By Omar Moore
July 4, 2020
Anything at Chelsea tonight will be gravy for a Watford side still looking for their first Premier League win since the sensational thumping of now-champions Liverpool at the end of February. After a COVID-19 affected three-month break and two poor performances the Hornets will be guaranteed to acquit themselves a lot better at Stamford Bridge. West London has been a place where Watford often play well (especially in the first half of matches) but come up empty.
Still, regardless of what happens tonight at the Bridge, Watford must win three more games (36 points will do it) to ensure safety in the Premier League. Those “three more games” have the soundings echoing an Alfred Hitchcock film: NOR BY NEW WEST. (The acronym is short for Norwich, Newcastle and West Ham.) And it just so happens that this is the exact order of the next three Watford games following tonight’s encounter at Chelsea. The first two matches are at Vicarage Road before Watford travel to East London to meet fellow strugglers West Ham, who beat Chelsea earlier this week.
Watford haven’t had a leader on the pitch during “Project Restart”. Their focus has been scattershot, reminiscent of how they looked when they began the 2019-20 Premier League season last August at home against Brighton. The Orns cannot take an all-but-down Norwich for granted at Vicarage Road. Two more defeats for the Canaries will ensure their fate but Watford must pretend they are playing Liverpool at The Vic, not a Championship-bound team.
Confidence has obviously escaped Watford. The mentality the Hornets had under Nigel Pearson in his first seven games in charge has evaporated. After playing Norwich this coming Tuesday, four days later Newcastle will be next on the menu at Vicarage Road. The Magpies, in good form, most recently enjoyed a thoroughly dominant away win at Bournemouth, who already look doomed to the second tier of English football.
Should Watford fail to gain maximum points in either of those home games against Norwich and Newcastle, the fight to avoid relegation will be make or break at Olympic Stadium. against a West Ham side determined to stay up despite an even more demanding fixture list.
Watford are still masters of their own fate. For now.
But only just.
Photo: Watford at Vicarage Road in preseason last August against Real Sociedad. The match ended 1-1. (Credit: YouTube)