Opposition view: Watford
By Ric Turner, Thu 03 January 2013 10:41
Ahead of Saturday's F.A. Cup tie at The Etihad, Bluemoon caught up with Jamie Leah from the Forza Watford! blog to get the lowdown on the opposition...
What are your expectations for the remainder of this season?
With all the changes at Vicarage Road during the summer, this season was described as one of 'transition'. However, a good start to the campaign has led to many fans harbouring hope of automatic promotion. I think that a place in the play-offs would be a more conservative, and realistic, expectation for the Hornets this season.
Are you happy with the manager?
Yes! Gianfranco Zola's predecessor Sean Dyche was never given chance under the Pozzos, so the appointment of the Italian divided fans' opinions at first. However, he has won fans over with an aesthetically pleasing brand of football not seen at Vicarage Road in, well, ages.
We're scoring loads of goals, and despite conceding a fair few in the process, we're winning games too. The excitement surrounding the squad at the moment means you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone unhappy with Zola's reign so far.
Who are your key players?
Almen Abdi and Matej Vydra, on loan from Udinese established themselves almost immediately as key players for us this season.
Abdi, who has Champions League experience with the Zebrette, is set to sign on a permanent basis in the January transfer window and is undoubtedly one of the first names on the team sheet when fit. The midfielder is calm on the ball, combative without it, and boasts a vicious shot from distance. He's scored six goals so far.
Vydra is another loan star set to sign permanently in the transfer window. He's a Czech Republic international, and our top goalscorer with 12 goals in 20 appearances. The striker is extremely quick, and absolutely lethal one-on-one (I honestly don't think he's ever missed).
Were you happy with the business conducted during the summer transfer window?
Very happy. The takeover of the club by the Pozzo family, who also own Serie A side Udinese and La Liga outfit Granada, allowed Watford to bring players in of a much higher standard than they could hope for under the previous owners. A total of 14 players (12 from Udinese or Granada) joined on loan in the summer, and a number of them are now established as first-team regulars.
Abdi, Vydra and Fernando Forestieri on loan from Udinese have been particularly impressive, and the signings of Manuel Almunia and Fitz Hall on free transfers have also proved key.
Are there any rising stars in the squad that we might not have heard of?
Fernando Forestieri is another Udinese loanee set to sign permanently during the transfer window. The quick-footed forward is incredibly talented and has been compared by teammates to his compatriot, Lionel Messi.
England Under-21 international Nathaniel Chalobah has seen his reputation grow massively since joining Watford on loan from Chelsea. He's just had his loan spell extended until the end of the season, and has a huge career ahead of him, although it unfortunately won't be with us.
Your Achilles heel?
Our defence, particularly from set plays, has cost us a number of times this season. Conceding four to at home to a struggling Charlton Athletic side on Tuesday proved the side has a way to go before it can be assured of a place in the play-offs, and losses to Derby and Bolton in September can also be solely attributed to the same defensive frailties.
With Fitz Hall missing from Saturday's cup tie with a hamstring injury, it will be up to young Tommie Hoban, and loanees Neuton and Joel Ekstrand to deal with City's attacking threat.
If you could have any City player in your team who would you choose?
Vincent Kompany would be the ideal addition to add more bite to our defence.
What is your perception of City as a club?
From the outside, there seems to be two groups of City fans: the loyal fans that have stuck by the club through thick and thin, and the glory hunters that follow the club because of their success and financial clout. I personally have nothing against City as a club, and applaud them for challenging the dominance (and arrogance) of Manchester United (and to a lesser extent, Chelsea).
Likely starting XI for the game, and score prediction?
Almunia; Ekstrand, Hoban, Neuton; Pudil, Hogg, Chalobah (assuming his loan is extended and Chelsea allow him to play), Abdi, Cassetti; Deeney, Vydra.
It's tough to predict a result for this one, but we're always capable of scoring goals so I'll be optimistic and say 2-1 to Watford.