Watford 0 : Manchester City 6 – 16th September 2017

​”Their first goal was offside, their second goal was offside. Heurelho Gomes got distracted by a heron for the third. The ghost of Bernard Manning was interfering with play on the fourth. I don’t want to talk about the fifth, and the sixth was down to an overriding sense of autumnal melancholy.” – Marco Silva (as imagined by David Squires in his fantastic Guardian cartoon).
This wasn’t as bad as the scoreline suggested but, of course, it was an overwhelming defeat. As hinted at by Squires, there were grounds for complaint. The first two goals were offside and Watford should have had a penalty in the second half when Walker nearly broke Chalobah in half in the area. Anthony Taylor refereed throughout in an arrogant and frankly biased manner. However, even if they’d got a penalty and not conceded those two offside goals, Watford would still have been defeated easily. City were excellent, relentlessly seizing on any mistake (there were quite a few), despatching chances clinically and playing with an intensity reminiscent of Derby’s last home game v Hull (ok, perhaps a little better than that..). De Bruyne, Silva & Sterling’s movement in midfield was bewitching, impossible to cope with.
It was probably a bit of a reality check for Watford & I reckon that will be a good thing. The team have had a great start to the season, were unbeaten in four games (with clean sheets in the last three), but maybe we were all getting ahead of themselves. A top ten finish is a possibility of course but this Having said that, although City dominated, this wasn’t the thrashing the scoreline suggests. Nobody had a nightmare. I did think they could have competed more but, taking everything into account, I felt better after this game than the 0-5 defeat at the end of last season. 
The team news was unsurprising but slightly concerning. No Kaboul, Prodl or Britos, so Mariappa stepped in at centre half. Janmaat replaced the injured Femenia. Not ideal to start a game like this with a slightly makeshift defence. With the benefit of hindsight I think it would have been better to start Deeney instead of Gray. Troy would have held the ball up a lot better and provided a more unnerving presence up front. He would have also been in the ear of the referee all game, which might have made Taylor think twice about his arrogant approach to the game. Possibly.
Watford did have one chance in the first half, Richarlison meeting a free-kick by Holebas and heading a yard wide. He really should have got that one on target. Another of the few highlights was a terrific last ditch tackle in the area from Kabasele.  The game was over after 37 minutes, after City scored three goals in the preceding ten minutes. Sergio Aguero scored twice and created one for Gabriel Jesus. The second goal was self-inflicted, when Watford were, arguably, still in the game. Janmaat slid in to a tackle and went into the hoardings rather than getting the ball, allowing Silva to get a cross in which Gomes missed. Poor.
Watford started the second half well and even had a half chance, with Carrillo cracking a fine volley a couple of yards wide. Unfortunately, after that City more or less ran away with things. Otamendi heading home a cross by Silva, Aguero finally completed his hat trick with a Maradona style run in to the box. Would have been nice for Kabasele or any other defender to have had a go at tackling him. Kabasele also committed the foul that resulted in a penalty, decisively dispatched by Sterling. He deserved a goal, why Guardiola tried to intervene from the touchline to let Aguero take it, I don’t know.
So there you go. A 0-6 defeat and a few things to ponder on.
The Chalobah, Doucoure, Cleverley midfield triumvirate has been brilliant all season but was unable to cope against City. Any loss of possession was capitalised on and they simply weren’t competitive enough. Perhaps it’s time to consider a start for Capoue, Watson or even Hughes. Or maybe this game was just a one off?
This game didn’t suit Gray at all. He was working with scraps but couldn’t hold the ball up and struggled to win the ball in the air. Give him a rest and let Deeney start.
Gomes’ mistake for the second was unforgivable. He wasn’t under great pressure. Time to give him a rest and try Karnezis.
The only big positive I took from this game was the atmosphere. In previous season’s I’ve sat in deathly silence in the Rookery when Watford have struggled. Not this time.
Next game for me. An evening visit to Griffin Park. Let’s hope we see a better result and performance than last season.

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