Walter Mazzarri refused to be drawn on whether he should have made changes earlier than he did, as a tired Watford conceded twice in the final ten minutes to succumb 2-1 to Chelsea. It raises fresh questions about the condition of the squad, with issues about fitness dominating the aftermath of both of the Hornets’ games so far this season. It was, in the head coach’s view, key errors that ultimately cost them dearly against Chelsea.
Watford were on their way to a famous victory thanks to Etienne Capoue’s second goal in as many games but Mazzarri was denied the chance to maintain his unbeaten record as the west Londoners took home the points. The head coach insisted he was pleased with what he deemed was an improved display from last weekend, despite witnessing his side run out of steam for the second successive week. Derek Payne, on BBC 3 Counties radio, felt Antonio Conte got the better of his old foe with his use of his substitutes.
“I am very happy with everything, especially with how we played,” said Mazzarri. “Last week we played only 20 minutes of how I want the team to play, today we played 70 minutes. It’s a big improvement, but of course there were some mistakes. I will say as I say in Italy that we complicated our life by own our errors. They are two goals that we could have avoided. There is much to grow for this team. Even when it was 0-0 I was happy with how we were playing. Against a team like Chelsea I am happy with what we did on the pitch.”
Watford’s inability to keep the ball at a time when Chelsea were piling on the pressure was a source of frustration and smacked of tiredness. When Michy Batshuayi capitalised on an uncharacteristic Heurelho Gomes error with ten minutes to go, the game was crying out for some control in the midfield area. Adlene Guedioura was at fault for the second goal after conceding possession in the middle of midfield, not for the first time. Nordin Amrabat won’t throw any throw-in so recklessly again all season. Gomes, at fault for one, won’t want to see the replay of the second as Costa managed to squeeze the ball under his body.
“As you can see, both their goals were our own mistakes,” said Mazzarri. “We were not focused but we played better especially as there were occasions in the first half. We have to improve with the ball.”
It is clear the Watford head coach is not overly concerned, especially given his refusal to directly answer our questions about the timing of his changes or his team’s fitness levels. The word from the training ground is that the squad have spent more time working on the shape than fitness, meaning the likes of Troy Deeney look laboured and that Watford only have one point to show for back-to-back goals from Capoue.
“My goal means nothing now because we’ve lost the game,” said Capoue. “The manager has brought in a new shape and we are doing well but we just need to be clinical. We need to work and be focused 100% for the whole 90 minutes.”
Mazzarri made three substitutions in the final six minutes and two once Chelsea had got their noses in front. The three players replaced were not involved in Euro 2016. “There were some players who came from European competitions, so they couldn’t last as much as the other players,” said Mazzarri. “We can keep our head high, we are all very proud of how we played. Of course when you play so well but don’t get any points, it leaves you not very happy. I won’t sleep very well tonight.”
Watford were dead on their feet by the end and were left crestfallen by Chelsea’s dramatic turnaround. “Both goals were given away from us having the ball,” said Deeney who looked off the pace. “We weren’t quite game-smart enough in the end but we’ll get better.”