When Watford kicked-off their Premier League campaign this season, the Hornets were expected to struggle.
They had brought in over a dozen new players over the summer and another new boss in Spaniard Quique Sanchez Flores.
The Hertfordshire based outfit were expected to struggle, despite the fact that the Hornets played some fantastic football and finished as runners-up in the Championship last season.
However Watford have defied all odds by enjoying a good campaign this season and are currently seventh in the Premier League table, incredibly just four points behind fourth-place Manchester United.
Exciting going forward
A key to Watford’s exciting style of play is the Hornets strike-pair of Nigerian international Odion Ighalo and reformed character Troy Deeney. Deeney had been prolific in his previous two campaigns in the second tier and netted 21 goals last season.
Ighalo was a slow starter, but still managed to score just one less than his strike-partner in the Hornets promotion campaign.
It seems the pair was not content with taking the second tier by storm, they were determined to make their mark on the top-flight too, and the pair has done just that this season.
Ighalo has been every fantasy football player’s biggest bargain this season, netting ten times this season, including five goals in his last six top-flight appearances. The fact that Ighalo has also contributed five assists as well this season illustrates his importance to the team.
The Nigerian international has scored more goals in the calendar year than any other striker in the top four divisions of English football, his 26 two more than his nearest competitor Tottenham’s England striker Harry Kane.
Deeney took a while to get going in the Premier League. The striker failed to score in his first nine top-flight appearances, although he did produce three assists. Since those frustrating early days the 27-year-old has now scored five goals in his last six Premier League appearances.
Defending from the front
The fact that Watford plays with essentially an old-school two man attack is surprisingly these days, with most Premier League teams deciding to use the now modern norm of using just one up front.
The two strikers often leave teams outnumbered in midfield, but the Hornets forward duo are clever in the way they play. The pair work very hard for the team and have contributed immensely to Watford’s decent record in the top-flight this season, as they defend from the front.
The Hornets combat being outnumbered in midfield by one of the two front players dropping into midfield to make up the numbers when needed. Ighalo has previously played as an attacking midfielder, so it is not much of a leap for him to make.
However, at times Deeney has also done a good job at dropping into midfield and supplementing the numbers in the centre of the park. Most of the time Watford’s prolific duo plays as an out-and-out partnership.
Could be a surprise team
Watford’s first priority this season would have been to avoid a quick-return to the Championship. Written-off by many pundits and so called ‘experts’, the Hornets have been superb and their front two has been the key to that good form.
What they achieve this season will depend on Deeney and Ighalo staying fit and keeping-up their decent form. Leicester is no doubt this season’s surprise package in the Premier League, but if Watford’s dynamic duo continues in their current vein then they could be in the mix for a top six spot, which they are currently odds of 25/1 to achieve.
Ighalo and Deeney’s exploits have seen Watford collect 25 points this season already and the Hornets are just five wins away from the magic 40 point mark. I am sure everybody associated with the club would have taken survival at the start of the campaign, especially after the summer of mass upheaval.
However due to the team’s old-fashioned strike duo and their astute boss Quique Sanchez Flores the Hornets could have far bigger ambitions this season.
Their approach may be simple, but it has proven highly-successful this season. The clubs prolific strike-pairing scoring exploits look set to be enough for the Hornets to achieve their main objective this season, which is maintain their Premier League status.
What can Ighalo and Deeney help Watford achieve this season?