Nigel Pearson took over a Watford side that had not been so low since their return to the Premier League. When he arrived on the sixth of December, he was their third manager of the season before even reaching the halfway mark. At that point, they had recorded just one win in 15 matches and sat stone dead last on eight points, seven adrift from safety.
Five games later the Hornets enter 2020 above the bottom spot and only three points adrift of safety. It has been a miraculous turn around in such a short space of time, with Pearson having already tripled their number of wins this season whilst losing just once in the Premier League. Critical to the club’s change in fortunes have been the performances of Ismaila Sarr and Troy Deeney.
The pair have now scored five goals in Watford’s last three fixtures to finally render the Hornets with the attacking firepower they have missed all season. It’s easy to see the transformation prior to Pearson’s arrival with Watford having scored a meagre ten goals in 15 appearances, but they have since scored six in their last five matches. Part of that transformation has been moving Abdoulaye Doucoure to a more advanced position in the centre of midfield, which has not the best out of Deeney and Sarr.
Watford’s talismanic striker now has a player in the centre with the energy to get up alongside him and help out with hold up play or win the ball back in advanced areas to create chances. Furthermore, without Gerard Deulofeu in central areas, Watford have more of a physical presence in the centre of the park and can go back to bullying defences.
With the Spaniard and Sarr on either wing, the Hornets’ squad boasts a real turn of pace to get in behind defences from Deeney’s flick-ons and expose the opposition on the counterattack. Watford’s record signing is also beginning to rediscover the eye for goal that brought him across the channel from France, and after one against Aston Villa on Saturday, he is their top scorer for the season so far with four. With just a few minor changes, Pearson has taken Watford back from the brink and put them amongst the mix as genuine survival contenders.