Soccer fans, an underdog has emerged from another major competition. Watford have staked their claim as this season’s Leicester, this campaign’s Wales at the 2016 Euro and the 2018-19 Premier League version of World Cup Croatia. The Hornets have soared, stinging early competition to claim their spot among the Top 4.
Are they going to stay for much longer? Meh. They do have an up-and-down Manchester United to look forward to this weekend, but as we’re about to flesh out, Watford’s comeuppance could be around the corner.
Before we start asking: “What’s wrong with Watford after their hot start?” let’s celebrate their perfect record and huge leg-up when it comes to avoiding relegation against other Outside the 6 clubs. Forget relegation, Harry the Hornet, you should be dreaming of European competition!
You could say Watford got electric boots…. a mohair suit… Da-Da-Da-Deeney and the Jets! Now that the Sir Elton John cliche is out of the way, let’s dive into some stats, stats, stats!
1. 4.75 Expected Goals (xG) Through Four Matches
Five clubs have scored at least nine goals this season. Out of these clubs, no team has a lower xG than Watford. In fact, the next lowest is Chelsea with 6.65. Saying Watford has been lucky is an understatement when they’re scoring nearly a goal more per game than what their xG indicates. In that same vein…
2. Biggest Goal-to-xG Difference in the Premier League
As stated above, Watford’s xG is 4.75, but they’ve scored nine goals. That’s a stunning -4.25 difference. For context, on the opposite side of the spectrum rests Southampton, who have scored 4 goals but have a 6.02 xG (+2.02 diff.). The Saints are currently 12th in the table while Watford are third.
3. Leading Scorer Roberto Pereyra has a 0.58 xG
More xG! Midfielder Roberto Pereyra is on pace for a career season. His three goals on nine shots lead the club, and his shooting percentage is essentially the same as Carmelo Anthony. The only player with a better percentage so far in the EPL is Glenn Murray. All this despite Pereyra’s xG barely sniffing half a goal.
4. What about Expected Goals…Against? 2.86
One last expected goals stat: Watford are second with the least amount of expected goals this season, nearly a 0.6 xG behind Liverpool who have only given up one goal this season. Ben Foster isn’t standing on his head in goal, it’s been a team effort through and through.
Remember, this is a team that allowed the third-most goals last season. It’s been a spectacular defensive turn around we’ll examine deeper as we go along.
5. Troy Deeney Has Won 26 Aerial Challenges
Troy Deeney is fifth in the EPL in total aerials won. The four players ahead of him have a combined zero goals and two assists. Deeney has two goals and an assist. The Deeney renaissance is one of the greatest spectacles this season by a long shot.
6. The D is Only Allowing 8.5 Shots Per Game
The defensive half is where Watford has made their money. They have allowed the third-fewest shots on goal this season. Center backs Daryl Janmaat and Christian Kabasele deserve the majority of the credit here by straightening out that back line under Javi Gracia that, as we stated above, was relegation-worthy.
7. Enough With Defense. Back to Offense With José Holebas’s 0.74 Expected Assists
José Holebas’s four assists have him tied for Premier League lead, but his expected assists (xA) is 0.7. He’s only played four key passes this season — all but one have resulted in goals.
Benjamin Mendy on the other hand, who shares the lead with Holebas in assists, has an xA of 1.37, on seven key passes.
Both have startling key pass-to-assist rates, but Holebas is too abnormal to remain sustainable, considering the talent he’s surrounded by compared to Mendy. Like David Silva, for example. The midfielder has 13 key passes and a 1.35 xA. Yet, he’s yet to register an assist.
8. Etienne Capoue Has A Combined 26 Tackles And Interceptions
Etienne Capoue: More tackles and interceptions combined (26) than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues this season. Etienne Capoue, ladies and gentlemen.
9. Watford Average 35.6 Tackles And Interceptions Per Game
Other Watford midfielders beside Capoue have been busy, too. This group leads the way for Watford’s 19.3 tackles and 16.3 interceptions per game this season.
The Hornets play a 4-2-2-2, primarily, which creates two layers in the midfield. With the fullbacks and two “attacking midfielders” in Roberto Pereyra and Will Hughes nipping at attackers out-wide, opponents have been forced to play through the middle. A hungry Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucouré have been a pain for attacks to get through. Again, this goes back to the 8.5 shots allowed per match. Clubs just can’t unlock the Watford midfield.
Watford is second in the Premier League for combined tackles and interceptions. Brighton & Hove Albion are averaging 39. But Watford are also attempting nearly four more shots on goal and possessing the ball nearly four percent more than Brighton per game. Watford are, more or less, playing defense less often than Brighton, therefore decreasing their opportunities for tackles and interceptions.
10. 3 Set Piece Goals
That’s a third of their total goals. And it doesn’t include this one…