View from the opposition: Watford will not be sucked into scrap for Premier League survival
- Credit: PA
Former EDP journalist and 45-years a Watford fan John Lawson watches every game live on TV at his new home in Dallas, Texas.
Have you been surprised by Watford's start to the season?
I thought we would be competitive, but to have only lost to the league's top four (plus Crystal Palace) has been a pleasant surprise. Even better has been the fact that despite the much-reported 15 summer signings, these performances have been achieved with the backbone of last season's promotion team. Quique Sanchez-Flores has been an inspired choice as coach with the pedigree to inspire and earn the respect of an international-packed multi-national squad.
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It's been all about the defence for me. Conceding too many goals was an Achilles heel for us in the Championship. That home capitulation to Norwich in February was one of the results which could have delivered a fatal blow to our promotion bid, but our new signings have made our defence a match for anyone. I've really enjoyed watching the stylish Allan Nyom at right back; Sebastian Prodl and Miguel Britos have shared a centre-back role with distinction alongside Craig Cathcart; and Chelsea loanee Nathan Ake, inset, is showing a maturity beyond his years on the left.
Do you expect Odion Ighalo to attract interest from bigger clubs in January?
I feel Ighalo is far less the finished article than someone like Jamie Vardy. His decision-making remains questionable at times and he cannot be relied upon as a provider as well as a goalscorer in a front two. So I think that despite his great goalscoring record so far, other Premier League managers will hold off until they see that his form will hold in the longer term.
Are you confident Flores will keep the Hornets away from trouble?
Flores has brought a calm assurance to all his team selections and seems more than capable of keeping all members of his big squad happy. Players seem very settled, with those fighting to get into the starting XI even asking to play for the Under-21s in order to stake their claims. Despite facing ridicule for making so many managerial changes in the past year, the owners have proved they know how to deliver the right man at the right moment. I don't feel there is any danger of Watford being dragged into a relegation scrap.
City beat Watford 3-0 twice last season, will that have any effect on this game?
Both sides are very different from last year, especially from the game at Carrow Road, which arguably hinged on that fifth-minute sending off of Joel Ekstrand. As far as the return at Vicarage Road is concerned, it was a rare off-day in the second half of our season. My earlier comments on our now solid defence should ensure there is no repeat this time.
Which of the Canaries' players will Watford be most wary?
The interesting thing about Norwich's season so far is that goals seem to be able to come from just about anywhere. I've not checked all the stats, but 10 different goalscorers in 14 games must surely be the highest in the league and that is difficult for any team to plan against. I expect Sebastien Bassong to have a towering game to keep his former team-mates in check while Robbie Brady and Graham Dorrans will be a handful in midfield.
Do you think Norwich will avoid relegation this season?
Alex Neil hasn't quite been able to maintain the momentum which swept Norwich back to the Premier League. The Canaries have a lot of top-flight experience to help them, but I think the jury is still very much out on whether they have what it takes to avoid the drop. They play some exciting football backed by a tremendous home support but seem to lack the steel to consistently grind out results. I think a few injuries could seriously test their strength in depth and as such their survival could hinge on a couple of quality signings in the January transfer window. The good news is that I think already it is a battle to avoid just one relegation place. Villa and Bournemouth WILL go down.
And finally, what is your prediction?
I'm going for a scoreline of Watford 2 Norwich 1.