So that’s that, then: 2015/16 is done and dusted, with a match that was the polar opposite of the first home game back in August, when Watford and West Brom looked as if they could play till Christmas without troubling the scorers. The baffling thing about today’s game is that it didn’t finish 5-5.
‘Baffling’ is a word that’s been used a lot in a Hornets context recently, whether to describe Quique’s selections and substitutions, or the decision to let him go. I’m not going to get into that now, though. In an attempt to make some sort of sense of an up-and-down season, this is my take on some of the highs and lows, both the big issues and (mainly, to be honest) the small stuff.
We scored some great goals. The video rundown of the
contenders for goal of the season before the Villa home game reminded me
of just how good some of Iggy’s haul before Christmas were, and of
course Guedioura’s thunderbolt in the FA Cup quarter-final has already
gone down as one of the all-time great Watford goals...
but a lot of players didn’t pull their weight when it came to
goalscoring. Over the years, we’ve usually had at least one midfielder who could be relied on to chip in
with 5-10 goals a season. Almen Abdi has fulfilled that role in recent
seasons, and he did at least score two this year, making
him our joint fourth highest goalscorer. That’s two more than Capoue, or
Jurado, or Behrami, or Suarez – and frankly, that’s not good enough.
Okay, the formation Quique settled on militated against midfielders
finding themselves in the opposing penalty area too often, but even so,
the standard of finishing we’ve seen from our midfield this season has
been shockingly poor. Today’s game was a fine example, with around a
dozen shots flying wide or over the bar. With a bit more precise execution of what should be a
basic skill for a Premier League footballer, we could have won that
game at a canter.
We’ve got Troy Deeney, and that’s been absolutely central to our success this season. If you’re reading this blog, you don’t need me to explain any further. Suffice to say, he is the one player I dread being sold this summer...
... but, sadly, we no longer have Lloyd Doyley. Okay, I promise this is the last time I’ll go on about him, and realistically, he was on borrowed time once he picked up the neck injury that caused him to miss the end of last season and the start of this one. But seriously, given some of the Keystone Cops defending we’ve seen from Nyom, Parades and Cathcart at right back in the last couple of months, I can’t believe Lloyd would have performed any worse.
We’ll still be a Premier League club next season, and that was the goal. So, job done…
but we’ve taken on some of the unpleasant pretensions of the Premier
League. I’m not talking about the silly pre-match rigmarole; the referee
picking the ball up off a plinth, the hasty line-up under the sponsor’s
banner and so on is all mandated by the PL, and we don’t have a say in
the matter. But as far as I’m aware, no one stipulates that we have to
deny the existence of other divisions by only reading out the half-time
scores in the PL. This is something that often irks me at away grounds,
and until comparatively recently, you could rely on hearing the scores
from all four divisions of the English league, plus the Scottish Premier
League, and occasionally even local non-league scores. Not this season,
though. It smacks of arrogance to me – not to mention depriving us of
the pleasure of cheering when Luton are behind.
The Watford fans, led by the 1881, have been brilliant most of the season, and the flags and foil displays have been magnificent. (Well, so I’m told. I’m usually underneath them, so I only get to see blurry pictures on Twitter later on.) I’m genuinely proud of the send-off we gave Quique today...
... but there are always exceptions, not least the thousands who failed dismally to get behind the team at Wembley. But I was particularly baffled (that word again) by a twentysomething couple who were sat/stood in front of me at the league game at the Emirates. After about half an hour (at which stage we were only 1-0 down and not out of it by any means), I noticed them leaving their seats. A few minutes later I had to nip to the loo, and on my way I spotted the couple perched at a table in the concourse, pints of beer in front of them, watching Soccer Saturday on the TV. And this was in the middle of the match. Words fail me.