Alas, football fans across the world, it’s happened again: an unexpected team have started well in the English Premier League and so every Tom, Dick and Harry the Hornet are drawing comparisons with that famous Leicester City side of 2016.
Watford have begun their campaign this year with a blistering bolt from the stocks, winning all four games and nabbing nine goals in the process, including an eye-catching victory over Tottenham Hotspur. Their play has to be credited and under Javi Gracia they’ve become a side who are unlikely to battle relegation as most first thought and will instead vie for a spot in the league’s top ten.
Perhaps, if an upset’s really on the cards, a season whereby they maintain their current form might even land them a place in the table’s top eight à la Sean Dyche’s plucky little Burnley. But it’s unlikely and things won’t last forever.
Watford have duly attracted a range of praise and credit from across the footballing scene and this routinely causes what we shall now dub The Foxes Fallacy. Today, in football, everyone has access to a platform whereby they can share their opinion. There are a million-and-one pundits, journalists and pub know-it-alls out there all trying to shout the loudest to get their opinion heard.
In such a mass of noise, piping up in a different tone can often get one noticed. An off-the-wall viewpoint or striking stance is likely to draw focus in that direction and lead to the much needed attention that so many football fans cry out for.
When a smaller club begin to play well, then, said wacky clairvoyants tend to announce their forthcoming storm to success; hoping beyond hope that this will help them stand out from the replica-clad crowd and earn some approval from their mates, who’ve momentarily paused their own shouting to muse and approve their friends’ gnarly, original standpoint.
— Paul Robinson (@Robbo04pr) August 26, 2018
However, it’s not quite as simple as tossing up a fresh idea and awaiting the impending ace of an opinion. Since Claudio Ranieri and Wes Morgan clasped their hands around the Premier League’s 3’5” trophy back in May 2016, everyone has cottoned on to the notion that a small club can achieve big.
So, and excuse the convoluted explanation, we’ve now come full circle and are back to where we started: everyone drawing comparisons with *that* Leicester team.
It’s four games in and whilst it’s usually not the Hornet fans themselves who’re offending with the felony in question, those announcing Watford as a ‘dark horse’ for the Prem’s top six (or, if you’re even more of a deluded berk than most people can ever be, the title) are getting carried away with things. The desire to sound edgily opinionated is creating this malady and it has to end.
Watford have done well, yes. But they’ve faced three relegation battlers and a Spurs side who squandered far too many chances and, in the words of their own manager, didn’t ‘respect the competition’.
Equally, against Crystal Palace, Gracia’s team allowed the south London side too many attempts on goal and had the Eagles bore their talons any sharper, it would have been the Hornets ending up stung.
They enter games slowly, almost not quite prepared for the game of football ahead of them. And while they defend resolutely with a well-drilled back four guarded by two assured central midfielders, they allow their opposition to dictate too much of the game: their last three matches against teams who’ve commanded markedly more possession than themselves.
It may be working now, but soaking up pressure with a squad not usually of the calibre of the side it faces is a risky game.
Spurs, for example, had ten corners compared to Watford’s three. What happens when their back four gets knocked by injury and the militant organisation crumbles without the status quo to comfort it?
Further, and this is entirely for the aforementioned deluded berks, do take a moment to regard Manchester City and Liverpool this year and then drum up the view that Watford can compete with the big boys. Leicester’s victory was an amalgamation of several different factors, with luck and a weak set of rivals being two of those.
Watford have started fantastically and no one can – or should – try and take that away from them.
But for Christ’s sake we’re four games in and are facing 34 more tests for Javi Gracia’s side. Save the dark horse nonsense for Christmas, and even then don’t bother til everyone’s necked their sherries.
To all the Toms, Dicks and Harry the Hornets, please stop drawing comparisons with Leicester City. But if you must, do so in an empty room where no one can hear you. It’s too early and it’s too unsubstantiated.