The International break is over (insert raucous cheers) and Southampton’s preparations for Watford are well under way.
We caught up with Andy Lewers, another muser, who founded The Hornets’ Nest blog dedicated to everything Watford to get his views on Saturday’s clash with our beloved Saints.
Three things stood out. The first, he loves a good pub quiz and who doesn't? The second, he’s sneaky good at hornet related puns. And finally, Andy knows how to properly make use of a student loan.
St Mary’s Musings: Tell us a bit about The Hornets’ Nest, its founding, purpose and any projects you are currently working on.
Andy Lewers: We lost the Championship Playoff Final to Crystal Palace at the end of the 2012/13 season, so naturally I was feeling optimistic about the year ahead. As I was heading into my final year of university, I thought what better way to waste my student loan than to follow Watford around the country for a year going to every game and documenting what I had hoped to be our promotion season online! Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as I had planned. We were terrible that year, (which included an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at home to Yeovil!), but I loved the process of going to the games and sharing my opinion online so I’ve just carried on ever since!
I don’t have any projects as such in the pipeline, just more stuff being added to the blog here and there so watch this space!
SMM: Watford added some great talent during the transfer window. How do you grade their business and did they address needs adequately enough?
AL: Watford fans have become used to the volume of players coming in through the door every summer for a good while now, this season though has felt a little different. Towards the back end of last season, the owners were saying that they had used previous windows to improve the squad, however with this window they would be using it to improve the starting XI and that’s just what they’ve done.
We’ve arguably had one of the best transfer windows of any club in the league. Young, English talents Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes were bought for pittance given today’s market and the exciting addition of Brazilian Richarlison has given us some much needed pace in the final third. Kiko Femenia was brought in on a free from Alaves and has arguably been the best out of the summer signings so far.
Deadline day saw us bring in reinforcements for a goalkeeper and a left back, positions which we needed cover for, so we can have no complaints whatsoever.
SMM: Any concerns with the squad that you wish had been given more attention?
AL: Last season we had a terrible injury record and that seems to have carried over into the new campaign. Daryl Janmaat and Roberto Pereyra had to be taken off in our first game against Liverpool whilst Craig Cathcart has had to be dropped from the squad altogether following an injury against Brighton! We were so depleted at the back against the Seagulls, that attacking midfielder Tom Cleverley had to fill in at right back for the second half.
SMM: Watford has made a fast start to the Premier League this season. What’s been the difference given last season’s relegation battle?
AL: Last season was just awful, the final few games were dire and it couldn’t end quickly enough. I think the players had become fed up with Walter Mazzarri, his harsh training regime, his lack of English and his discipline. This season, however, there’s a new manager, new players and with that there’s this renewed sense of optimism round Vicarage Road. The buzz is infectious and long may it continue!
SMM: What personality and style has Marco Silva brought to Watford that might have been lacking under previous managers?
AL: We’ve been playing some really attacking football so far this season. We rarely saw that with Mazzarri and I think the squad we have enjoy playing that way. Suddenly in the space of three or so months we look to have gone from a group of players that looked uninterested, unorganised and as if they’d never met each other to a team and a manager that’s working together and has that connection with the fans again.
SMM: Who will be the most important to keep that pace up, and are expectations in Watford’s third consecutive top-flight season to finish in the top half?
AL: Richarlison has started life at Watford FC like a man possessed. The Brazilian winger has a few tricks up his sleeve and is genuinely one to look out for this season (might even be worth sticking him in your fantasy team!).
I wouldn’t say the expectation is to finish in the top half, though we would be thrilled if we did. The main priority this season I think is to be comfortable in the league, obviously last season we were nervously looking over our shoulders towards the end, so I think this season if we at least see some progression and finish in a comfortable mid-table spot without any relegation worries at all, I’ll be happy.
SMM: At 35 years young, Heurelho Gomes has been sneakily good, keeping 20 clean sheets since Watford gained promotion – how vital of a player has he been for the club to get positive results?
AL: He’s been crucial. He won the Player of the Season award in our first season back in the Premier League, helped by his two penalty saves in the same match away at West Brom. Sometimes he’ll make a save and we’ll have no idea how he’s done it. Unfortunately he is getting on a bit, so he does have the odd mistake in him, but he’s only human (though at times that’s not believable) and I love the positive attitude that he brings to the team.
SMM: Who is a Watford player that Southampton fans should be wary of on Saturday?
AL: Richarlison, Richarlison, Richarlison.
SMM: What Southampton player are Watford fans most concerned about?
AL: Nathan Redmond. He always seems to have a blinder when he plays against us.
SMM: What have you made of Southampton’s start to the season? Do you feel Watford can further frustrate our anemic attack on Saturday?
AL: It’s an odd one… You’re unbeaten and yet I don’t really feel that concerned. Two goalless draws against Swansea and Huddersfield and scraping a win against ten-man West Ham makes me think we could take full advantage of — what looks to be — a fairly blunt attack and a potentially frustrated crowd. On the other hand, however, the international break could work in your favour, Watford could do a Watford and you could be 2-0 up with ten minutes played. It should be an interesting game!
SMM: If Watford could bring in a player from Southampton, who would it be?
AL: It has to be Virgil van Dijk. Every time we’ve played against him he’s beaten Troy Deeney to everything. Considering our current deficiencies in defence as well, I think he’d be an excellent addition to our squad.
SMM: Finally, what is your prediction for the match?
AL: I think it’ll be a tough game, we haven’t beaten you guys since 2008! Call it blind optimism, or as some might say stupidity, but I think the three points will be heading back to Hertfordshire. 3-1 to the ‘Orns!
We would like to thank Andy for taking the time let us pick his brain about the Hornets. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyLewers, and be sure to check out his work with The Hornets’ Nest, (which can also be found on social media @hornetsnestwfc), just don’t get stung!