In one of Quique Sanchez Flores’ more conservatively curated game plans, Watford started without a striker at Manchester City in the fourth Premier League game of the season.
Troy Deeney played as an auxiliary right winger while Odion Ighalo was stationed out on the left in the 2-0 defeat at the Etihad stadium. It was designed to allow the City centre-halves to have possession and prevent attacks being launched from the full-back positions. It worked for 46 minutes. That will ploy will be scrapped on Saturday as, with Vincent Kompany still sidelined and with home advantage, Sanchez Flores will let City’s expensive but maligned centre-backs have it with both barrels and unleash Deeney and Ighalo in their more accustomed positions on them.
“We don’t care care who we are up against,” said Deeney. “[Martin] Skrtel and [Mamadou] Sakho were supposed to be physically too strong and too big for us. Skrtel did a runner and Sakho had one. We are not worried about who we come against.”
City have spent £134.7m on centre-halves since August 2008 yet are still over reliant on Kompany. Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala kept a clean sheet against Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy last night but Deeney and Ighalo, who have 20 goals and seven assists between them, are a different proposition altogether. Crystal Palace were so worried about them that they stationed Joe Ledley in front of the back four while Tottenham Hotspur played an extra centre-half on Monday to cope with the twin threat.
“We’ve got Man City next and it’s definitely a game to get up for, as it’s on TV and we are back here [at Vicarage Road],” said Deeney. “If we play like we did today [against Spurs] we’ll cause anyone problems.”
*Additional reporting by David Anderson