Premier League 2021-22: Watford have improved under Roy Hodgson but need miracle to survive

Roy Hodgson took over from Claudio Ranieri at Watford
Roy Hodgson took over from Claudio Ranieri at Watford
Deepak Emandi

The fact that Roy Hodgson agreed to take over at Watford was seen as a huge surprise in English football circles. Everyone thought the 74-year old would retire after he left Crystal Palace at the end of last season, although a formal announcement was never made. It was even more surprising to see him take over the reins at a club like Watford, who change managers for fun.

The task was cut out for Hodgson at his new club when he arrived after the sacking of Italian manager Claudio Ranieri. The club was in dire straits, languishing at the 19th position in the table, with just two wins from their last 14 games.

Hodgson guided them to their first Premier League clean sheet this season with a 0-0 draw against fellow relegation-battlers Burnley. But defeats to West Ham, Brighton, and Crystal Palace have left the club at the 19th position again, two points from the relegation zone.

Not lasting the distance

Although the performances have improved under the Englishman, the results haven't. In the seven games since he took charge at Vicarage Road, the team has won just once, drawn two and lost four games.

In their last game against Arsenal, Watford were very good until the half-hour mark, as they were aggressive and took the game to the Gunners. They had 45% possession and five shots at Ramsdale's goal in that phase.

But, as soon as Arsenal scored their second, Hodgson's team looked deflated and ran out of ideas.

Watford's improved defence but poor scoring record

Their defence has improved as they had been conceding goals left, right, and center under Ranieri, but you would expect that from a pragmatic manager like Hodgson.

The Hornets have conceded 1.5 goals per game under the Englishman, compared to the 2.5 they conceded in the last seven games under Ranieri.

However, it's the output at the top end of the pitch that has been letting them down. Watford have scored just three goals under Hodgson. Top-scorer Emmanuel Dennis, who has scored nine goals this season, has scored just once under the 74-year-old.

Emmanuel Dennis is The Hornets' top-scorer with nine goals
Emmanuel Dennis is The Hornets' top-scorer with nine goals

After the 0-0 draw against Burnley, Hodgson insisted that his side need to score more goals.

“If you want to win games you’ve got to (start scoring). You can’t win games 0-0, and all the time the game is 0-0, you’re always concerned that something is going to happen that, maybe, you don’t deserve to happen."

The Watford manager further added:

“Goals are the key for everyone, there’s no secret about that, and I’m sure the players here are fully aware of it and they will be working as hard as the staff are to make certain that we get those goals.”

The Hornets have also struggled for consistency this season as they are yet to record back-to-back victories in the league. Encouraging performances against Aston Villa and Manchester United have been quickly followed by losses to Crystal Palace and Arsenal.

Struggles at home

Watford are also one of the few teams in the Premier League to have a better away record than at home. Their away form under Hodgson has been pretty decent with one win, two draws, and two defeats.

In contrast, the home form has continued where it left off under Ranieri with two losses. They have won just two games out of 13 at home this season, picking up only seven points from a possible 39 - the lowest tally in the league.

The Hornets have won just twice this season at home, in the Premier League
The Hornets have won just twice this season at home, in the Premier League

When questioned about his side's home form, he insisted that home form is not the only key to their survival chances.

“We need a string of good results, whether at Vicarage Road or elsewhere. There’s no doubt about that. But we’re not alone in that instance. It would be too easy to say it’s the home form or the home games that decide it, but that might not be the case."

With the clubs around them picking up steam as we move into the business end of the season, The Hornets will have to find their feet quickly to have any chance of survival.

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Edited by Akshay Saraswat


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