It’s certainly been a topsy-turvy season so far for Tuesday night’s opponents. Watford were expected to be serious promotion contenders this season after relegation from the Premier League in 2021/22, beginning the campaign under promising young manager Rob Edwards. However, he only got until late September before being replaced by Slaven Bilic.
Ahead of Reading’s trip to Vicarage Road, we asked Watford podcast The Voices of the Vic about all of that and more. You can find them on Twitter @VoicesOfTheVic.
How’s the season gone for you so far?
This season has been a real topsy-turvy season. What started as a season of hope and promise under the guidance of Rob Edwards soon transferred back to the Watford we are all familiar with. We were told that Rob was going to be given time and backing but unfortunately, and to no surprise, he was gone at the first international break of the season.
Since Slaven Bilic’s arrival it’s been inconsistent to say the least. Nine games under his guidance, winning five of those and losing four of them. There is slowly more of a pattern to our play but the inconsistently is the main sticking point with this team.
What went wrong for Rob Edwards?
There’s a lot to factor as to what went wrong for Rob but I think it was a mixture of lack of backing in the transfer window to suit his style of play/formation and the step up from League Two. It’s clear that Rob wanted us to dominate games from the off and with the talent we are possessed with, who could blame him, but in the 10 games he had as Watford manager I personally could point to perhaps a half of football where I was left purring a little bit.
Whether it was the players not wanting to play for him or just the style of play not suiting the players we had, the bottom line was that it wasn’t good enough. The frustration of his departure was down to comments made by CEO Scott Duxbury who said Rob would be backed “come hell or high water”. Now I haven’t read the book of cliches in a while but I’m sure under that one, it doesn’t say “10 games maximum”.
What do you make of his successor, Slaven Bilic?
As mentioned previously, it’s been inconsistent to say the least. We started off with a 4-0 thumping of Stoke which was largely down to Stoke’s shortcomings as opposed to our threat and performance. We then lose two on the trot, one to Swansea at home and then Blackpool away. My word, I don’t have the vocabulary to describe the performance against Blackpool. Shocking.
Then we faced the small task of Norwich at home but in true Watford fashion we string together and put in a good enough performance to win the game 2-1. Then it’s back to “that Watford” again and a horrendous first 30 minutes away at Millwall. Tom Bradshaw ought to have picked up a lottery ticket on the way home because he was in luck coming up against a Watford side that just simply forgot how to do any basics of defending.
We then have a great performance against them lot up the M1 and it was the best complete team performance since Liverpool at home in 2019 when we beat them 3-0. You get my jist though, so up and down, not knowing which Watford is going to turn up.
Who are the key dangermen Reading should be wary of on Tuesday?
Joao Pedro, Ismaila Sarr and Keinan Davis. The first two probably don’t need much explanation but on their day can be levels above anyone in this division. Pedro makes it look like he’s playing a different game to some people when he’s on it. Sarr, no stranger to scoring against Reading. That poor lad Tom Holmes will be praying he’s on the bench come Tuesday night after his last encounter with Isma.
Keinan Davis, what a brute. He’s like 2014/15 version of Troy Deeney. The ball just sticks to him and he can bring others into play and get goals himself. Three of his four goals so far for Watford have come at home. He just bullies defenders and they can’t handle him in the slightest.
What weaknesses in this Watford side could Reading exploit?
I spoke to another Reading podcast earlier today and they mentioned that this Reading side can be quite direct and rough and rugged. That can hurt us big time. I mentioned the Millwall game, they took kick off and played a long ball into the box as their first pass and sent their big CB, Jake Cooper, up to win the header and he won it and almost created a dangerous chance in the opening seconds of the game.
We don’t seem to like playing against big and direct teams. Andy Carroll, if selected, could be rubbing his hands together come full time.
How confident are you that Watford will be promoted this season?
I don’t think we will be promoted, I’ve not seen enough from us so far this season to suggest we’ve got it in us to remain competitive for a long enough period. There’s so much to work on and January will prove interesting in terms of who comes in and who goes out. I think play-offs maximum for us and they are a lottery at the best of times.
How do you see the game going on Tuesday night, and what will the score be?
I can see it being a pretty scrappy affair; it’s only the Luton game so far that we’ve grabbed by the scruff of the neck and dominated from start to finish. We had a bit of a run going before Coventry disrupted that on Saturday so I can imagine we’ll want to try and ignite something again. I’m going to say, simply because we’re at home, 2-1 to Watford.