Dark Horse Chronicles – Watford

This series will feature a club each week starting from this week that looks poised to shake things up a bit and this week, there’s only one option for me to cover. I mean, who else has max points from all their matches to this point, is tied for 1st place (by points) in the league and is 3rd on goal difference? The same team that is leading last season’s champions by 2 points and just knocked off Tottenham, that would be Watford.
Their season started off as normal enough, they had horrendous odds, Bovada put them at +100,000 odds to win the league and as of yesterday they are still ranging from 33:1 to  50:1 odds for even a top-four finish. If that doesn’t make them a darkhorse, I don’t know what does.
So we’ll begin our first edition of “The Darkhorse Chronicles,” looking at what has helped this Watford side have such a phenomenal start to the season.
Results (obviously, you already know they are all wins — but stick with me):
Watford 2 : Brighton 0 – This match inevitably started the “well fine, you got one win — but against a poor quality team”. But even despite all of this talk, let’s be honest — this win is starting to look a lot better (ok, let’s just say “better” because… Manchester United…) since the “worst loss” is to this Watford side and was 2-0. Since that “bad loss” they beat Manchester United, lost by one goal to Liverpool and drew against Fulham (who went up early and they fought back). I also think this result is sullied by the BHAs poor points total, but they also have played 2 of their four matches against top four sides from a season ago. I think this result will just continue to look better and better.

Burnley 1 : Watford 3 – Watford got off to a lovely start only 3 minutes in with Andre Gray scoring right out of the gates although a short time later Tarkowski equalized for Burnley. After halftime it was all Watford though and they stepped up the class immensely scoring 2 goals in 3′. The side seemed to relax some after and I thought the play from the substitutes was less than stellar. But the overall performance was very reasonable keeping the same margin for Watford +2 GD even as the much discussed Manchester United side were able to keep a clean sheet, but also scored fewer total goals. This article is about Watford, they’ve just shared a lot of opponents and despite their poor form to open the season, they did finish 2nd last season with much the same squad. This Watford side has been far more impressive thus far.

Watford 2 : Crystal Palace 1 – This win is probably the least impressive on Watford’s resume though a win is a win. I just think that against a side with only 3 goals to their credit and 3 points isn’t the greatest achievement. I do think that the Crystal Palace side is playing below their abilities, and seem to be having some squad issues. Zaha was benched after signing a contract extension (and he’s really been their threat) and Benteke has been largely absent from the side (in terms of performance). If this side gets firing on all cylinders, this might look like a better win as the season goes on.

Watford 2 – Tottenham 1 – This is where I think Javi Gracia and the Hornets started having people believe that they were a serious contender. This Tottenham side is loaded no matter how you look at it; they’ve managed three wins in 4 with Heung-Min Son playing in Asia, Eriksen largely being invisible. However, that should take nothing away from the Watford win. The outplayed Spurs and completely deserved their victory. Watford kept a great Spurs team off the board entirely (Spurs one goal came from an own goal) and still managed to bag a couple for themselves.
You can see that we clearly saw this coming (being able to admit when you’re wrong is half the battle) with the 16th place ranking in our preseason rankings — but we’re making up for it with our power rankings as they (spoiler alert!) move up!
Is this form sustainable?
The short answer is that we don’t know, but (longer answer) if you’ve read this far, you’re probably here for my analysis and I think there’s a good argument to be made for them doing just that.
Here’s a couple reasons I think it could happen:

  • Roberto Pereyra – Pereyra has been incredible, he’s scored 3 of the 9 goals scored by Watford. He’s contributed good, solid all around performances all 4 games. He joined the club just over 2 years ago at a price of about $14M and for that price he’s a steal!
  • José Holebas – Holebas has been holding down the leftback role and as good as Pereyra has been — Holebas might even have been in better form. So far, he’s contributed one goal and four assists — and has helped hold down a very successful back line also. He’s been great on assists averaging about one per 7 games started, though obviously he’s been blistering so far this season!
  • Daryl Janmaat – Janmaat has had less of an impact on the offensive end, despite adding an assist. He, like Holebas though has been in fantastic defensive form and has hardly put a foot wrong in four games.
  • Christian Kabasele – Kabasele has been been right down the spine of the defense and has been fantastic. Like Janmaat he’s barely put a foot wrong so far in the season.

Undoubtedly there are more players that have added to this spell of form, but these are a few of the ones that have impressed me most. Can they keep up this amazing form all season? Who knows. I do know that we, despite it feeling like we just started, are 1/10th through the season already. One thing that almost feels foolish to say, is that I don’t think we’ll be seeing them in the relegation battle — and we need to make sure our Power Rankings Support a little better finish than 16th.
Next week we’ll have a brand new installment of The Dark Horse Chronicles, make sure to join us!

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