It might be time to get serious about Watford’s top-six credentials
Last season was one to forget for Watford, but the Hornets dusted themselves down, regrouped, and now look like a whole new team.
A 2-1 win over Arsenal on Saturday night ensured the Hertfordshire side will spend the week in the lofty heights of fourth place.
Marco Silva’s men have lost just once in the league this season, and only Tottenham Hotspur and the two Manchester clubs have scored more goals.
And it’s not as if they were gifted an easy fixture list. Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal have already been to Vicarage Road this season.
So, what’s the secret to Watford’s new-found success?
Firstly, the increasingly savvy move to bring in Marco Silva. The Portuguese boss was headed for Crystal Palace in the summer, but the Eagles’ loss is the Hornets’ gain.
Silva impressed during a difficult spell at Hull, and is already being spoken of as a manager bound for great things.
A tactically astute boss in the Jose Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino mould, Silva has been getting the most out of this Watford side.
And it’s a side vastly improved from last season, thanks to a number of smart moves in the summer.
Many thought Tom Cleverley’s career had stagnated after spells at Aston Villa and Everton.
But 28-year-old has missed just 26 minutes of Premier League action this season, and after his late winner versus Arsenal, could yet make a bid for England’s World Cup squad next summer.
Kiko Femenia is turning out to be an excellent free transfer from Alaves, while Nathaniel Chalobah has revelled since finally leaving Chelsea on a permanent basis.
Then there’s Andre Carrillo and Richarlison. The two South American wingers have added a welcome – and effective – dose of flair to Watford’s attack.
And with Andre Gray signed up too, the Hornets possess a potent sting this season.
There’s more to Watford’s success than talent however.
Not only has Silva’s tactical nous sizeable improved the team’s fortunes, the Portuguese boss has also instilled a never-say-die attitude at Vicarage Road.
The Hornets have gained a whopping six points from goals scored in stoppage time – including match-changing strikes in each of their last three games.
The mentality was evident right from the start as Miguel Britos bagged a 93rd-minute goal to grab a 3-3 draw with Liverpool in August.
Further late strikes have since come to defeat Swansea City (90min), to draw at West Brom (95th min) and to beat Arsenal (92nd min).
Even in the 2-0 win over Bournemouth, Watford’s two goals came in the final 17 minutes.
It’s been 34 years since the Hornets achieved their best ever league finish – second in the old Division One.
That may be out of reach this season, but on current form, a top-six place can’t be ruled out.
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication