Fate out of their hands: Watford desperately need Emirates result or they will face the drop


Just two weeks ago a late Troy Deeney penalty grabbed Watford a vital three points over Newcastle United.

It moved the Hornets six points clear of Bournemouth in 18th and seven clear of Aston Villa in 19th. With Aston Villa and Bournemouth’s run ins looking very difficult, many probably thought they were heading for a sixth straight season in the Premier League.

But so much has changed in a fortnight, and for Watford it hasn’t been for the good. They lost their crunch game to West Ham on July 17 – a result they needed to go their way. That cost Nigel Pearson his job, leaving Hayden Mullins in charge for the rest of the season.

Mullins couldn’t have got off to a worse start. They faced a Manchester City side who had humiliated them 8-0 at the Etihad back in September and had thrashed them at Wembley in last years FA Cup Final 6-0. After losing to Arsenal in the semi-final of the cup, City were smelling blood. And smell blood they did as Pep Guardiola’s side emerged 4-0 victors at Vicarage Road.

Aston Villa took advantage of Watford’s slip up with two wins and a draw moving them out of the bottom three, and moving the Hertfordshire side in it.

It has also given Bournemouth a chance to stay up up too – but with themselves being three points behind Villa and Watford, their hopes are slim.

Mullins’ men end their season at Arsenal, the side Villa beat on Tuesday to move them out of the drop zone.

It was a poor display from Mikel Arteta’s men – chances came few and far and were unable to break down the Claret and Blue resillience.

But it also should be mentioned that Arsenal fielded a weakened side in the West Midlands. Six changes were made from that win at Wembley just three days before.

With the FA Cup Final against Chelsea to prepare for in six days time, Arteta will want to make sure they end on a high.

“I am going to assess the squad, how they’re feeling, how everyone has recovered and ideally I want to play as strong a team as I can,” he said. “We have to respect that there are a few teams in a relegation battle and we are responsible for that as well.

“That’s the way we will prepare the game that’s for sure, we need to know the responsibility we have towards the other clubs and the responsibility we have wearing the shirt in any game. It has to be to win the football game and prepare so if mentally you are not ready, or your level of dedication is not 100 per cent, then you have a problem.”

This may not be the news that Mullins or any Watford fans would have wanted. With Villa going to West Ham – who secured their Premier League safety on Tuesday and have nothing to play –  you’d be forgiven for thinking that Villa are well and truly in the box seat.

But if there’s one thing we have come to expect from the Hornets this season is the unexpected. They have pulled off some shock results this season – they beat Manchester United 2-0 at Christmas and ended Liverpool’s unbeaten run with a 3-0 victory at Vicarage Road.

They also pulled off an impressive comeback against Arsenal back in September, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s first half double being cancelled out by a goal from Tom Cleverley and a Roberto Pereyra spotkick.

Watford have upset the Gunners in recent years. They knocked the then FA Cup holders out in 2016, and beat them twice 2-1 in the calendar year of 2017.

But whether they can do it again is a question in itself, The Emirates has become a fortress under Arteta, winning eight of their nine league games there in 2020 – beating champions Liverpool in their last home match 2-1.

Besides that Watford’s away record has been poor this season. They have only won twice on the road – their last coming at Bournemouth in January. In the seven games since then, they have lost six and drawn one.

As I said when previewing Aston Villa’s clash with the Gunners on Tuesday, this will not be an easy one. It will especially be harder for Watford considering their record away from home.

But with Watford just below Dean Smith’s side by a single goal, they are very much alive and still with a massive chance of survival.

But it all comes down to this, they cannot afford to slip up. No defensive lapses, no gilt-edged chances missed.

Its Watford’s last role of the dice – the right numbers must come up otherwise it will be game over.

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