November 28, 2017

Football Data Analysis: Watford – What They’re Doing Right – Tuesday 28th November

Watford is now at the 8th Spot of the Premier League Table

After a poor finish to 2016/17 and the firing of Walter Mazzarri, how Watford would fare this season was anyone’s guess coming into August. Over three months later and they’re 8th and, looking good value for it, within touching distance of the Big Six.

They have allowed the sixth-fewest forwards passes into the ‘second box’ area of the pitch – the eighteen yards in front of the eighteen-yard box. Granted, they only allow passes into the box and danger zone at midtable rates, but this is still impressive for a club who finished last season just above the relegation zone.

Watford also makes passes into these areas at upper-midtable rates which might not sound like something spectacular but to be solid on both sides of the ball is nicely comforting.

This improvement in possession is a change from last season. While they were decent defensively in 2016/17, their attacking numbers for these particular pass progression stats were lower mid-table to just-above-the-bottom-three.
In 2015/16, when the Hornets finished 13th, Watford’s numbers were closer to midtable but not as solid across the board as they are this season.

In terms of style, Watford regularly restricts their opponents’ time on the ball under Marco Silva. 37% of the possession sequences of their opponents which feature a pass end after a single one – this is the sixth highest (most intense) rate in the league.

This is building off 2016/17 when the rate was 35%, eighth highest in the league, which will undoubtedly have helped Silva if he’s inheriting a squad which, by and large, understands the style that he wants to employ.
(Although it should probably be noted that Watford has such a high player turnover that many of the starting players this season were not there last term.)

The high rate of short opposition sequences this year fits with the high conversion rates that are seen in Watford’s matches under Marco Silva. These are occurring on both sides of the ball, around 14% of each side’s shots being scored, a noticeable nip above the average rate of just over 10%.

Teams who aim to play a more intense pressing game are more likely to concede good quality chances if their press fails and their opponents carve them open. However, if the press does work, or if Watford are playing a strong counter-attacking game, then it would be no surprise for them to be creating high-quality chances of their own – therefore the high conversion rates for both sides.

The press is more of a stylistic factor than something which is objectively good – like creating or preventing lots of passes into good areas – but these are all things which Watford are doing this season to push them up to the position they’re now in.

By @EveryTeam_Mark

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