For the second consecutive Saturday, we saw Town back to their best as they comprehensively beat Watford. Much of the credit should go to Town’s tactical mastermind, David Wagner.
Sandwiched between these two excellent victories was a very limp and disappointing display against Chelsea. However, I think the criticism has been alleviated by yesterday’s performance.
Whilst most regarded the televised fixture against Chelsea as a ‘free hit’ against one of the Premier League’s elite clubs, the performance and result at Vicarage Road suggested that David Wagner’s mind was very much on this fixture.
To some, this will be a disappointing method of management as there is an optimistic belief that Town should go into any game, irrespective of the opponent, in search of a win.
In spite of this, there is a realism and a tactical awareness about David Wagner that gives much hope about Town’s survival chances despite a lack of ‘much-needed Premier League experience’.
For sides like Town who clearly have limited resources and a smaller pool of players to choose from for any given match-day, targeting games is a crucial part of management at the highest level.
Targeting this game, especially after the disappointment at Goodison Park and Town’s away record since that win against Crystal Palace, was brave by David Wagner.
However, for the second week in succession, we saw that when David Wagner and his side truly target a game as an opportunity to pick up three points, they do not disappoint.
Like against Brighton, it was apparent from the first whistle that Town simply wanted it more. Over the course of ninety minutes, Town out-fought, out-thought and out-played Marco Silva’s Watford side.
Whilst it may be easy for David Wagner to switch his focus to this game as one which is deemed ‘winnable’, what is most impressive is how he is capable of changing the mindset of his squad.
Over the course of Town’s past two matches, we have witnessed Town go from a mindset of positivity, energy and aggression to one of containment and passivity.
Understandably against a side of Chelsea’s size and quality, the psychological fear factor played its part. It seemed that fear of Chelsea’s capabilities froze Town as there was almost an acceptance of defeat.
After a limp defeat in front of a televised audience, doubt could’ve crept into the minds of the squad.
Instead, like last season, David Wagner’s side offered the perfect response to a disappointing performance and result.
The reversion back to the 4-2-3-1 formation allowed a positive mindset to reemerge; a mindset which allowed the perfect blend of energy and aggression to usurp Watford’s game plan and impose their own philosophy.
Similarly to the Brighton game, Watford never really settled. This was due to the hard-working nature of Town’s performance.
In the crucial middle third, every 50/50, every personal duel was won by Town who simply wanted it more and it was reflected on the pitch.
As well as over-running the opposition like they had a week ago, Town also made life difficult for Watford as there was a composed directness about Town’s play.
There were runners from midfield and out-wide that were running beyond Laurent Depoitre and causing Watford’s defence to have to turn and face towards their own goal.
There was a confidence about Town’s performance, a professionalism and a clinical edge that had been sorely lacking from Town’s last seven Premier League away games.
Ultimately, both on and off the pitch, it very much felt like a home performance that had simply been replicated away from the John Smith’s stadium.
There has been an understandable, contrasting approach between Town’s performances at the John Smith’s Stadium in front of a supportive sell-out crowd and Town away from home.
However, I’m hoping that this win over a good, albeit depleted Watford side will give Town the confidence to impose their philosophy away from home and stamp their authority on matches like they did yesterday.
This performance and result can bring confidence to the team but could also be a watershed moment for the squad and David Wagner.
Rather than attempting to limit and contain the opposition, David Wagner’s side always look to be more comfortable and confident when playing on the front foot with positivity and aggression.
I’m hoping the lesson taken from yesterday is one of pure belief and that Town’s philosophy of ‘Terrier Spirit’ can be taken into both home and away games.