Watford’s high-pressing, counter-attacking tactical model shares many similarities with the gegenpress of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, and it’s not difficult to imagine that it will unsettle Chelsea’s rhythm – particularly if Guus Hiddink continues to play Cesc Fabregas in central midfield.
Quique Sanchez Flores instructs his Watford players to hound down the ball from the front, putting the opposition defenders and midfielders under significant pressure to release it quickly; they make 18.6 interceptions per match (fourth-highest in the league) and commit 11.8 fouls per match (fourth-highest in in the league).
Confidence is high at Vicarage Road after four wins in a row, making this aggressive, brave defensive model even more successful. They completed 28 tackles against Liverpool last weekend (the highest average in the league is Liverpool’s 23.6 per game).
The Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo partnership is successful – they have scored 17 of Watford’s 21 league goals (81%) – because winning the ball high up the pitch opens up space behind the backline for these two to burst into. Liverpool were shaken by this tactic, and Chelsea could also suffer if their midfield fails to track back adequately when the ball is lost.
Fabregas has been a weak point for Chelsea all season, playing alongside Nemanja Matic in the majority of his team’s defeats. He played well in a similar role last weekend against Sunderland, but his poor work rate, tackling, and positional discipline could be brutally exposed against a team that play far higher up the pitch. Fabregas completed one tackle and zero interceptions against Sam Allardyce’s team.
If Watford’s pressing is successful, then Deeney is likely to receive the ball in acres of space in front of the back two; Fabregas rarely sprints back to help defend following a breakdown in Chelsea dominance. Any sign of laziness in the middle of the park will give Watford a significant advantage.
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