West Ham United v Watford

Preview Percy spent last weekend in Brighton. Has the sea air perked him up a bit? Has it heck. Here's his look at this weekend's visit of Watford. Not for the faint-hearted....

Next up we return from our travels to the South Coast where we will play host to Watford. Kick-off is at the sainted hour of 3pm. Replacement buses are the order of the day east of Stratford. As usual. Also, no trains between Stratford and Camden Road on the Ginger Line on Saturday. Check before you leave it says here.

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Our vistors currently sit in 11th place on 30 points from the 26 played so far. That's 1 place and 3 points clear of us. It's a bizarre function of the mathematics of goal differences that, had they gone down 3-0 or worse to Chelsea on Monday night we would have moved up a place in the league. Instead a combination of Chelsea's ineptness (yes you Bakayoko), Mike Dean live on the box (how unusual - not) and a couple of fine goals at the end saw them take all three points.

They have had a change of manager since we last met of course. But then again they usually have had a change of manager since we last met. Javi Garcia came in a few weeks ago to replace Marco Silva. Everton had come in for Silva very publicly during their recent manager-less spell, an approach that was about as welcome at Vicarage Road as Piers Morgan would be, well pretty much anywhere.

Having knocked the Toffeemen back one would have though that would have been it. However, Watford's form in the period that followed was somewhat indifferent, with them picking up just 6 out of 36 points in the league after the approach. And at a club where they don't exactly agonise over a decision to dispense with managerial services it was in hindsight only going to end one way.

Mind you, Garcia's opening couple of games weren't over-inspiring featuring a defeat at Southampton in the Cup and a goalless draw at Stoke that was probably on MOTD so late in the programme it overlapped with the morning repeat (I wouldn't know - I was out drowning my sorrows in Brighton).

The win over Chelsea marked a home debut for loan signing Gerard Deulofeu who came in on loan from Barcelona until the end of the season last week. The work experience kid of as yet to be determined gender wearing a hoodie who seems only able to communicate with some strange grunting noises tells me that there is a loan fee of EUR1m which is about ?885,000 at the Post Office's current exchange rate (other bureaux de change are available). Following a promising debut up at Stoke he had a decent game against the Pensioners gaining the broadcaster's MOTM award (though in terms of the effect he had on the match I'd have given it to Bakayoko myself - just for a laugh).

In truth, and possibly as a result of the change in management, Watford's was one of the quieter windows in the Premier League this window. Deulofeu's arrival was the only activity of any sort in either direction. In truth that's not a stat I would repeat within earshot of our owners lest they start telling their tame radio presenters to mention that we "signed twice as many players as Watford" at every opportunity. Deulofeu was the beneficiary of Mike Dean's Controversial Decision On Live TV of the week. Whilst Courtois did come out rather rapidly, if the player allegedly brought down is already on his way down before there is contact then the whole darn thing is a dive. More on that later.

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Second top scorer (thanks Smart 64 for the heads up) at the moment is Richarleson. He has 7 in all competitions, a figure which would be a lot higher if he were to make the most of the promising positions he manages to get into. I may be wrong but it appears to me that every time I see him on Match Of The Day that he misses a couple of sitters for every goal he actually scores. Which of course is his cue to start converting even the most obtuse of chances this weekend.

Richarleson has 4 more goals than the perennially gobby Troy Deeney. You'd think a striker who has yet to score in open play in the league this season (all three were penalties) would be a little more circumspect in his comments about opponents. Deeney was the beneficiary of another of the football authorities' all too baffling decisions last week. Having raise his middle finger at the away support one might have thought that a fine and a one match suspension might have been on the cards - after all that's what Dele Alli got for exactly the same thing earlier in the season. No that would require a degree of common sense on the part of the authorities and, apparently, whilst a month or two ago they were unanimous and this was an offence, now they can't make up their own minds. And they wonder why they are so reviled.

And so to the wacky world of Association Football. The lengths PGMOL will go to to protect their increasingly incompetent officials was revealed as they came out in support of John Moss who had a complete nightmare during the Liverpool v Spurs match.

Ignoring the long-established rule that only the home side gets dodgy penalties at Anfield they came out with a statement stating that his decision to award Kane a spot kick was totally correct, going into great detail on whether or not Loveren had deliberately played the ball yada, yada, yada. Notice anything missing from that "defence"? Yup it's our old friend "simulation". PGMOL were so busy covering the one bit of Moss's not inconsiderable backside that the bit about Kane diving, again, seemed to have slipped their mind. "I felt contact so I went down" mumbled the incoherent one. Of course you did - you instigated it!

I guess there's some irony about the totally dishonest "contact = foul" argument being used in the place where it was first used by ex-Liverpool pundits to disguise the fact that players from their corrupt club were cheating their way to title after title, but until we get an organisation controlling referees that is honest enough to stand up after such incidents and say "yes he got it wrong" then PGMOL are every bit as complicit as those who make excuses for the likes of Kane. See the way they fudged the totally illegal attempt by Moss to use VAR which was described as "misguided". Try getting off a speeding offence using that word and let me know how you get on when you are released, if I'm still alive.

And so to us. Another Oh dear. Another use for the Unacceptable, Disgraceful, spineless, useless. Again. shortcut that sits on my laptop. Good goal from Chicarito, possibly in recognition of the fact that the window has closed and he will now have to play well for us if he wanted to cement his place in Mexico's World Cup squad. But other than that it was a shambles. There is no depth in the squad - which is the sort of thing that a bit of activity in the transfer window might have helped. Oh well never mind there's another one opening up in about 4 months. If we have 4 months that is.

Meanwhile on the pitch if we had a Plan A it wasn't working. We definitely had no Plan B. And that terrifies me.

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Then there was the sight of stewards moving in to try and take down banners. The first lot that went in were blocked off by the crowd, one of whom informed them that they might want to get a few dozen reinforcements if they were serious. That lot were employed by the home club. However, there was something slightly "big brother" (that's the George Orwell book rather than the tv programme made by and for the hard of thinking by the way) about seeing a number of stewards in bright white jackets try to go in and remove the banners. Those were West Ham stewards (the tasteless badge on the front of the jackets were a bit of a giveaway). Which rather begs the question of what (if any) authority they held within Brighton's ground and on whose instructions they were operating.

I mean surely it couldn't have been Baroness Brady could it? After all she had only that very day given her views on the evils of censorship:

The point is, we are lucky to live in a country which values freedom of expression and freedom of speech and we all need to value that, and to protect it. Censorship is a terrible, insidious, dangerous thing It is never, ever a good idea, and we should all be very wary.

Ok the Baroness was talking about the removal of an old painting that featured naked breasts from an art gallery and, given the provenance of her employers, she was hardly going to defend that. However, the most shocking thing about all that is the fact that Manchester actually has an art gallery which suggests that the whole thing was a stunt to actually get someone to visit the place.

Meanwhile, if the Baroness did have some say in the visit of the white jackets then clearly there seems to be some disconnect between the right to display 19th century pre-Raphaelite daubings in a place where nobody would notice and critical banners in places that might be picked up by the cameras on national telly.

It's not been a great week for the Baroness really has it? The news that at least one player was blocked from coming to the club as a result of the Baroness's newspaper (well "Sun") column managing to annoy his club's owners ought to have been more astounding and gobsmacking than it actually was. Instead most people were about as surprised as we all were when Arbeola retired last year.

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Surely someone must have suggested by now that if the Baroness is to retain her column in the rubbishier end of the press, at least don't flipping use it to talk about football or slag off other owners (something that is, incidentally, covered by Premier League rules).

Meanwhile, on the injury front:

1)Andy Carroll - Broken Foot- Estimated return end April - officially (some reports were suggesting that that's his season done).

2) Marko Arnautovic - Hamstring - Much improved - has trained this week and given a good chance of starting given a 25% chance of being available for this match but that's at the time of writing.

3) Manuel Lanzini - Another sodding hamstring. Still looking at - Swansea away at the earliest.

4) Edmilson Fernandes - Ankle. Estimated return - Preview Alastair hasn't bought that round yet. And when he goes to the bar he will claim that the banknotes contained therein will no longer be legal tender. And he will be right. Some time after he finally gets that round in Fernandes will be available for selection.

5) Pedro Obiang - Knee - Estimated return - As was not totally unexpected his season is over with the medics having operated on him in Barcelona. Where it is a darn sight warmer than it is here. I expect.

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To those we can add Arthur who has another 4 games to go of his ban. Still of course with the window closing there's always the chance that we will pick up someone out of contract and so it proved this week with the arrival of Patrice Evra. Evra you will recall was "released" from his contract at Marseille having a UEFA ban until next season for wading into the crowd and dishing out a kicking to a fan who was giving him a hard time during a warm up.

The UEFA ban applies only to their competitions, something that won't be of concern to him with us. So he is available for the league and would have been so for the cups had we bothered to still be in one. The spectator incident took place on 2 November and he hasn't kicked a ball (human or leather) in anger since then so it's a bit of a surprise to hear that he may make the squad this weekend. In the meantime there are some cynics who have suggested that the player may have been employed to go into the crowd and "deal with" anti board banners from a different angle. Well if the stewards can't get through from the back.....

Well it's time to make a prediction. Before Tuesday night their confidence won't have been at its best - the Silva stuff, the failure to win a game in ages all that type of thing tends to bring a downer to a place. We should know. However having demolished a compliant Chelsea - who arguably actually IMPROVED once Bakayoko went off, their tails will be up. Unlike ours where we have dumped ourselves into the same atmosphere of doom, gloom and despondency that has pervaded the place so much this season.

It is an atmosphere that was far from improved by Mr Sullivan's appearance on the Wireless earlier this week when the questioning made Piers Morgan's recent exploration of Donald Trump's anal cavity look like Frost v Nixon. Anyone who begged to differ with the opinion that the current owners might not actually be the greatest thing since sliced bread was given shrift so short it barely qualified as shrift at all. Still Sullivan's plea for "unity" worked - I don't think I have seen so many supporters so united. Though I don't suppose that's what Sullivan quite had in mind.

The team we put out last weekend won't be good enough in my opinion. There is a chance that Arnautovic might re-appear (no totally firm news at the time of writing) which would add a welcome boost but otherwise with that lot a good start is required. Can't see it so the ?2.50 I would otherwise spent on protective gear lest Evra pay a visit to our part of the ground will be spent instead on a betting slip at Winstone's the Turf Accountant on an away win. 1-0 to them please young Raymond - hopefully I'm wrong.

Enjoy the game!

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When last we met by the Olympic: Lost 2-4 (Premier League September 2016)

2-0 up and totally outplaying the opposition, a brace of Antonio headers doing the trick, the second of which featured one of those Ribena things from Payet. If you believe motormouth Troy Deeny this incensed Watford so much they started playing. Actually what happened was we pressed the self-destruct button and gifted them 4 goals, A freak deflection from Ginge for Igalho's first was followed by Ginge and Adrian getting their wires crossed to allow Deeney in. Capoue was left unmarked at the back before we completed the whole "self-inflicted gunshot to metatarsal" exercise when Adrian then made a mess of Holebas's effort.

Referee: Graham Scott

Select group rookie. Did the Stoke away game earlier this season which went well. Had a bit of a mixed bag in the Chelsea v Norwich cup tie the other week, reducing Chelsea to 9 men, presumably on the grounds that having missed Lanzini's dive in the Stoke match he made sure of being really early for the next one.

Danger Man: Gerard Deulofeu

Has looked good in the couple of games since his return to our shores. Makes you wonder why we didn't go in for him ourselves especially as we were linked with the player when he was at Everton.

Percy's Poser:

Last week we asked you about Brighton's Royal Pavilion and enquired "What WERE They Thinking"? Hats off to Mrs Morwena Wilberforce of Great Baddow who answered thusly: "God knows". A stick of rock is on its way to Great Baddow as we speak.

For this week's poser we ask: earlier this week Police in Watford released CCTV footage of a theft from a petrol station. To win something jolly good (I expect) all you have to do is tell us what it was that was stolen. Clue: it wasn't petrol.

Good luck everyone!

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