Rene Gilmartin praised Watford’s unlikely full-back pairing for their performances at Anfield, claiming Ikechi Anya was not the root cause of Liverpool’s killer second goal and believing Craig Cathcart acquitted himself well as Watford continue to muddle through to the end of the season amid a chronic problem at right-back.
For the umpteenth time this season, Quique Sanchez Flores made another bold team selection, stationing Craig Cathcart at right-back even though Allan Nyom and Juan Paredes were both fit. They fact they were both on the bench, and a centre-half was played out of position in their spot, tells you all you need to know about the lack of faith in Nyom and Paredes.
“No-one has taken that right-back shirt,” said Gilmartin in his role as an excellent BBC Three Counties summariser. “No-one has said: ‘I’m stamping my authority on this jersey. [You had] Paredes and Nyom on the bench. Craig Cathcart is a centre-half and defended really well. He’s excellent one-v-one. He’s quick enough to play full-back and we may miss him at centre-half. He’s been in that spine [of the team] throughout the whole season. He was up against one of the best attacking players in the league [in Philippe Coutinho] and he did very well.”
Cathcart played at right-back against Rotherham last season and was picked there this time by Sanchez Flores, who was looking for a more viable solution after hooking Paredes against Aston Villa and stationing Almen Abdi there.
“Paredes, sometimes he’s good, sometimes he’s not exactly what want we want and today and during the week I thought Cathcart is enough,” said the head coach, who played more than 60 times for Real Madrid at right-back. “Cathcart is a very serious man, he’s a very serious player so we are safe because he is a consistent player.”
Note the use of the word safe by this coach who is very risk averse.
The verdict on Nyom was not much better. “Nyom lost the shape a little bit in the second half of the season,” said Sanchez Flores. “He’s not exactly the same Nyom.”
Miguel Britos looked just as shaky at centre-half on Sunday, continuing his sharp dip in performance level since Stoke at home. He was at fault for the first goal on Sunday, allowing Joe Allen to run off the back of him. Gilmartin felt he was culpable for the second, even though Anya held his hands up.
“It wasn’t [the fault of] Anya with a square pass,” said Gilmartin. “It was a blocked clearance from [Sheyi] Ojo [that caused it]. Britos picks up possession from Ben Watson in midfield. He had loads of time and just expected to feed one into the corner. That’s where the ball should go. But he plays into Anya’s feet, Ojo is on his bike, he blocks the clearance and Liverpool are on the attack. Watford were in such a strong position and all of a sudden a blocked clearance [and you are two goals down]. You give opportunities like that to teams like Liverpool and you are going to be punished. The first goal is another lapse in concentration.”
Anya was given the nod at left-back for the second successive match as Joe Holebas was left at home for the seventh time in nine games and Nathan Ake wasn’t in the XI for the fourth time in six matches.
“I love how he [Anya] played,” said Gilmartin. “He attacks, he’s always a second body, because he’s fit enough and he’s a willing runner. You always have an opportunity to get at players from full-back. Full-backs are so important in attack phases and can create overloads down the sides. Jose Jurado comes inside so much so Anya offers that body in all that space and he does it really well. He defends well.”