earlier in the season.
I’m keen to avoid the outrights here given the patchy form of both teams and will just stick with the two Ward-Prowse plays at one point stakes for each, with the fouls markets not giving much value and the relatively passive Michael Oliver in charge of the whistle.
Watford vs Southampton – James Ward-Prowse 2+ Shots (11/10 PaddyPower)
Watford vs Southampton – James Ward-Prowse 1+ Shot on Target (13/10 PokerStars)