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Johnny Phillips assesses Watford's promising start to the season

Johnny Phillips - Johnny Phillips Posted 20th August 2013 view comments

The first Saturday of the Premier League provided much for the Soccer Saturday panel to get their teeth in to.

If there was plenty to debate during the three hours we were on air before the 3pm kick-offs, there were arguably more issues to ponder come five o'clock.

Aston Villa and Fulham were just two of the clubs that wrecked a few coupons with deserved away wins, showing that there is still enough unpredictability in this division to keep everyone interested.

Zola: has a talented squad of players, says Johnny Phillips

Zola: has a talented squad of players, says Johnny Phillips

But the hardest division of all to be making predictions in is undoubtedly the Championship.

The competitive nature of the second tier was highlighted last season with the battle at both ends of the table. Behind Cardiff City there was an amazing fight for promotion. At the bottom, a host of teams went into the final day with over 50 points in the bag, but with their futures in the division still in doubt.

Watford don't appear to know when they are beaten.

Johnny Phillips
Quotes of the week

One of those clubs involved at the top was Watford, who just missed out on automatic promotion, booked their place in the play-off final in the most dramatic fashion you could hope to witness and then didn't do themselves justice in a final that will be remembered for former Hornet Kevin Phillips securing Crystal Palace a place in the top division.

It's not always the case that a team missing out in the play-off final can lift themselves again for another promotion challenge but Watford appear to have put that disappointment behind them.

I saw their opening day 1-0 win at Birmingham City where the manner in which they kept the ball was particularly impressive. For much of the game Blues were chasing shadows and it's not always the case in this division that possession football is so readily trusted, although we did see it with Swansea a few years ago.


Much was made last season of Watford's exploitation of the loan system with Udinese, both clubs being owned by Gino Pozzo. It may have irked their rivals but no rules were broken.

During the summer they lost striker Matej Vydra, the Championship player of the year last campaign, back to his parent club, but eight players have been signed on a permanent basis from the Italians. One of those, Almen Abdi, was particularly eye catching in that opening day win at Birmingham.

If Vydra will be missed, Troy Deeney is out to prove his worth again after his success the previous season. His one-two and finish with Fernando Forestieri for the goal at St Andrews was the work of a confident and classy player.

Others in the side can help out with the goals too. Lewis McGugan was a shrewd capture from Nottingham Forest; he always looks like a goal threat when bursting forward from midfield and is particularly adept in dead ball situations.

I missed the thumping of Bournemouth, although from reports it was a flattering scoreline, especially after the opening 45 minutes. But that just serves to make the point. Gianfranco Zola said afterwards: "We changed gears because in the first half we were playing under rhythm and we pushed a little bit higher up the pitch and that made it more difficult for them."

To be able to change things so effectively showed just how much quality is in the squad.


My colleague Dickie Davis was at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday to report on what was undoubtedly the game of the day in the Championship and when I spoke to him afterwards he was also impressed, not only by the manner in which Watford were so comfortable in possession of the ball, but also the never-say-die spirit in the team. In short, they don't appear to know when they are beaten.

Again it appeared they were slow to start and it will have taken some stern words from Zola at half time to change things around. But this is a team of players still to get on familiar terms with each other.

Other sides in the division may look on enviously at the manner in which the team has been assembled, but it is as exciting a squad as any at this level.

It's incredibly early to start making rash predictions about how this league will pan out but Watford, on the evidence of the opening three fixtures, will take some stopping.

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