Football Features

Watford climb out of bottom three for first time this season as Pearson piles pressure on Howe

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 16:06, 12 January 2020

Watford took another step towards maintaining their Premier League status with a comprehensive 3-0 win at relegation rivals Bournemeouth.

Nigel Pearson’s men were good for their latest win and were hardly troubled throughout the 90 minutes, with Abdoulaye Doucouré, Troy Deeney and Roberto Pereyra all on the scoresheet.

As for the hosts, it was another miserable outing that places more pressure on boss Eddie Howe’s shoulders. However, with that said it’s not yet too late for them to turn their season around.

As we catch our breath, here are five things we learned from this pulsating encounter.

1. Rubbing shoulders with giants

Since forming towards the end of the 19th century, Watford had to wait nearly a century before playing top-flight football. Since then the Hornets have dipped in and out of England’s top division but this is their fifth consecutive Premier League season – one in which they are fighting to retain that status. It’s fair to say they’re now an established outfit and this game on the South Coast happened to be number 500 at the highest level.

To put that into some perspective, only 42 teams before them have reached that milestone and they are the first since Crystal Palace in October 2004 to notch such a total. Across their opening 499 games they had suffered 227 losses which is more than every side bar Stoke City (242) and Fulham (231).

2. An uncharacteristic mistake

Despite a recent poor turn in form – three defeats across their last four Premier League outings heading into this weekend – Eddie Howe’s men have seldom made it easy for those who they’ve faced. It’s just been a difference in quality on the day. When it comes to making an error leading to a goal, their overall total stood at one before matchday 22, which is the same amount by today’s opponents Watford, Chelsea and high-flying Leicester City.

A hamstring injury sustained in training by goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale meant understudy Mark Travers made his first league appearance for the Cherries since a 5-3 loss at Crystal Palace last May, and the shot-stopper would have wanted the ground to swallow him up after his poor clearance ultimately led to Doucouré putting the visitors in front. It also doubled their errors leading to a goal tally, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t terrible.

3. Sunday not so funday

Garfield is well known to hate Mondays, we can now ascribe Sunday to be Bournemouth’s equivalent. Today was their 25th Premier League match played on the seventh day of the week and Howe’s men suffered a 19th defeat giving them a 76% loss percentage which is the highest rate for any team on a single day of the week in competition history (the caveat being a minimum of 20 games played).

It’s now nine losses for Bournemouth across their last 11 league games; a miserable run that sees them second from bottom albeit only two points adrift of safety. Given the chaos in the bottom half of the division – just 10 points separates the bottom seven clubs – it will only take a couple of wins on the bounce for the Cherries to get back on track, which Watford have shown perfectly under Pearson.

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4. Pearson bounce continues unabated

A relegation-preventing appointment? As crazy as this might sound, it’s too early to say, despite the explicit transformation and impact Pearson has made since following Quique Sanchez Flores in the Watford hotseat. It wasn’t the easiest of starts at runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool, even though they competed valiantly before falling to a 2-0 loss, but they’ve since gone on a five-match unbeaten streak, consisting of an impressive four wins.

To illustrate what a good job Pearson is doing this run of 13 points has – for the first time this season – taken the Hornets out of the danger zone. His previous work of keeping Leicester City up would have no doubt influenced the Pozzo family’s decision to appoint him on a short-term deal. Now more than three clubs sit behind them, the hard work of staying above the dotted line begins.

5. Wilson’s drought

Callum Wilson started the 2019/20 like a man possessed. The England international bagged five goals across his opening seven Premier League outings. Including this most recent game, he’s now gone 14 matches without a goal. From that last effort that went in, against West Ham at home, it’s 1142 minutes (or 19 hours and 3 minutes) since he last burst the back of the net.

As their neighbours Southampton continue to demonstrate, having a prolific ‘number nine’ could be the difference between staying up or going down. Danny Ings has netted 10 times across the Saints’ last 11 games and they now sit six points behind fifth-placed Man Utd after previously being rooted to the relegation zone. If the Cherries are to play a sixth successive Premier League campaign they need to get their main goalscorer firing again – and quickly.