Swansea City, Watford are not. Not yet anyway. It would be nice if we could be, but I think that is a bit much to expect from a team made up of former long ball practitioners and a mish-mash of foreign players, all of which only had one game together coming in to the game against Ipswich.
From the off it was obvious that Gianfranco Zola has been trying to instill the same core values that Brendan Rodgers had implemented so well at Swansea, who, even at his short tenure at Watford, made the players pass the ball backwards, much to the horror of the majority of our fans.
Centre backs, Martin Taylor and Nyron Nosworthy coming to the corner of the area every time new keeper, Manuel Almunia, was in possession of the ball, giving it to the central midfielders to play around with it as they pleased, toying with the Ipswich players, pulling them about the park until they found the gap that would create a chance to open the deadlock. That was the idea anyway.
The reality was a bit different. You can have all the will in the world to want to play that style of football, it’s become very idealised in the modern game that this is the way you HAVE to play if you want to be respected. Unfortunately for the likes of Watford, it doesn’t get you respected in the Championship, especially if you don’t have the work rate, movement and awareness to do so efficiently.
Ipswich dealt with Zola’s ideas well, working hard in the midfield to shut down and hurry the likes of Jonathan Hogg, Almen Abdi and Mark Yeates into making mistakes. Defensively, Paul Jewell’s men were solid, Joe Garner failing to provide them with many problems and Abdi’s half-volley being the only half-challenge for the returning Scott Loach in the first half.
There were sparks from Watford, we have some very capable players in the likes of the pacey loanee Mateh Vydra, the young Sean Murray and the continental Abdi, and they showed glimpses of what could be for Watford, once given the time to get to know each other better on the pitch.
Centre backs, Martin Taylor and Nyron Nosworthy coming to the corner of the area every time new keeper, Manuel Almunia, was in possession of the ball
What’s more, Ipswich played Watford at their own game, playing some neat and direct passing football. Lee Martin began the game brightly, if not a little too keen to go to ground at times, Massimo Luongo looked composed and energetic in the middle of the park, going close with a burst forward half way through the second half, and Carlos Edwards, probably my nomination for Man of the Match, was surprisingly yet thoroughly impressive at right-back, playing like a natural full-back despite plying his trade for most of his career as a winger. Sometimes you just have to give credit where credit is due.
However, with Michael Chopra missing, what was by his standards, a sitter from eight yards out, clipping the ball wide after a fantastic driven ball in from the substitute, Andy Drury, there was a sense that we could nick one and we might be able to come away with an admittedly undeserved three points. Alas, Abdi and Nosworthy both missed close range headers as Chris Iwelumo came on in a vain attempt to steal a win.
Thus, true balance was restored and in this case the best team won, with Zola admitting after the game that Ipswich were simply better. Some neat interplay between Drury, Luongo and Edwards led to the right-back whipping the perfect ball in for Chopra to slide in and make up for his previous misdemeanor.
It’s fair to say that until the last 10 minutes or so, this was not your standard Championship game. Both teams wanted to get the ball on the ground and play, something that we haven’t seen very often at Vicarage Road, but as much I hate the phrase; Watford are a team in transition. After-all, Rome wasn’t built in a day and every other cliché you can think of to justify the reality that if we are to see slick, passing football from the Golden Boys then it is going to take precious time. I, for one, am willing to wait.
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