Quique Sanchez Flores believes passing the 40-points mark in the Premier League will allow his Watford players to perform with a sense of freedom, starting against West Ham United this evening.
Throughout the campaign the Hornets have been set up to be, first and foremost, difficult to beat. It hasn’t always been entertaining but the ends have justified the means and barring the most unexpected and extraordinary set of results, Watford will play Premier League football next season.
So with safety secured, can the reins come off? Can Watford go out and play with a sense of adventure that has been lacking this season? Sanchez Flores says the set-up of the side won’t change but he believes there may be a change of mentality from his players.
“In respect of the shape, we’re not going to change a lot,” Sanchez Flores said. “But it is possible after getting to 41 points the players will feel freer on the pitch. That may mean they can play better. But I am happy with our style and I am always trying to take pressure off the players.”
We already know the Watford side who will take on West Ham tonight is going to be very different to the one that walks out at Wembley on Sunday for the Hornets’ FA Cup semi-final tie with Crystal Palace. Three certain starters at Wembley have been left behind and others will be left on the bench tonight. Heurelho Gomes will start in goal while Jose Holebas, Mario Suarez, Ikechi Anya, Nordin Amrabat and Steven Berghuis will surely get a run out against Slavan Bilic’s side. Some more than others will hope to give Sanchez Flores food for thought ahead of Sunday.
“I am completely confident in the first XI we will choose,” the Watford head coach said. “I am curious to see how the players can perform against an amazing team like West Ham. We respect West Ham a lot because they are one of the best in the Premier League. But I trust my players and I think we can produce a good performance.”
Sebastian Prodl’s selection would be a no-brainer given West Ham are likely to be spearheaded by Andy Carroll. The striker is slowly getting back to the form which made him an England regular in 2012 but Sanchez Flores says he will make no individual plan to try and combat the striker, or Hammers playmaker Dimitri Payet, who had arguably his poorest game of the season at Vicarage Road.
“When you play against this kind of striker the most important thing is to keep them outside the box,” Sanchez Flores said. “But that doesn’t just depend on the central defenders, it’s a collective effort. We’ve got to keep our defence high and for that it’s necessary for all the players to move forward. But West Ham are not just about Andy Carroll. They have amazing wingers and central midfielders. They can play down the sides of down the middle. Payet is a special player, one of the best in the Premier League. He can play across the pitch and creates trouble to the opponent. He is very good at set-pieces and free-kicks. He is very important to them and we will have to stop him, and the other West Ham players, collectively.”
The team we think Sanchez Flores might select tonight: