Watford Observer reporter Ron Walker gives us the lowdown on the Hornets, ahead of Southampton's visit to Vicarage Road this Saturday...
How has the season been so far for Watford?
Up and down, rarely at the same time. Watford began the season very well, and were fourth after they beat Arsenal in October. But, since then, they've been on a steady decline and, before Saturday, they'd lost six out of seven. Injuries haven't helped, but they have looked low on confidence too. That said, there have only been a couple of games all season where Watford haven't been competitive.
How is the team playing right now, in terms of its style and approach?
The style hasn't changed too much from the one we saw at Southampton earlier in the season. Watford don't create a wealth of chances, but they try to be compact out of possession and break with pace. Star-man Richarlison has looked jaded at times recently and the Hornets have four defenders out with long-term injuries, while up front Troy Deeney and Andre Gray both have yet to hit form. Abdoulaye Doucouré and Tom Cleverley are the driving heart of the team, but even their form has dipped over Christmas. All things considered, they're doing alright to be where they are over the course of the season so far.
How big is this game for them?
Not as big as it is for Southampton, but still pretty big. Beating Bristol City in the cup last weekend was imperative, but even then people were already looking towards this game to get the Premier League season back on track. Watford have thrown away six points in the last five minutes of games during December alone, and they need to start rebuilding their fragile confidence. Winning is more about that than about league position at this stage.
Who have been the team’s most influential players?
On his day, Richarlison is a match for most wingers in the Premier League, and he can score too, but the goals have dried up over the past couple of months. In midfield, Doucouré is a box-to-box behemoth who gets the side looking forward and rarely gives the ball away – leading to a helplessly catchy chant. Andre Carrillo, on the other wing, has been a slow burner, but he's got two goals and an assist in the last few weeks and he's looking at his best right now.
Is there anyone else who you think will be key to them this week?
If, by some miracle, they can bring back Kiko Femenia or Will Hughes, who have both been out with injury, or even Craig Cathcart, whose hip problem has restricted him to only one game this season, that will help them no end. Femenia was my player of the season at right-back before he was injured against Crystal Palace. His crossing, pace and technical skills from right-back have been sorely missed.