The Opposition Opinion: Watford (H) – “Until Tuesday, we hadn’t kept a clean sheet for 18 games!”

The Opposition Opinion returns ahead of another weekend of Premier League football, and we’ve been chatting to Hornets fan Vic Bait in the build up to Watford’s trip to St James’ Park today.

Here we are looking to bring you a view from ‘the other side’ before each game, chatting to an opposing fan to gain their opinions on NUFC, some insights into their own side and their thoughts on our upcoming match.

Here’s our ‘Q&A’ session with Watford fan @BaitVic in the build up to today’s game:

Q1 – Firstly, what shape are Watford in coming into this one? Interested to know the feeling around the club and general mood of fans after your poor start to the season..

“Results would show we’re in pretty bad shape. In the four seasons since promotion, we’ve always started well and have never been involved in a relegation battle.

“After spending most of last season challenging for a Europa League spot and reaching the FA Cup final, hopes were high so our start has been a real shock. We were dreadful against Brighton but probably should have got something from the Everton and West Ham games.

“I’d say that most fans are concerned – last season our form nosedived late on and it’s carried over into the start of this one. Until the Carabao Cup win on Tuesday, we were on a run of seven straight defeats and were shipping goals for fun.

“The next few games could define our season, whether it’s a long, hard battle against relegation or if we can expect our usual mid table finish.”

Q2 – Javi Gracia is the favourite to be the first PL manager sacked according to the bookies. Is he under serious pressure now you’re the only Premier League side yet to pick up a point? Is Saturday’s game a must win for him?

“He’s definitely under pressure, that run of form I mentioned in the first question means he has to be. He’s still well liked by the fans and there’s no clamour to replace him, the majority want him to turn it around.

“He’s a very good fit for Watford – modest, likeable, hard working. Our owners, the Pozzo family, are very shrewd, bordering on ruthless. I think they’re the only top flight owners whose primary business is football, they need to protect their investment in Watford.

“If he’s unable to turn it around, he’ll be gone by the international break. I think we need to get something from Saturday – the next three games are Arsenal, Man City and Wolves. If we lose to you, there’s a fair chance we might be entering October with no points on the board.”

Q3 – What are the strengths and weaknesses of this Watford side?

Given we’re bottom of the league, it’s easier to start with our weaknesses! It’s our defending, really. Until Tuesday night’s win over Coventry, we hadn’t kept a clean sheet for 18 games.

“The fans have been wanting a commanding centre back for a few transfer windows as it’s been seen as an area of weakness. The only incoming this summer in this area was Craig Dawson and his partnership with the Craig Cathcart has so far looked shaky and disjointed. Neither first choice full back is in great form either, so defence is definitely the biggest concern.

“On the more positive side, we have plenty of options going forward and if they can click, we should be fine this season. We have players with guile, pace and power at the top end of the pitch, it’s just a question of finding the right combination.”

Q4 – What’s the Watford XI (and formation) likely to start on Saturday? And could you give us any star players to watch out for and, at the other end of the spectrum, any weak links we could exploit?

“Tough to call. A couple of weeks ago it would have been easy to predict the starting line up and formation but recent results and some impressive midweek cup performances make it harder.

“If I had to guess, it would be a 4-2-3-1 of Foster; Janmaat, Cathcart, Dawson, Holebas; Capoue, Doucouré; Deulofeu, Pereyra, Hughes; Gray.

“Gerard Deulofeu is most likely to work a bit of magic and even when not firing on all cylinders can still make things happen in an instant.

“Our new record signing Ismailia Sarr started for the first time in the cup and scored but I think he might be on the bench on Saturday. He’s very, very fast so if he does play and you come at us, watch out for him on the break.

“Weaknesses… well, the defence. I think Daryl Janmaat will come in to strengthen it after Kiko Femenia’s poor start to the season, so there’s your pantomime villain for the afternoon!”

Q5 – What do you make of this Newcastle side and which players do you see as the strengths and weaknesses in our team?

“I’m probably not best placed to give an opinion here as I only tend to follow Watford games, so forgive me if I make any glaring errors!

“I thought you’d struggle this season, the appointment of Steve Bruce seemed a boring, unambitious one. I’ve never thought he was a particularly good manager and I don’t think his teams really have a clear identity. Add to that the loss of goals in Rondon and Perez, and I expect you to be near the bottom.

“A lot will depend on quite how well Joelinton, Saint-Maximin and Almiron perform in the Premier League. I think you’ll need at least two of those to be big hits to keep you clear of trouble.

“I’m guessing your defence and organisation might be a strength. I’m sure an ultra defensive coach like Benitez will have improved some of your defensive players over the last few seasons.”

Q6 – What sort of game do you think it’ll be and how do you see it panning out? Give us a prediction..

“I think it’ll be a cagey game. Watford will be desperate not to lose and I imagine will have spent the whole week working on the porous defence.

“I don’t think Steve Bruce will go gung ho either, a point will build on the excellent result at Spurs and he won’t want to be caught on the break.

That win means you should be able to play with more freedom and are under less pressure than us, but I’m going for a 1-1 draw, Andre Gray to score for us.”

Q7 – Which 3 sides do you see going down this season and why? Do you think Watford could get dragged into a relegation battle?

“Sheffield United, Norwich and one of Palace or Newcastle.

“We could definitely be dragged into it. Our squad is the best it’s been in years but if the poor start drags on, the already fragile confidence will ebb further.

“Strangely, I think the biggest risk might be sacking Gracia after a poor start. If we get the replacement wrong, it might be too late to react and we might find ourselves scratching our heads as to how such a talented squad are in a relegation battle come the end of the season”

Q8 – If you could sign one player from NUFC, who would you like to see Gracia go for?

“Last season it would’ve been Rondon, he’s a better, more mobile version of Troy Deeney. Not so sure now, as a lot of your bigger signings have only recently arrived so I’m not sure how good they actually are.

“Given that central defence is our weakness, I’ll go for Fabian Schar. He’s looked quite good the couple of times I’ve seen him.”

Q9 – Finally, if you had our two squads to choose from and were asked to pick the best possible side, what would you starting 11 be?

“You’re not going to like this but if everyone was fit:

“Foster – Holebas, Schar, Lascelles, Janmaat – Capoue, Doucouré – Deulofeu, Pereyra, Sarr – Welbeck.

“I fully expect this to blow up in my face and you to comfortably beat us on Saturday now!”

A big thanks to Vic for answering our questions ahead of this weekend’s game.

Next time we’ll be speaking to a Liverpool fan ahead of our trip to Anfield after the international break in a few week’s time.

(Fancy writing for us? Get in touch at NUFCblogsubmissions@gmail.com & we’ll get back to you!)

About Olly Hawkins

Olly has been a Junior Magpie from birth. As a season ticket holder and avid Newcastle United fan - he eats, sleeps and breathes all things NUFC.

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