The bad news for Watford’s prospects over the second half of the Premier League season is that they still have to face six of the current eight teams above them away from home.
This means road trips to the likes of the Emirates, White Hart Lane, Old Trafford and Anfield, but Quique Sanchez Flores firmly believes his team are due a change of the run of the ball in these meetings.
Speaking after the latest 2-1 home defeat to Manchester City, where for the second time in a week they conceded a winner in the last six minutes to a title challenger at Vicarage Road, the Hornets boss highlighted that his team had been unlucky this season against those at the head of the standings.
Watford have been beaten in seven of their nine matches against opposition currently above them in the table, with five of these reverses coming by the odd goal.
Even if Watford could have drawn these five games, they would currently be only one point adrift of fourth-placed Spurs and far shorter odds than 100/1 to finish in the top four this season.
Let’s assess how unlucky Flores and his players have actually been:
Watford 0-1 Crystal Palace (September 27th)
Yohan Cabaye’s penalty proved the difference 19 minutes from time in a match where the stats suggest a draw would have been a fair result.
Watford had 55 per cent of the possession, had a higher pass success rate, sent over more crosses and created 10 chances to Palace’s eight.
However, the Eagles had more shots in the box and more efforts on target.
Leicester 2-1 Watford (November 7th)
This is the match famed for Heurelho Gomes’ woeful error in allowing a tame shot from N’Golo Kante through his hands to open the scoring. A Jamie Vardy penalty doubled Leicester’s lead before Troy Deeney scored a spot-kick of his own to give Watford a lifeline with 15 minutes remaining.
Again this was a game where Watford dominated possession, having 60 per cent of the ball and controlling matters especially in the first half.
However, Leicester did have eight attempts on goal from inside the box compared to Watford’s three. A draw was arguably again a fair result.
Watford 1-2 – Manchester United (November 21st)
This is where the run of Watford conceding late goals to title challengers started, as Deeney put through his own net in stoppage time, having just equalised from the penalty spot three minutes earlier.
As much as the Red Devils controlled the match for long periods, David de Gea was forced into at least five great saves, particularly a fine reaction stop from Almen Abdi’s deflected effort.
An argument can certainly be made that Watford were worthy of a point.
Watford 1-2 Tottenham (December 28th)
Son Heung-Min was Spurs’ hero in the 89th minute as his back-heeled finish at the near post, quite possibly from an offside position, was enough to land the spoils.
Watford had to play the last half hour with 10 men after Nathan Ake’s straight red card for a high studs-up challenge, but they arguably looked the most threatening in this period.
Much was similar to the Man Utd defeat as the two teams were almost identical for goal attempts, with Watford being undone by a late goal at the near post.
Watford 1-2 Man City (January 2nd)
Just five days after the Spurs loss, Watford were beaten 2-1 at home again, this time City netted twice in the final eight minutes to turn around the fixture.
Man City shaded possession 52 per cent to 48 per cent, sent over 19 crosses to Watford’s 18 and had eight attempts on goal from inside the box to the Hornets’ six.
This shows how evenly matched the two sides were.
Watford could have quite easily been five points better off, but given what’s left on their fixture list, it is unlikely to prove that decisive in their race for a top-four, or even a top-six, finish.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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