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Sunderland v Watford : Sky Bet Championship

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Fan Focus: Hornets fan Mike is expecting Watford to take an attacking approach vs Sunderland!

We spoke to Watford fan Mike from the From The Rookery End Podcast ahead of tonight’s game - and he’s expecting the away side to come with an attacking mindset.

Photo by Kassey Taylor/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

After nine games Watford are currently sat 20th in the table, how would you summarise the start to your season?

Apart from being completely overawed by a noisy Elland Road and fluffing their lines in a failed tactical experiment against Middlesbrough, Watford under Valerien Ismael have been pleasantly surprising.

It’s no secret that the Hornets have a significantly weaker squad than in previous years; it’s probably the thinnest squad in the Pozzo era, and expectations have been trimmed accordingly, so to see a Watford team playing with a tangible game plan and vague sense of team spirit (both things have been lacking for the past two seasons) is proving quite popular.

That said, the feel-good factor hasn’t translated into many points and that will have to change soon.

The Pozzo family is renowned for not giving managers time to turn things around, is there any suspicion that Valerian Ismael could be about to lose his job?

On the Tuesday before the Sunderland game, Ismael signed an extended contract, in a move that is almost certainly designed to try and depict an aura of much-needed stability around Vicarage Road; maybe to appease supporters, maybe to attract potential investors.

Either way, it would be naive to suggest any Head Coach is safe under the Pozzo regime, but the general consensus is that Valerien Ismael is safe... for now.

Watford v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship
Valerian Ismael had spells in charge of Barnsley and West Brom in England before joining Watford this summer.
Photo by Morgan Harlow/Getty Images

On the road this season Watford are yet to win in three games, losing two. What have your main struggles been away from home?

Watford’s last win on the road came at Carrow Road in January, meaning that when Watford take to the Stadium of Light turf, it will have been 275 days since their last away win.

A record like that clearly brings with it confidence issues and this fragile mental state was brutally exposed in the Hornet's last away game at Leeds United.

At this stage, it seems habitual, with Watford’s travelling faithful attending away games more in hope than expectation.

Moving onto the players, Watford did not spend large sums of money despite high player sales, were you surprised by this?

No. Watford are clearly reaclimatising to life as a Championship club and the sale of high-profile players such as Ismaila Sarr and Joao Pedro were required to plug the financial gap that being relegated from the Premier League leaves open.

It may be disappointing to many, but simply put, the club is cutting its cloth accordingly.

Sunderland v Watford - Sky Bet Championship
Patrick Roberts scored a late late equaliser to keep Sunderland’s playoff hopes alive when the two sides last met in April.
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Striker Mileta Rajovic was your marquee signing, with Tom Ince, Jake Livermore and Jamal Lewis also brought in - how have your summer signings got on so far?

Rajovic has scored a few goals and Tom Ince has looked threatening on occasion, so while the former looks like he is going to find life in the Championship difficult, both have bought themselves a bit of time.

Jake Livermore has barely featured, while Jamal Lewis arrived injured and has only featured in a handful of games. It’s fair to say that the summer transfer business has hardly set pulses racing in WD18.

Going the other way, a vast amount of players left the club this summer, including Ismaila Sarr and Joao Pedro, was it essential that the club raised funds and cut the wage bill?

Both players were always destined for a higher level than the Championship, and bigger things than Watford.

The time was right for both to leave, with Watford cutting their losses on Sarr and making a handsome profit on Pedro, who will clearly go on to have a stellar career.

A shame that they’d had to leave with the Hornets languishing in the second tier, but we always knew they wouldn’t be with us for long.

Watford v Luton Town - Sky Bet Championship
Joao Pedro joined Brighton this summer, while Ismaila Sarr joined Marseille.
Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Aside from the above-mentioned players, who has impressed you this season who Sunderland should be wary of?

Swedish International Ken Sema has been out injured and it’s no coincidence that his absence has coincided with Watford’s two worst performances of the season.

He is strong and deceptively quick and skillful; he catches plenty out. Academy graduate Ryan Andrews has also caught the eye and while, as a defender, he plays at the opposite end of the pitch to his ex-Watford striker Dad Wayne Andrews, he has a similar electric pace and has quickly cemented himself as a fan favourite.

Last season I thought Ryan Andrews did quite well against Jack Clarke, will it be Jeremy Ngakia tasked to mark him this time?

Ismael has rotated relentlessly, so it’s hard to know which of the two players you mention will start. I think Andrews offers more, so I’d give him the nod.

Watford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Speaking of late equalisers, Jewison Bennette also scored a late goal to steal a point at Vicarage Road last season.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

How do you think Ismael will approach the match tactically?

He’s said he’ll remain committed to his attacking approach and I think thats the best course.

Watford simply don’t have the players to keep it sufficiently tight for 90 minutes, so they may as well stick to the approach that has nearly served them pretty well so far this season.

If I was a gambling man, I wouldn’t be putting any of my hard-earned on a 0-0 draw!

Which eleven players do you think will start?

Bachmann (GK), Andrews, Sierralta, Hoedt, Porteous, Lewis, Ince, Rajovic, Louza, Dele-Bashiru, Martins.

Sunderland are without a win in three matches against Watford, what is your prediction for the final score?

I’d love to go for a coupon-busting away win, but I can’t see the away day hoodoo ending here.

I’m hoping we avoid it but I can see an Elland Road style humbling under the Stadium of Light floodlights. 3-1 Sunderland.


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