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Watford and what might've been

Filed: Thursday, 27th December 2018
By: Robert Barlow

Ahhh. The West Ham we are all too familiar with have poked their heads around the corner just before Christmas. Very on brand, yet not entirely disheartening.

Beaten on the day 2-0 by a Watford side whose midfield appear to be one of the most well-rounded below the top six, we can only look back at what might’ve been.

Michail Antonio and Javier Hernandez on another day would have had a brace each, Lee Mason might have remembered his maths SATs and maybe even the woodwork would have chipped in and given us a hand. Not to be.

Beginning with some sour notes.

The game on our behalf lacked the spark of Marko Arnautovic. A tense atmosphere, particularly following Watford’s opener, as well as a plethora of chances in the second half would’ve brought the best out of our Austrian frontman.

We can only hope he makes a swift recovery and is in contention over the New Year’s fixtures.

Even further something that has proved thematic over the course of this month is our tendency to play at our full capacity for only 30-45 minutes each game. Too often have we been lacklustre in the first half of matches, despite what our winning run might have suggest.

Lastly the loss of Fabian Balbuena would be a huge blow to our eleven.

While Angelo Ogbonna represents excellent quality in depth, it cannot be argued that the overall defensive displays from the General alongside Issa Diop have been far more impressive than we’ve observed in a while.

Positives to take from the game are most notably that this wasn’t a comprehensive defeat. On another day with a bit of luck on our side and that killer final touch, we’d have had the ball in the net on more than three occasions. More-so a frustrating afternoon than a disappointing one.

What’s more while dropping into 12th spot when it looked a real possibility to spend Christmas in 7th place is another bitter pill to swallow, there is almost nothing in it for sides between the clubs in 5th and 14th. This part of the table will interchange constantly throughout the season and I’m certain we’ll be as high as 7th or 8th at some stage in the second half of the campaign.

Manuel Pellegrini continues to impress with his composure and I’m extremely grateful for the almost infectious winning mentality he has instilled. We never looked a beaten side at a goal down and the Hornets’ second was very much a sucker punch. We remain a work in progress.

Looking ahead to our game on Thursday night, I’m expecting another tricky test. This fixture looked an attractive one at the start of the month, but with the arrival of Ralph Hasenhuttl at St Mary’s our trip to the south coast might leave us wanting.

The Saints have put in workmanlike performances in their past two games, high pressing and structured. The trademark style of managers with Bundesliga experience.

They will be dogged and look to cause our fullbacks problems. I would like to see Aaron Cresswell return to the back four. I feel he’ll add some rigidity to the defence that Arthur Masuaku has struggled to provide during his time at the club.

I’d also favour Andy Carroll starting ahead of Lucas Perez or Michail Antonio. Having the Geordie lead the line alongside Chicharito would provide us with more aerial threat when matched up against the likes of Jannik Vestergaard.

Fabianski and Issa Diop will be key as ever, while Angelo Ogbonna will have to prove he can be just as solid as our Paraguayan Fabian Balbuena, who will likely miss out.

I’m expecting there to be goals in this game. Danny Ings looks to be hitting form and Charlie Austin always has a point to prove against us.

Despite this I am hoping we will respond to Saturday’s frustration with more clinical finishing in front of goals. Southampton aren’t unbeatable just because their new boss has walked through the doors.

Let’s get back into the top half of the Premier League.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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