Two games since the break and one goal conceded will be a great tonic to our newly assembled defence and certainly their performance against a high-flying Chelsea side was accomplished and confirmed the establishment of a new status quo. Balbuena and Diop have now settled in and look like they are competent and intuitive. The cover provided by Rice and Obiang was also noteworthy. They both occupied the strip of land between defence and midfield making it impossible for Chelsea to play the killer ball or execute the knife through butter counter goal we saw back under Slaven.
Midfield looking strong
Obiang seems to absorb and deflect all manner of dangerous opposition possession and although this affected his forward game slightly on Sunday he was playing a potential top four midfield and the shire nuisance of the man had the opposition scratching their heads and Hazard running around with the ball without doing very much most of the time. I always find the ‘Hazard test’ is a good indicator of the defensive capabilities of a side. Get Hazard wrong and he tears you to pieces, manage him correctly and he runs around with the ball wasting time and possession. We certainly passed the ‘Hazard test’ this time around and it will inspire confidence and build understanding as we look to contain, beckon, bait and strike against these kind of temperamental top four-ish set ups.
Rice again showed a lot of footballing prowess and his role is becoming more defined and distinct from Obiang. Rice is a chaser, tackler and user of the ball and the immense energy which goes into his overall performance allows him to dictate passage of play and generally mop-up potentially hazardous spills when required.
The only drawback of the system we play is that it does leave us very deep and very much invites possession to the other side. Of course we know this is Pellegrini’s way and after admittedly doubting the man in the first few games I now accept he is probably mostly right but are we all completely happy being reliant on counter-attack rather than carving and creating? Results are likely to dictate our responses I think and at least we are two games unbeaten and a clean sheet.
Noble put in another captain fantastic performance and covered every inch of the Stratford turf, as long as he can maintain this level of energy and performance Noble is sure to start and rightly so.The other unsung hero of the game was the keeper Fabianski. More brilliant shot stopping from the big man and in my opinion he should have been man of the match rather than Yarmolenko who for all his recent good form needed to take that chance! I think we can probably accept Antonio missing a chance Arnie would have buried but Yarmolenko’s miss hurt!
Why put the signs up now?
Did anyone notice the strange yellow signs that have cropped up on the bouncy tarpaulin sections? I remember the first couple of games in the new stadium looking at the gap between the tiers thinking the drop is pretty dangerous.
I also remember Watford fans complete with beers bouncing on the tarpaulin too but don’t remember it happening since the first few games. Is this surely not something which has been overlooked by the health and safety people? Is this surely not the remit of the same health and safety people who have limited capacity in the stadium and been instrumental in making our lives difficult? If so how has it taken over two seasons of imminent danger for the signs to appear? Maybe they’ve always been there and I’m going mad which is a distinct possibility but still.
Lastly we can all rest safely in the knowledge that according to our beloved BBC MOTD2 pundits whose names I refuse to even utter we must be in serious contention for a top three spot as an unbeaten Chelsea drawing nil nil against us have just been talked up to sound like the best team in Europe, lets all hope we can doubly annoy beeb pundits by dampening the fortunes of their favourite side from Manchester on Saturday.