Under The Spotlight: Three positives for Watford's survival bid

Daniel Childs
LiveScore
Roy Hodgson is trying to mastermind Watford's survival
Roy Hodgson is trying to mastermind Watford's survival

Watford are on their third manager this season and relegation is looming large. 

The Hornets won promotion from the Championship last term and appear destined to face the same task in 2022-23.

With just nine games to go, Roy Hodgson's side are three points from safety but 17th-placed Everton — the side they must currently overhaul to climb out of the bottom three — have two matches in hand.

Watford also boast the worst home record in the league having taken just seven points from 14 games. 

But despite the fact they travel to title-chasing Liverpool on Saturday, there are reasons for optimism at Vicarage Road. 

Ahead of that daunting trip to Anfield, we turn the spotlight on whether Hodgson's troops really can dig themselves out of an almighty hole. 

Sarr is fit and firing

Ismaila Sarr is Watford's key man
Ismaila Sarr is Watford's key man

Every team relies on key players and Watford have had the misfortune of being without star man Ismaila Sarr for large chunks of the season. 

He contributed 13 goals during the club's promotion-winning campaign and flourished at the start of this term, scoring five in the opening 12 games. 

But a combination of injuries and Africa Cup of Nations duty have restricted him to just three starts since then and Watford have missed him dearly. 

Much to Hodgson's relief, the 24-year-old forward played a full part in Senegal's World Cup play-off matches against Egypt and scored a crucial spot-kick in their penalty shootout success. 

With Sarr seemingly fit and firing after international duty, having the talisman to call upon could be the ace his manager so desperately needs up his sleeve. 

Hodgson knows his best line-up

Watford are often criticised for being too quick to sack managers, with the trigger-happy policy seemingly not helping their cause more often than not. 

Every new head coach has their own tactical approach and different opinions when it comes to the players they inherit, so it can take each one time to work out the best way forward. 

There is a wealth of experience in the Watford dugout with Hodgson and former boss Ray Lewington working together.

Although an instant improvement was not forthcoming following their arrival in late January, the strugglers have displayed signs of a team capable of beating the drop. 

Cucho Hernandez has netted three goals in his last three outings, with his brace seeing the Hornets win 2-1 at Southampton last time out. 

And the trio of Moussa Sissoko, Imran Louza and Juraj Kucka — first deployed together at St Mary's — reinvigorated the side in the middle of the park. 

The success over the Saints was the team's best performance since last November's 4-1 triumph over Manchester United and it may just provide Hodgson with the blueprint for the rest of the campaign. 

Opportunities in the run-in

Watford will be hoping their improved unity can stand them in good stead
Watford will be hoping their improved unity can stand them in good stead

Watford's run-in features daunting trips to Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea but the rest of the games look winnable, including home matches against Leeds, Brentford and Burnley.

Critics would argue that the Hornets' record of two wins, one draw and 11 defeats at Vicarage Road makes it impossible to have any faith in them putting a run together. 

But sometimes it takes just one performance and result to shift the mood and set the tone for games to come. 

Watford's defence was improved by the January signings of left-back Hassane Kamara and centre-back Samir and clean sheets have been achieved in three of the nine games under Hodgson. 

With Sarr in the side, they are also more likely to find the net, so there may still be hope of beating the drop. 

Tags

Premier LeagueWatfordIsmaila Sarr
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