Sunday, October 22, 2017

Watford v West Ham: Bilic eyes improvements ahead of Vicarage Road visit

Slaven Bilic insists high-flying West Ham still have plenty to improve on as they aim to stay unbeaten away from home in the Premier League this season at Watford on Saturday.

West Ham sit third in the table with 10 games gone and are just two points behind leaders Manchester City and Arsenal, with only goal difference separating the top two. 

Bilic’s men have been particularly impressive on the road, winning four and drawing one on their travels in the league, a run that featured stunning victories over Arsenal, Liverpool and City.

Champions Chelsea were added to that list of notable scalps last Saturday as West Ham ran out 2-1 winners at Upton Park, but Bilic is taking nothing for granted against Watford, who have the best points return (13) of the three promoted sides to date. 

Quique Sanchez Flores’ men are 13th in the league and high on confidence after convincingly beating Stoke City 2-0 at the Britannia Stadium last weekend.

And Bilic said: “They [Watford] are a very good team and very hard to beat. They are going to approach the game very positively after they beat Stoke.

“They are a new team; they are improving week by week. They have some good internationals, a lot of experience.

“I rate Quique very highly, not only his past as a player but also as a coach. To have 20 new players and in such a short time, turn them into a solid team is amazing.

“They look very, very organised. Like every game, it is going to be very difficult. We will have to be on top of our game in order to win

“The players have only known each other for a couple of months, we can improve on winning second balls, set-pieces. We definitely have to improve our shooting because we are not shooting enough from the situations where we should be.

“Our transition from defence to attack and the other way round can be better, too. Basically, we can improve everything.”

The visitors are still without midfielder Alex Song because of an ankle injury and defender Winston Reid could miss out because of a back problem.

Joel Ekstrand (knee) is out for Watford, who are likely to again be minus the services of attacking midfielder Jurado due to a hamstring concern.

Bilic has not been alone in his praise of Flores, who has earned many plaudits for the way Watford have performed.

But the Spaniard said: “The time for compliments is at the end of the season if we have done well. I am very happy with the performance of my players, but we have made only a good start. We need to keep working hard over the whole season.”

 

Key Opta Stats:

– Watford have won just one of their last 22 league meetings with West Ham, drawing four and losing 17.

– West Ham are unbeaten in their last 11 league visits to Vicarage Road (W8 D3), last suffering a league defeat away to Watford in April 1985 (0-5).

– The Hammers are unbeaten in their last seven Premier League games (W5 D2), only one short of their best-ever run without a loss in the competition (eight games in both Dec 2000 and May 1995).

– No West Ham player has been involved in more goals in their first 10 PL apps for the club than Dimitri Payet (eight – scored five, assisted three); level with Ian Wright and Diafra Sakho.

– Troy Deeney will be looking to score in back-to-back appearances for the first time since March 2015. He has netted just three times in his last 18 appearances for the Hornets.

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