Heurelho Gomes 6
Could do nothing to stop Jonathan Walters’ powerful effort for the first goal but made two errors in conceding the second. Firstly, his goal-kick barely reached the halfway line and only found a Stoke City player, and moments later he raced off his line in an attempt to close down the angle only to end up in no-man’s-land, allowing Joselu to float the ball over his head and into an empty net. Did well to clear a hospital pass from Nyom and made one fantastic diving save from Joselu at 2-0.
Allan Nyom 4.5
Had a game to forget. Any thought he was back to his August best after last week’s all-action display ended here. Was caught napping on countless occasions and was a spectator when Jonathan Walters raced in front of him to open the scoring at the back post. Nyom’s positioning was suspect all afternoon, not least when a quick free-kick sailed over his head and reached Marco Arnautovic. Was not helped by the lack of right-midfielder in front of him, as Jose Manuel Jurado often wandered too far forward or inside. His booking was harsh.
Craig Cathcart 5.5
A rare poor game from the usually reliable centre-back, who may have had one eye on Northern Ireland’s matches against Wales and Slovenia next weekend. Was unable to match Joselu for pace and often found himself scrambling to keep up with the forward and his raiding teammates. Made an error to gift Arnautovic a chance which the midfielder spurned. Barely won a tackle and failed to challenge with conviction in the air. May have missed Ben Watson’s defensive cover. Some considerable way short of the standard he set against Arsenal.
Miguel Britos 6.5
Started badly, showing clear signs of rustiness after his time in the treatment room. Should have done better than completely missing an attempted interception at the near post when Phil Bardsley found Walters for the opener. Made a similar error later in the first half but was fortunate that Nyom got to the ball first that time. Improved as the game wore on, making some key interceptions and winning some in the air. Gave fans something to cheer with an acrobatic overhead clearance.
Nathan Ake 5.5
Showed signs of his inexperience in a game in which he had very little defensive cover. Like Nyom, was given no support from the midfielder ahead of him – in this case Etienne Capoue – and was often caught out positionally. Many of Stoke’s early chances came down Watford’s left and the young defender was unable to deal with Phil Bardsley and Walters on his own, especially without the cover of Watson, who usually tucks in to help him out, as does Valon Behrami when he’s part of a midfield three. Was replaced by the fresh legs of Ikechi Anya late in the game.
Jose Manuel Jurado 5.5
Disappointed in his first appearance since picking up an injury at White Hart Lane. Showed some nice skill and dribbling ability to get out of some tight spots in the first half but, overall, he was unable to make an impact. Was on corner duty in Watson’s absence and found an unmarked Troy Deeney with one delivery, but, to huge frustration, failed to beat the first man with others. Missed Watford’s best chance of the match by firing over with his weaker foot after doing well to break into the box. Was cheered louder than most others when his name was read out in the team news but was booed by a minority when Nordin Amrabat replaced him in the second half. His best position is No 10 or cutting in from the left, yet he was played right midfield here.
Mario Suarez 5
It is asked of many technically gifted Spaniards whether they could ‘do it against Stoke’. Suarez couldn’t here and struggled badly. Was beaten easily by the towering Giannelli Imbula early on but showed fantastic pace and strength on one occasion to track back and outmuscle the midfielder, who dominated the central areas most of the game. Had one effort at goal which flew over the bar but did not offer enough going forward. Looked like a poor man’s Watson.
Valon Behrami 6
Didn’t take long to commit his first foul, conceding a free-kick within five minutes after a good run on the wing. One tackle on the edge of the box presented him a chance to shoot but he did not trust himself, and opted to instead play the ball wide to Odion Ighalo. Offered very little when on the ball and although his tenacity in midfield was useful, he failed to break up Stoke’s play enough to offset his lack of attack launching. One good challenge prevented a counterattack and also presented Jurado with a chance to score.
Etienne Capoue 4.5
Your classic hit-or-miss type player. This was another of those increasing off days from the Frenchman. Showed a poor attitude by going down easily from an Arnautovic challenge in his own half in the first 15 minutes and his challenge on Imbula was a bit naughty. Produced a couple of moments of skill, including a backheeled nutmeg on Geoff Cameron to win a foul, but let it go to his head and ended up overdoing it. Some good early passing was overshadowed by taking too much time in possession and acting too casual when a hoof upfield is all that is required.
Troy Deeney 6
He’s come a long way since scoring his first Premier League goal at the Britannia back in October and he made it double figures in all competitions with another strike against the Potters. Could have scored earlier but missed a free header from a Jurado corner, heading high over the bar. Prides himself on assists as much as goals but failed to find Ighalo in a good position in the second half, over-clubbing a through ball which ended up in the hands of Jack Butland. Took his goal well with a strong header from range and showed a bit of the old captain’s spirit to attempt to engineer faint hopes of a late comeback.
Odion Ighalo 4.5
His decline in form was epitomised by the way in which Philipp Wollscheid read his trademark scoop turn twice in quick succession on the edge of the box in the second half and the striker eventually lost possession. Ighalo needs to wise up and learn some new tricks. Was played through early on but his first touch was poor and took him wide, meaning Butland could easily save his shot at goal. Was marked tightly by Wollscheid and rarely had the ball at his feet as the defender seemed to have him in his pocket. His selfishness was again an issue when he attempted a tricky volley from range rather than passing wide to the unmarked Jurado, who was in a far better position to shoot.
Adlene Guedioura 7
Followed up his stunning goal against Arsenal with a 35-minute performance full of enough energy and ability to show he merits a first Premier League start. One incisive forward pass inside Muniesa to Nyom showed exactly the sort of creativity Watford have been lacking in midfield. A cross to Ighalo was up there with Behrami’s to set up the third goal against Liverpool, but Wollscheid was able to flick it away just before the striker could nod it past Butland from close range. Must start against Arsenal.
Nordin Amrabat 7.5
Came off the bench and only played for 35 minutes but put forward a strong claim for Watford’s man-of-the-match award. Showed skill, pace and directness to create more than Watford managed in the whole of the first half. A flick over the head of Glenn Whelan followed by a charge at goal and perfect chip over the defence to Ighalo was the move of the match from a single player, but Ighalo could not finish. Maybe should have had a couple more shots at goal but it was his piece of skill in midfield which started the move which led to Deeney’s goal. If Watford are tired, they need Amrabat’s energy.
Ikechi Anya 7
Replaced Ake for the final 15 minutes and created the goal for Deeney, showing great skill by the corner flag to take on his man before showing alertness to cut his cross back to the penalty spot, where Deeney was waiting, rather than the six-yard box. Needs to show this sort of direct, purposeful attacking intent more often.
Quique Sanchez Flores 5
Got this one badly wrong selection-wise, tactically and then with his failure to change it at half time. Pitched in too many players lacking game-time at once (Jurado, Suarez and Britos), then persisted with what was clearly not working for too long after half time. Guedioura and Amrabat should have been summoned at the break. Mark Hughes got one over on him tactically by switching the play quickly and create two-vs-ones down the flanks.