Whilst all eyes have been glued to the attacking prowess of Pep’s Manchester City or even the ruthless gegenpressing of Klopp’s Liverpool side, a team that may have slipped under the Premier League radar is Marco Silva’s Watford. Their demolition of Newcastle in Saturday’s clash at St James’ Park – making a side managed by a tactician as astute as Rafa Benitez look abysmally poor – proves that the Portuguese should be given just as many plaudits as the aforementioned coaches, writes Maryam Naz.
Make no mistake: playing away at Newcastle is no walk in the park. Being amidst the raucous pantheon of Geordie clamour can be an intimidating prospect, yet Watford’s ruthlessness silenced the home fans early in the first half.
They’d clearly done their homework in targeting Newcastle’s fragile defensive options from the onset, with a special focus on DeAndre Yedlin, whose own goal in the dying moments of the first half (after Will Hughes had already scored the opener) created a 2-0 cushion for the Hornets.
Silva, appearing every bit the superior tactician to his more experienced counterpart, had clearly identified the weaknesses inherent in Benitez’s defence, allowing his own offence to swoop in for the kill. The strategies that had clearly been practiced in training were being executed wonderfully, almost Guardiolaesque in their precision; as such, in the words of the Portuguese himself, Watford were a ‘pleasure’ to watch.
Whilst Newcastle tried to rally themselves in the second half, the gaps they left upon trying to pour forward only aided the Watford counterattack, resulting in a third goal where Yedlin was again at fault. He failed to clear Richarlison’s cross, giving Gray a tap-in at the far post.
Clearly, Silva had told his players to keep their feet on the pedal during the halftime break — this relentless attacking in the second half meant that Newcastle were unable to mount any real attacks of their own, with only two shots on target from their striker Joselu in the entirety of the ninety minutes. At the final whistle, a 3-0 score showed that the Magpies had succumbed to some brilliant football.
Watford’s fourth away win puts them in eighth place in the league table, a mere point behind Sean Dyche’s high-flying Burnley, and only three points behind Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs.
Their recent successes have been a direct result of Silva’s philosophies — philosophies that suggest a genuine desire to play the game on the front foot, rather than sit back and stifle the opposition (although a certain other Portuguese manager might disagree).
The improvement of players already at the club – Abdoulaye Doucoure, Miguel Britos – as well as the impact of signings such as Will Hughes in recent weeks, not to mention the effervescent Richarlison, proves why he is so highly sought after, hence managerless Everton’s recent bid to prise him away from Vicarage Road mere months after his initial appointment.
It should be noted that the points totals accrued after thirteen games of former Watford managers Walter Mazzarri and Quique Sanchez Flores are remarkably similar to what Silva himself has achieved. The real test now is to see whether or not he can maintain his side’s good points-per-game tally, something that eluded his recent predecessors.
There are still blots on Silva’s copybook that are perhaps worth mentioning: one is that, as yet, he has yet to complete more than six months in any job in England, which is something for the avid Mersonites to cling to.
REMEMBER: Phil Thompson and Paul Merson on Marco Silva being appointed Hull manager ♂️ pic.twitter.com/O3Er6NpaA6
— The Football Writer (@ZeFutbolWriter) October 21, 2017
Another is that his Watford side have already been humbled 6-0 by Manchester City this season, but at this point it’s almost worth asking if that’s something approaching a respectable scoreline, given the strength of the team at the top of the table.
The Hornets face Mourinho’s Red Devils next, where two compatriot strategists will play against one another. United beware; there might be a sting in the tale to be told.