While others are questioning and debating the selflessness and selfishness of Odion Ighalo and wondering where the next team goal is coming from, Quique Sanchez Flores remains the calmest man in town.
He’s been there, done that and got several T-shirts. He knows how many would have bitten his hand off – and he’s got a very firm, meaty handshake, by the way – had he offered you, when they were beaten 2-1 at Cardiff City in pre-season, 12th in the Premier League with five home games remaining.
Oh how anyone connected with Watford would have loved, on reflection, to have been debating at this stage of the season when the team’s 14-goal top-scorer is going to get another one and who the FA Cup quarter-final opponents are going to be.
“The expectation was that we’d be at the bottom of the league,” said Sanchez Flores. “It not a surprise to me. We have been training well, fighting and believing in the work. We have been training hard every day on the system and how we need to play. I only remember one or two matches where we were out of the plan but the feeling has been good on the pitch in the rest of the matches, 28 plus three in the FA Cup. We’ve never deserved to be near the bottom. We are enjoying the experience.”
It hasn’t been very enjoyable of late – just three goals in the last eight league matches – but then there were plenty of thrills and spills in 1990/00 and 06/07 but it ended in glorious failure. Getafe crawled along at exactly a goal a game when they stayed up under Sanchez Flores in 04/05 so he knows what he’s doing. He knows what works.
“We are creating attempts, I’m not worried,” he said. “Four or five teams are scoring less than us so we are not worse in terms of this. It’s about the balance. We are in fifth position in terms not conceding goals in the league. That balance is good after 28 matches. We need to be more effective but I have a lot of confidence in Deeney and Ighalo. The players in the second line will score some time.”
Don’t expect a free-flowing affair full of goals at Vicarage Road this afternoon. Sanchez Flores is expecting the teams to cancel each other out. One goal may well decide it.
“They are able to play counterattack and we need to be ready,” he said. “They repeat good habits every time. Their plan is really, really good. I imagine few spaces, a little bit similar to the game against Bournemouth. They were playing the same way as us, reducing lines, playing very close, like a good pack. Little things will decide this match.”