Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Richards, Clark, Lescott, Veretout, Westwood, Sanchez, Gil, Gestede, Ayew
Watford: Gomes, Nyom, Cathcart, Britos, Anya, Capoue, Watson, Abdi, Aké, Deeney, Ighalo
Oh how a manager can see two very differing sides to the same team. Rémi Garde must have seen a light at the end of the tunnel after Villa’s 0-0 draw against Man City but Saturday’s performance against Everton would have undoubtedly proved that the City game was a false dawn. Villa were atrocious against an in-form Everton side. Already 5 points adrift at the bottom of the Premier League, they are a team on a dreadful run of form and at risk of already been cut off.
Whilst the injury to Jordan Amavi is a cruel blow for Garde, Kieran Richardson hardly showered himself in glory last weekend as Amavi’s understudy. Coupled now with Jack Grealish’s latest misdemeanour (and who is now consequently banished from the first team and training with the U-21’s), Garde must be looking around the dressing room and wondering where the fight will come from for what can only be described with that lovely cliché, ‘a must win game’ this coming weekend. Grealish, regarded so highly by Tim Sherwood, encapsulates a little of the Aston Villa of today. Lacking Premier League experience with a sense of immaturity mirrored in both player and team, Grealish and Aston Villa are alike inasmuch that they both are at risk of failing to fulfil their respective potentials this season. For all of his team’s shortcomings, Garde has to rectify these issues against the backdrop of a team that doesn’t have a recognisable spine bar Guzan compared to the Villa of yesteryear. Watford at home is an ideal opportunity for the likes of Richards, Westwood and Gestede to really try and cement a place in a Villa side who need to start winning.
Watford on the other hand offer a very different account of the first 13 games of the Premier League season. Whilst they may not be prolific in front of goal (just 12 goals scored this season), the fantastically named Quique Sanchez Flores, has certainly brought a tightness and a solidity to Watford’s defensive game which bares all the marks of a team geared for Premier League survival. Whilst Bournemouth and Norwich offer a more typical and porous approach to being the new kid on the block, Watford have emerged as the front runner of the new teams to stay up this year. Whilst Deeney is the undoubted focal point for the fans and the spate of new signings that arrived the summer alike, one player that cannot help but catch the eye week by week is Odion Igahlo. Strong, pacey, rangy, Igahlo seems born for the Premier League and with 7 goals so far this campaign (tied for 4th in the Golden Boot currently – BBC Sport); he undoubtedly will cause issues for Micah Richards and Ciaran Clark (if both retain their places in the Villa XI) in and around the 18 yard box on Saturday afternoon.
This game certainly will not produce goals but certainly could have repercussions on how either club approaches the rest of the season. A win for Watford and they will go a truly massive 14 points clear of Aston Villa. It is only realise this margin that it re-enforces just how badly Villa need a win. A defeat for Villa just isn’t worth considering as we approach December.
Prediction: Aston Villa 0-1 Watford