Aston Villa travel to Vicarage Road on the opening weekend of the new Premier League season. The Hornets achieved an instant return to top-flight football and welcome back spectators for the first time since dismantling Liverpool 3-0 in the 2019/2020 season – yes, that long ago!
A new era awaits for Aston Villa as we start life without our former talisman Jack Grealish. It’s a new era that I’m very positive and optimistic about it. We’ve invested well, and with some of the talented youth prospects putting themselves in the mix, it could be a very exciting season indeed!
Historically, Vicarage Road has not been a happy hunting ground for Villa in the Premier League era. You would have to go way back to August 1999 for the last time we returned home with all 3 points – Mark Delaney with the only goal in a 0-1 victory.
Ahead of the big kick-off, I had a chat with Tom Wicks, Editor of the Watford ‘Golden Pages Fanzine’ as we discuss Watford’s fans expectations for the new campaign, their key players lining up against Villa, and Tom answers the questions asked by some of our Twitter followers.
WATFORD | GOLDEN PAGES FANZINE
Welcome back to the Premier League at the first time of asking, a job we found very difficult to do. So, what are the expectations from Watford FC fans for this forthcoming season?
Generally, we are more hopeful than expectant. The last time there was a full stadium at Vicarage Road was when we dismantled Liverpool 3-0. A lot has changed since then though. As ever with Watford, expect the unexpected!
How has preseason been for Watford, like Villa you’ve had key fixtures cancelled, do you feel you’re in a good place heading into this opening fixture?
Man City stole one of our opponents and Covid has had an impact. For a few weeks we didn’t have a clue who would be lining-up in August. It has been a very fractured pre-season, although that could be said for a number of clubs.
Against Villa, who are you looking for to be Watford’s key player(s)?
Sarr will be the main danger man, if he can link with Femenia down the right wing. Sierralta is a man mountain in central defence and we hope that he can carry over his form into this season. Cucho, the exciting young Colombian has looked sharp on attack during pre-season and may be a wildcard.
How pleased are you with the signing you’ve made, or is there still areas that need strengthening?
The purse strings have been tightened considerably and we’ve brought in some cheap/free transfers to freshen up the squad. Primarily we have been chasing goals. Of the arrivals, only Josh King and Danny Rose are familiar names, so that is a worry. The contract disputes with Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes, two instrumental figures last season, are also concerning. They seem to have been told to sign or find new clubs.
Xisco Munoz lead Watford back into the Premier League, will he be given time this season? From the outside it’s a consistent managerial merry go round, are things a lot calmer now and are you content with how the club is run?
The owners are very proactive on the managerial front, which can often be deemed by some to be hasty. It’s a big opportunity for Xisco to impress having been plucked from the Georgian league, last season. His ability to instil a strong team spirit will be tested.
Since the new owners arrived we’ve been punching above our weight. To have five years in the Premier League was incredible, especially as not much money was spent. Relegation was the first real bump in the plan.
It’s never boring at Watford and we have a huge amount to be grateful to the owner for, despite his elusiveness. Communication could be better but on the whole we have a club to be proud of that is deep-rooted in the community.
QUESTIONS FROM THE VILLA FANS
Villa Viewpoints asks – How will you line up, and how do we cope with Sarr?
Hopefully with defensive solidity, a dominant central midfield and efficient forward play. The reality is that we will likely concede a lot of possession and defend deep. It will be interesting to see whether the players can harness the atmosphere which will be great
The only way to stop Sarr is to deny him space to run into. But that’s easier said than done with his lightning pace!
The 1874 Lounge asks – What formation are we likely to see Watford line-up with?
We will likely play a version of 4-3-3, looking to use pace out wide, on the break. We’ve also seen the much-maligned 4-4-2 in pre-season.
Ben asks – Has the style of football changed in-between your relegation and promotion back to the Premier League, or is it still defensive minded like we saw under Nigel Pearson leadership?
The playing style is different to the Pearson era. There is more pace in this side and the focus will be on remaining solid then transitioning quickly, getting the wide players on the front foot. We had the joint best defensive record in Championship history last season, but the Premier League is a different beast, of course.
Tom – Golden Pages Fanzine | 2-2
Ryan – UTV Podcast | 0-1 (Ings)
PREMIER LEAGUE HISTORY
Watford – 3 Wins
Draw – 1 Draw
Aston Villa – 4 Wins
|W – 2-0 Swansea (H) | Championship||W – 2-1 Chelsea (H) | Premier League|
|L – 0-2 Brentford (A) | Championship||W – 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur (A) | Premier League|
|W – 1-0 Millwall (H) | Championship||L – 2-3 Crystal Palace (A) | Premier League|
|W – 1-0 Norwich (A) | Championship||D – 0-0 Everton (H) | Premier League|
WHO’S YOUR MONEY ON?
Fancy one of Aston Villa debutants to bag the opener?
Danny Ings 5/1
Leon Bailey 17/2
Emi Buendia 10/1
Ashley Young 20/1
Axel Tuanzebe 40/1
LAST TIME AT VICARAGE ROAD
Watford 3-0 Aston Villa (28th December 2019)
T Deeney (42, 67 pen’) A Mariappa (sent off 57′) I Sarr (71′)
Aston Villa’s relegation fears worsened as Troy Deeney’s double helped 10-man Watford to a 3-0 win at Vicarage Road.
Watford: Foster, Mariappa, Cathcart, Kabasele, Femenia, Doucoure, Capoue, Hughes, Sarr, Deeney, Deulofeu.
Subs: Chalobah, Dawson, Masina.
Aston Villa: Heaton, Elmohamady, Hause, Konsa, Targett, Lansbury, Hourihane, Luiz, Jota, Wesley, Grealish.
Subs: El Ghazi, Guilbert, Kodjia.
Man of the match: Troy Deeney
BLAST FROM THE PAST
Watford 0-1 Aston Villa
Vicarage Road | Attendance: 19,161 | Tuesday, 24 August 1999 | Matchday #5
Villa’s last win at Vicarage Road was way back in August 1999, a Mark Delaney winner in the 68th minute lifted John Gregory’s Villa to 2nd place in the league after 5 games.
The game will also be remembered by many as the day Paul Merson made this first start for the Claret and Blue.
Starting Line Up: David James, Mark Delaney, Colin Calderwood, Ugo Ehiogu, Gareth Southgate, Alan Wright, Lee Hendrie, Ian Taylor, Paul Merson, Julian Joachim, Dion Dublin
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