Picture by Paul Dawson

Quique on his Watford players taking their foot off the gas

Mario Suarez barely had time to stop in the designated mixed zone yesterday to talk to the assembled media as he had a flight to catch, one to Florence to tie up a few loose ends or to Madrid, would be our bet. (Yes, we’ve heard the jokes about it probably being the quickest he moved all afternoon). He wasn’t alone in making the dash from Vicarage Road to airports at Luton or Heathrow.

There was a sense of a few players feeling a bit demob-happy yesterday and one senior club figure was distinctly unimpressed about the amount of suitcases brought to the ground. It won’t be happening again. It’s far too early to be swapping football boots for flip flops; there is work to be done, lots of it. Footballers are professionals and wouldn’t take their eye off the ball, we hear you say. Nonsense. They are human beings, first and foremost. Anyone who has a 9 to 5 job would be lying if they said they’ve never wound down or dropped through the gears if they were off on holiday that evening or the next day.

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“We have spoken,” said Quique Sanchez Flores after the game.

He wasn’t talking about a whiff of sun cream he had detected or anyone carrying an inflatable dolphin under their arm but he could easily have been.

“I have talked with the players, I do not want to be going to the match with them thinking everything is done, because it is not.”

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The combination of a mini-break and the sight of a day out at Wembley on the horizon would have been enough to tip the balance in Stoke’s favour. A difference in mental edge is sometimes all it takes at this exalted level.

“I prefer to think that we need to add some more points, and I am fighting with this comfortable zone that we move to about four weeks ago,” said Sanchez Flores. “It would be a big, big error [if the players minds were on the FA Cup], because the FA Cup is in a month and I am watching every single match, every single training. It is a mistake not to improve. It is a mistake if some players think they are done, or have completed the plan because they have not. So I hope they are not thinking about the semi-final. Sometimes this can happen if you come from something really big, like last week, some players can react, they are human beings, I understand, but we need to correct.”

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Did Watford scale the mountain last week and spend too long admiring the view?

“I don’t know if it is an effect from the Arsenal game but it is clear we didn’t play well,” he said. “The performance was really, really bad and we are very disappointed with the first half. It is the first time we have the feeling that we start late. When we realise we are not in the match it is a little bit late. If you ask me to analyse the games, after Arsenal I would say everything is amazing, but analyse today and is not good. When I go to analyse this match for the second time, I am sure I will find alot of mistakes, and maybe something positive, but today for the players and for myself it was not the best decision so we need to learn. When you lose it is important to learn and correct for the future.”

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Watford have done a lot of losing of late. They’ve lost the last three in the league and only won two of the 13 league matches since Liverpool were put to the sword. There have been seven blanks and only nine goals in that period.

“Yes, I know [we have taken the same points since Christmas as Aston Villa],” said Sanchez Flores. “From the first half of the season we take 29 points and then we only take eight until now. It is not great, but the players they are not thinking really badly, but we know we need to add more points than eight.”

  • Additional reporting by Charlie Doris and David Anderson