Watford manager Gianfranco Zola is taking steps to mend his team's leaking defence
This season has, statistically, been Watford’s worst start to a campaign for ten years in terms of league goals conceded.
The club’s head coach and players know the defensive shortcomings need addressing.
The new passing style is starting to pay off in terms of possession and the Golden Boys carried more of a threat at the weekend.
However, that is no good if you are leaking goals at the other end and this season’s record of conceding 13 in their first seven matches is the worst since the 2002/03 campaign.
Manuel Almunia and Daniel Pudil have impressed since their arrivals but Adrian Mariappa and Martin Taylor have been two of the most consistent defenders in the Championship in recent years, so their departures were always likely to cause difficulties.
Fitz Hall’s fitness issues extended the problem further and Neuton has so far seemingly struggled with the physicality and tempo of the Championship.
The Brazilian is likely to improve as he adjusts to the division and Hall is close to full fitness. So time could indeed become a healer but what is being done to fix the problem ahead of tomorrow’s game with Huddersfield Town?
That is the question we put to Gianfranco Zola this week.
He replied: “In terms of work, we’ve been working on set plays and there has been an improvement there and now we need to work on the team defending a little bit better. That doesn’t just involve the defenders, it also involves the midfielders.
“Because I play quite an offensive team, I know that sometimes we can suffer but that’s what we’re going to work on ahead of Saturday. We haven’t done much today (Tuesday) or yesterday (Monday) because we’ve been working on the physical [fitness] side but tomorrow (Wednesday) we are working on that.”
Watford have allowed six defenders to leave the club since the end of the 2011/12 campaign, if you include loan players and those who were released or sold.
Four of those were fringe players who were out on loan last season though, and this summer the new regime have brought in seven who can play in defence.
You assume that would make the defenders already at the club uneasy but Nyron Nosworthy claims that is not the case – although it is worth noting the centre-back has started every league game this season.
He said: “I see it as more of a challenge. Of course it’s disappointing if it gets to the Saturday and you don’t see your name on the team sheet, but I think the only way you can possibly make that right is to make sure that when you’re in the team, you are doing your job correctly and keep pushing to ensure you stay in there.
“It is competition for places, that will never change, and any club that has good competition for places are usually succeeding. That is what we have here, there are loads of changes, but football changes every minute of the day so for me I am just enjoying every moment and I get on with it.”
Nosworthy has been ever present for Watford this season, apart from the Capital One Cup defeat to Bradford City, and injuries or fitness issues to several of the new signings mean he has had the chance to impress the new management team.
While the Hornets conceded twice against Bristol City at the weekend, Nosworthy excelled and played a big part in his side securing a point with several last-ditch challenges, particularly in the first half.
The centre-back stated: “There has been a lack of consistency as to who has been playing at the back and a lot of coming and goings. But that doesn’t change anything for me – come Saturday I have a job to do; to help Watford win a game of football and help the lads who are coming in to the side to play alongside me.”
Nosworthy joined Watford on loan 11 months ago and only signed for the club permanently in January, but at the age of 31 is now one of the senior professionals.
He added: “I’m one of the old guard now, I’m hanging in there. It’s nice being one of the older pros, I never thought that day would happen and it came so quickly.
“There have been loads of changes but it doesn’t change anything in terms of the football.
“We are trying to play football in the right manner and we know that we have to get used to it. You can see that the work ethic is there, it is now about the finer details – something that we have to get right on the training ground.
“The confidence is there, even though we haven’t picked up as many points as we’d have liked. We’re playing with confidence, we’re moving the ball like a team who are in the top half of the table, with nothing to fear, and I think we need to keep that up.
“We are all buying into what the gaffer is trying to do and it’s working, we just have to get it right in terms of the defending part now and you’ll see us climb the table.”