Watford welcomed the reigning Premier League champions Chelsea at their Vicarage Road on Wednesday night in a dynamic and energetic goalless draw, which will have left not a single fan feeling disappointed.
There was more at the offer than what the final score might have suggested as both Watford and Chelsea played with their guards down, eager to claim the maximum three points and it all resulted in an openly contested, close-knit match.
Watford have put a lot of pressure on the Premier League champions for most of the proceedings not allowing Chelsea to utilise their individual quality.
The hosts ran out of steam a bit in the closing moments of the game but it was thanks to the alert Aurelio Gomes, who denied the visiting team in two occasions stopping Ivanovic and Diego Costa’s efforts, that Watford’s net remained still for the entire 90 minutes.
Here are the five things we learned from the Wednesday duel at Vicarage Road:
Quique Sanchez Flores deserves credit for his work at Watford
Perhaps not even the most faithful fans would have predicted at the start of the season that Watford would host the Premier League champions sitting in front of them in the standings, four points in the clear, but Quique Sanchez Flores’ men proved their excellent results are not the result of chance.
New manager has adapted excellently to English football and nine wins out of 24 matches played speak volumes of his work in a debut season in the Premier League.
Hornets have amassed 33 points which is enough for the ninth place in the standings andwhich is more than what the team was able to gather from their previous two participations in England’s top tier.
Flores has built a composed, tightly-packed unit not afraid to play football. Their mature performances and under-pressure behaviour have been particularly impressive, along the fantastic attacking duo of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney.
Hiddink too defensive at Vicarage Road
Still unbeaten since his return to Stamford Bridge, the Dutch manager perhaps went into the match at Vicarage Road a tad too defensively than it was needed.
With Mikel and Matic as the two defensive midfielders, Chelsea lacked pace for most part of the game, until the introduction of Eden Hazard, who has indeed put an extra edge to his team’s performance upon getting on.
Willian and Oscar were unable to express themselves completely on the wings tonight, while Cesk Fabregas as the playmaker had a quiet game he will want to forget.
As Hazard was brought on to the left hand-side, Oscar was moved to the middle as Guus Hiddink attempted to recreate the scenario from the game against MK Dons when the Brazilian scored the hat-trick.
Chelsea manager has perhaps waited a bit too long to bring the Belgian on and the visitors didn’t have enough time to run the hosts down and break Eurelio Gomes.
Chelsea should consider a formation switch
Guus Hiddink has did not ring too many changes to the style and formation Chelsea were using under Jose Mourinho.
The interim manager also tried Eden Hazard upfront instead of Diego Costa, but the formation remained intact. The most used 4-2-3-1 formation has not brought the expected results in the last couple of games.
With their backline solid and with two defensive midfielder offering support, there hasn’t been enough material to connect the two lines of the team with. Nemanja Matic and Cesk Fabregas have been out of form for most part of the season and their last season’s link is gone, so Guus Hiddink could perhaps consider a formation switch.
The arrival of Alexandre Pato could offer some alternative and 4-4-2 could be seen as a refreshing change.
Diego Costa needs support
The Spanish striker, like the entire Chelsea squad for that matter, is not having the best of seasons.
With eight goals and three assists to his name from 24 appearances this term, the 27-year-old has been a disappointment.
More interested in quarrels and brawls with his rivals, Diego Costa has so many times been left isolated behind the opposing defence lines with no proper service.
Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao offered no support nor alternative to the former Atletico Madrid man so the arrival of Alexandre Pato could be just what the Spaniard needs.
The Brazilian forward is able to play a bit wider than Costa and should Hiddink choose to switch the formation to 4-4-2 and test the newly proposed system, Alexandre Pato could relieve Diego Costa and take a load off of his chest, as the rivalling defenders would have plenty of work at their hands.
Deeney and Ighalo
Flores deserves great deal of credit for partnering the two players and creating perhaps the best strike duo in the Premier League this season.
Partnership is the right word to describe their relation this season as the two strikers share somewhat a telepathic and instinctive understanding towards one another’s movement and play.
Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney have shared 20 goals between them this term, which is the majority of Watford’s tally of 27 thus far in the campaign.
Despite their quiet night against Chelsea, Ighalo and Deeney gave Chelsea backline a run around, as Blues’ defenders struggled to maintain Watford’s main striking force.
Blues will miss John Terry
Blues’ skipper has played his first game since the announcement of impending departure at the end of the season.
And once again, John Terry has been impeccable. The experienced veteran defender has been in fine form and has created great partnership of his own with the young Kurt Zouma, who is keeping Gary Cahill out of the first-team thanks to his strong performances alongside the captain.
With John Terry as the brain and Zouma as the muscle, Chelsea backline has looked in great shape at Vicarage Road.
Chelsea will lose more than just a defensive quality with the departure of John Terry.
Born leader and commander will take the mental edge with him as well and Chelsea will struggle to find the proper replacement, which will be an instant hit both physically and mentally for the Blues next season.
WATFORD: Gomes 8 – Paredes 7 (Nyom 6.5), Prodl 7.5, Cathcart 7, Holebas 7 – Capoue 7 (Suarez 6), Watson 7.5, Behrami 7 – Jurado 7 (Abdi 6) – Deeney 7, Ighalo 6.5.
Unused subs: Amrabat, Anya, Guedioura, Pantilimon.
CHELSEA: Courtois 6.5 – Ivanovic 6.5, Zouma 6.5, Terry 7, Azpilicueta 7 – Mikel 7, Matic 6.5 (Hazard 6.5), Willian 6.5, Fabregas 7, Oscar 7 – Costa 6.5.
Unused subs: Baba, Begovic, Cahill, Kenedy Nunes, Loftus-Cheek, Traore.
REFEREE: Mike Dean
Other results this evening
Everton 3-0 Newcastle United