It is Leonardo da Vinci who is credited with coining the phrase: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Perhaps, following Watford’s 1-1 draw with Everton this afternoon, Quique Sanchez Flores would agree.
It feels like an age since the Hornets head coach kept it simple. He’s tried to be too clever, too smart in outfoxing his opposite number. But against the Toffees, it was back to basics. Etienne Capoue was restored to the centre of midfield after a brief, abortive flirtation with the left flank and was much improved. Going forward, Watford didn’t try anything fancy. They got the ball to Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, usually fairly directly, and then worked off the two strikers.
“We tried to be simple in our attack today,” Sanchez Flores said. “We kept the defence high, wanted to win the ball and get into the Everton box quickly. We also hit the ball to Deeney and played from there. Today we attacked well and defended with 11 players.”
As a result, Watford were much more threatening. And yet, it almost went very wrong for the Hornets. Seconds before half-time they conceded a poor goal – Miguel Britos making a huge error and allowing James McCarthy to fire home on.
“Sometimes the players know they have made a bad decision,” Sanchez Flores said. “But then we support the player more than ever.”
Fortunately, Watford reacted instantly – Jose Holebas heading home a Ben Watson corner seconds before the interval. It may turn out to be one of the most important goals in the Hornets’ season.
“That goal was very, very important,” the Watford head coach said. “To go into half-time losing, when we didn’t deserve to, would’ve been very hard for the players’ mentality. We would’ve lost our good feelings. If we were behind at half-time I think it would’ve been hard to convince the players we’d played well.”
With Watford struggling for form prior to the game, it came as little surprise that Sanchez Flores made five changes to his side, but perhaps not the ones you’d expect. Juan Carlos Paredes and Holebas, two players seemingly well out of the picture, returned to the starting XI. Nathan Ake and Ikechi Anya, two players who’ve been heavily involved in recent weeks, were left out of the squad. Steven Berghuis, meanwhile, lost his place in the squad without even playing a single second at Arsenal.
“The first XI is always open,” Sanchez Flores said. “We are a humble team and we can’t close the first XI. If we do that we can affect the performances of the players. So when a player goes in the first XI or as a substitute, they must be ready to help us recover our good feelings. Holebas and Paredes are very different players. They are more attacking than Ake and Nyom. They both had difficult challenges in the game but they attacked and defended well. They understood they had a chance to stay in the first XI and they used it well.”