Football Previews

Watford 0-0 Crystal Palace: Zaha reprises his role as Villain of Vicarage Road in tough stalemate

By Harry Edwards

Published: 17:25, 7 December 2019

Watford and Crystal Palace played out a fiery goalless draw that did neither of the two sides any good.

The Hornets had been looking for a win to push them up the table after a poor start to the season under Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez Flores, with relegation seemingly a given unless things turn around.

Meanwhile Palace were hoping to build on their recent good run to keep up with the Premier League’s top five, with Roy Hodgson continuing his excellent work at Selhurst Park.

Wilfried Zaha given rough treatment: Key stats from Watford 0-0 Crystal Palace…

  • Wilfried Zaha was fouled six times against Watford, more than any other player.
  • Only against Tottenham Hotspur (8) has Zaha been fouled more this season.
  • That is also the Premier League-high for a single player in 2019/20.
  • Ismaila Sarr (7) completed more take-ons than any other player.
  • Watford struggled in front of goal, hitting the target with just 25% of their shots.
  • Meanwhile Crystal Palace failed to hit the target with any of their three.

What next for Watford?

On Friday night Watford confirmed the arrival of Nigel Pearson as their new manager, and he will now take the reins from Hayden Mullins who had overseen the past two games.

Last in the Premier League in 2015 with Leicester City, Pearson faces a similar battle to the one he had at the King Power Stadium – though there is no denying that keeping Watford up will be a hard ask.

After 16 games in the Premier League the Hornets are bottom of the table, two points behind 19th-placed Norwich City. They’ve managed just one win so far and have lost nine times, drawing the other six.

The Hornets have been poor in defence, conceding 30 goals — only Norwich have conceded more — but their attack is perhaps in a worse position.

Watford are the only Premier League side this season yet to reach double figures for goals and it’s easy to see why after their performance against Palace. The Hornets had 12 shots in total but hit the target just three times, not good enough for a team trying to stay up.

And things won’t get any easier for Pearson with Watford facing some fixtures before the year is out.

Upcoming fixtures:

14 December 2019: Liverpool vs Watford

22 December 2019: Watford vs Man Utd

26 December 2019: Sheff Utd vs Watford

28 December 2019: Watford vs Aston Villa

01 January 2020: Watford vs Wolves

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What should Palace aim for?

Back-to-back wins over Burnley and Bournemouth had seen Palace as high as fifth in the Premier League on Tuesday night, leading to some small murmurs of a potential European charge.

And even though they had dropped slightly to seventh within 24 hours, the Eagles are still part of the conversation. Despite Tottenham Hotspur’s commanding win, Palace remain a point behind Jose Mourinho’s side in fifth. And even if Manchester United come out on top in the Manchester derby to move fifth, Palace would still be just two points behind.

Saturday’s draw was a poor showing for Palace as they struggled in attack, showing signs of their desperation for a new goalscorer. But if they do manage to bring one in, and keep hold of Wilfried Zaha, then there is no reason they cannot be pushing for a Europa League place towards the end of the season.

Upcoming fixtures:

16 December 2019: Palace vs Brighton

21 December 2019: Newcastle vs Palace

26 December 2019: Palace vs West Ham

28 December 2019: Southampton vs Palace

01 January 2020: Norwich vs Palace

Player in focus: Wilfried Zaha

Apart from Brighton, their may not be a fanbase that hates Wilfried Zaha more than Watford. The Ivorian became the Villain of Vicarage Road after his part in Palace’s 1-0 win in the 2013 Championship play-off final.

With the first half of extra-time coming to an end, Zaha went down in the penalty area, after a challenge from Marco Cassetti. Kevin Phillips scored the resulting spot-kick, the only goal of the game, but thus began Watford’s hatred for Zaha. Many of their fans believe the Ivorian goes down too easily under a challenge, something that has been mocked by their club’s mascot Harry the Hornet.

On Saturday fans were quick to jeer Zaha when he was on the ball, taking part in an intense battle with Abdoulaye Doucoure, and he played to their reaction. Looking to hurt the Watford defence, everything positive Palace did ran through him – though it wasn’t enough.

As the game went on, Zaha did grow frustrated with his treatment from the Watford players and looked fortunate to remain on the pitch at times after picking up a caution in the first half for what appeared to be a retaliation on Christian Kabasele. But it was just another display of how important Zaha is to this Palace side and what teams have to do to try and stop him.

The rest of the Premier League action

Watford’s game against Palace was one of just three games taking place in Saturday’s traditional 3pm kick-off slot. Palace will have wanted to follow the progress of Tottenham’s home game against Burnley closely with the former in a similar position.

Spurs ran out comfortable 5-0 winners in the end with goals from Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Moussa Sissoko and Lucas, sending Mourinho’s side fifth.

The other game of the afternoon saw Liverpool beat Bournemouth 3-0 to extend their lead at the top of the table to 11 points. Meanwhile, Everton beat Chelsea 3-1 in the early kick-off, meaning Palace are now seven points behind the Blues in fourth place.