It is unclear where Nordin Amrabat was watching tonight’s game from but how Watford need him to hit the ground running and provide a fresh injection into this side who are in danger of going stale.
This 1-0 defeat at the Liberty Stadium, sealed by a 27th-minute header from Ashley Williams, means Watford have now followed up a club record run of four straight Premier League wins with four straight defeats and are without a win in five. They need Amrabat, the club record signing from Malaga, plus one or two others to come in and help arrest this slide. The Hornets are now only eight points clear of third bottom Newcastle United who they host on Saturday.
Chief scout Filippo Giraldi patrolled the touchline pre-match and the fact Juan Carlos Paredes was the first substitution made by Quique Sanchez Flores, when the side were one down, showed you how much work Giraldi and his team need to do to add some attacking options the head coach trusts between now and the end of the month. Odion Ighalo, in particular, and Troy Deeney were poor again here while Obbi Oulare, restored to the squad, was only trusted for the last four minutes. Swansea, on the other hand, brought on Modou Barrow and Bafetimbi Gomis.
Watford were poor in the first half, not as poor as they were at Southampton but nothing could be that bad. Sanchez Flores summoned Deeney to the sidelines to address a few issues after just six minutes but whatever he said, it didn’t work. Nathan Ake kicked a clearance straight into the stands, Etienne Capoue looked a fish out of water on the right, failing to even find Allan Nyom with a cushioned five-yard pass from a throw. Nyom had a dreadful first 45 minutes. The Cameroon international needlessly conceded the corner that led to Williams powering in the opener, was caught out of position and in possession several times and got booked after being nutmegged by Leon Britton. The right-back fully deserved the mouthful Deeney gave him after only half clearing a corner. He was hooked, in the second half again, for the umpteenth time.
Behrami was not much better on his first start since being sent off in the corresponding fixture in September. He seemed to get caught between two stools, unsure whether to rattle into tackles and run the risk of yet more sanction from a referee or stay on his feet and curb his natural tenacious instinct. He certainly failed to do his job from the cross that created the opening goal, allowing Williams to run unchallenged off the back of him to power past Gomes. The Switzerland international was sacrificed late on for Oulare.
It was the unlikely figure of Jose Manuel Jurado who made his presence most keenly felt in the physical stakes, earning a yellow card for a tackle on Wayne Routledge. The Spaniard was also involved in the visitors’ best moment of the half, exchanging neat passes to warm the hands of Lukasz Fabianski. It was Watford’s only attempt on target of the first 45 minutes.
Jurado had the first attempt of the second half but, in contrast to the one that ended the first, this effort was horribly off target. It was not the tone the Hornets wanted to establish. The Spaniard has his critics in the stands at Vicarage Road but he was Watford’s most progressive and inventive player here. With the Hornets playing more on the front foot and higher up the pitch, the former Spartak Moscow playmaker was a willing recipient of possession and carried the goal threat.
He tried twice to bend second-half efforts in the far corner, after neat interplay firstly with Deeney and then with Ighalo. He also tried his luck from long range on the half volley. The Hornets took the more direct route just past the hour mark, Miguel Britos heading a Ben Watson free-kick onto the roof of the net. The away fans thought it had gone in.
Watford huffed and puffed thereafter, surviving a loud shout for handball against Watson after former Hornet Jack Cork smashed one straight into him, but Swansea kept them, largely at arms’ length, apart from a late Deeney snapshot, to secure only a second league win since late October. Swansea almost made it two when Gomis hit a post. They now have some momentum. Watford have lost theirs and the game against Newcastle on Saturday now takes on added significance.
Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, Fernandez, Williams, Taylor, Routledge (Barrow 66), Britton, Cork, Sun-Yueng (Amat 86) , Sigurdsson, Ayew (Gomis 82). Subs not used: Nordfeldt, Emnes, Montero, Rangel.
Watford: Gomes; Nyom (Paredes 74), Britos, Cathcart, Ake, Behrami (Oulare 86), Capoue, Watson, Jurado, Deeney, Ighalo. Subs not used: Arlauskis, Guedioura, Anya and Abdi not used.