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What is the cause of Watford’s woes?

With four defeats on the bounce, Watford F.C. are beginning to find themselves in a spot of bother, despite their strong start to the 2017/18 season. A few weeks ago, the Hornets were in touching distance of the top six, but a barren points haul in the first half of December has almost pushed them out of the top ten.

Huddersfield Town dealt Watford a 4-1 thrashing at Vicarage Road last weekend, quite an achievement from the Terriers considering their last away goal came on the first day of the season against Crystal Palace. Their impressive victory means that Huddersfield are now breathing right down Watford’s neck, who are scrambling to avoid being dragged into the bottom half chaos. Marco Silva’s side then lost 1-0 away to Brighton, meaning the last time Watford collected three points in the Premier League was November 19th, a 2-0 victory vs West Ham at Vicarage Road.

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Not only have the Hornets lost their last four matches, only ten yellow shirts made their way off the pitch by the time each was up. Troy Deeney has recently been handed a four-match ban following his red card offence on Huddersfield’s Collin Quaner that occurred just 33 minutes into proceedings.

There’s no way to sugar-coat the fact at hand. Watford’s recent poor form has been compounded by the lack of discipline in the squad, with five goals being conceded with ten men on the pitch this season. But if Marco Silva and the rest of the management team can effectively castigate the squad, will the Hornets see their form recover again?

For this to happen, they may need to start scoring at least two goals per game once again – something they were doing before the start of December. Watford certainly aren’t known for their defence. In fact, only Stoke City have conceded more goals this season. Unless they improve this record of conceding goals, they will need to stick to what they have been good at this campaign – scoring goals. Watford have scored ten more than anyone lower than them in the table.

But the strange thing is that the two highest scoring players for Watford – Doucouré and Richarlison – aren’t natural strikers. It could be a worrying sign that these two only have one goal between them in December (and only three across the whole squad).

With the January transfer window just around the corner, a striker will probably be the critical area to invest in for Marco Silva, as Deeney and Gray aren’t quite cutting it this season. A new striker could galvanise them into fighting to retain their starting XI position – Leicester’s Islam Slimani being a potential candidate.

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Another talking point regarding the current situation around Watford is the whole saga of Marco Silva being linked to the Everton job. Although Sam Allardyce was appointed instead long ago now, Watford’s form has taken a noticeable dip since that point in time. Could the drama surrounding the related series of events have affected the mentality of the team and produced a change in fortunes? It could be a factor, but as talks have ended now, surely that issue should be out the window by now?

The realistic goal for Silva’s men at this stage of the season is reaching European football for the first time since 1984. This ambition is slowly fading, especially with Burnley becoming accustomed to being an extra club in the top seven, but since we are only just approaching the halfway mark of the league, it’s still something that Watford can work towards.

The remaining three December fixtures are crucial for Watford, and results in these games could send them in either direction along the table. Brighton, Leicester and Swansea are not a bad set of opponents over the busy period, and anything less than five points from these fixtures could be a step in the wrong direction.

Written by Harry Mahon.

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