Opposition Q & A
It’s one of those moments in time when god is in your heaven: I’m off work for Christmas until 9th Jan, and West Ham are playing with the style and panache we all long for, yet seldom see, scoring freely and entertaining us all. These times are to be treasured. This weekend West Ham welcome Watford, who have rediscovered their scoring boots after a dismal run, for a mid-table fixture at the London Stadium. Ahead of the game I chatted to Watford season ticket holder Aubin Stafford to discuss the season past, present and future.
Hi Aubin, this weekend sees both of our teams in a good vein of form, sitting on 24 points , in 9th and 10th in the league. Are you happy with your season so far?
Yes I am happy with the season so far, as I did not expect us to be doing this well before the season started, and definitely did not expect us to go on a 4 game win streak at the very start.
Match of the Day ended last week showing a montage of Watford’s goals so far this season: which of these was your particular favourite?
My favourite goals would either be Pereyra’s goal against Brighton where he volleyed it ‘top bins’ or it would be the ex-West Ham player Domingos Quina’s goal against Cardiff last weekend: the kid looks a bargain at £1m.
Watford seem to be following the Chelsea/Southampton school of appointing managers, where the system in place is more important than the individual manager – witness your sacking of Marco Silva last year. Are there any of your managers that you think were let go too soon, and you wish were still at the helm?
It is true. We do part ways with a lot of managers. E.g. Slavisa Jokanovic who got us promoted, then demanded a pay rise which our owners were not willing to pay. And of course there’s the Marco Silva situation where his head got turned by Everton, and he stopped caring about Watford because he knew he wouldn’t be there at the end of the season. But the one manager I still feel emotionally connected to would have to be Quique Sanchez Flores who kept us up in the first season in the Premier League: I would’ve liked to see what he could do with another season.
Having said all of that how do you rate your current manager Javi Gracia?
I rate our current manager Javi Gracia highly. Although expectations and hype about him were low when he first came in, he has now shown how much he has improved players such as Holebas after having a full pre-season.
What are your thoughts, if any, on the appointment of Manuel Pelligrini as West Ham’s manager?
When I first heard about West Ham signing Pelligrini I thought it was a brilliant move and I was silently jealous about it. Him being a premier league winner just shows the intent of West Ham and what you want to achieve in the long run. Even when you were struggling at the start of the season I knew it would only be a matter of time before you picked up form.
Somebody must be doing their job properly in your recruitment department. Richarlison was a great buy, and looked to be a big loss when he followed Silva to Everton, but at the moment it looks as he is not being missed. Who did you bring in during the summer, and how are they fitting into the team?
The Richarlison situation was weird. He seemed to only do well under Silva and when Javi came in he lost his place in the team to Pereyra who stepped up his form just as Richarlison’s was dipping. Pereyra then continued this good form into the current season and we haven’t looked back at Richarlison since. As of regard to players we’ve brought in Deloufeu signing a permanent deal with the club has helped us but i think the main reason we are not missing Richarlison is because of the amount of players that have stepped up.
The transfer window will soon upon us. Any areas of your team that you think need shoring up, or are you pretty happy with your squad?
One area I think we will have to address in the transfer window is a striker. Andre Gray is not one to score many and Deeney is playing a deeper role whilst Gray is out injured. This is not to mention Stefano Okaka who is incapable of exercise. Another position which may need strengthening is the defence. Sometimes our defence can be brilliant and sometimes it can be awful with people like Kabasele acting like he doesn’t have a brain.
Who have been your best players so far this season?
I think our player of the season so far has to be Ben Foster in goal he’s saved us god knows how many points this season: other players who deserve a mention would have to be Étienne Capoue, Craig Cathcart, Roberto Pereyra and Gerard Deloufeu.
Conversely which players have so far not played up to expectations?
I think Doucoure has not been playing to his full potential in central midfield after his fantastic form last season and Kiko Femenia at right back has struggled in recent games.
If you could have any West Ham player in your squad, who would you choose and why?
Out of the West Ham squad I would definitely take Arnautovic. This is because of his passion and also he is clinical in front of goal from what I’ve seen. Definitely up there for one of the best players outside the top six.
Who is going to win the League, and which teams will end up in the Premier League slots?
I still think Man City will win the league because of their squad depth I think Liverpool will have injuries affect them. My predicted top 4 would be Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham.
Which teams are going to get regulated?
Teams I think are going are get relegated would have to be Huddersfield, Cardiff and Burnley.
Where do you think Watford and West Ham will end the season?
I think both our teams are definite top 10 contenders so my prediction for the end of the season would be Watford 8th and West Ham 9th (trying to be positive).
How will Watford line up against West Ham this weekend? Team/formation?
How we’ll start against West Ham. I would have to guess it would be a 4-4-2 formation with Deeney and Deloufeu up front. The midfield I guess would be Quina against his former club next to Doucoure and Pereyra down the left and Ken Sema down the right. The defence would probably be Kiko at right back with Holebas at left back and Cathcart/Kabasele as the central defenders.
Are you going to bring an end to our winning run? Prediction for score?
I think it will be a really competitive game if we decide to turn up. I’m going to stay positive and go for a 2-1 Watford win.
Well many thanks to Aubin for his time and insightful comments about Watford. I had to smile when he said the kid’s a bargain when talking about Quinas, because Aubin must be about 18 himself. Well even though I think this will be one of the hardest games in our current run, which West Ham fan is not going going to back a fifth win on the trot? After only bagging two last weekend I’m hoping we can get back to scoring three again: so 3 -1 West Ham. COYI