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Ratings: How the Watford players fared against Southampton

Heurelho Gomes 6

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The Watford stopper had a mixed afternoon at St Mary’s. Dusan Tadic’s second minute free-kick was just parried back into the danger zone and Watford were fortunate that the subsequent deflection off Miguel Britos landed in his arms and didn’t ricochet into the net. Gomes did, however, save well from Cedric and for the most part was at his commanding best, tipping Nathan Redmond’s stinging drive past the post. That said, the Brazilian was at fault on two or three occasions when trying to collect from corners, one of which led directly to Southampton’s equaliser when that man Redmond capitalised on Gomes and Jose Holebas getting in each other’s way to finish with aplomb.

Craig Cathcart 7
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Out of all of Watford’s defenders it is the Northern Irish international who perhaps looks most assured as part of the back three, and it is little surprise given his experience playing there under both Slavisa Jokanovic and Michael O’Neill. He had the unenviable task of keeping tabs of Dusan Tadic and Redmond, and did superbly, along with Sebastian Prodl, to snuff out a Saints counterattack in the first half. Maintained his discipline in the second half when the going got tough and had to be alert to track Charlie Austin who went close with a header late on. Played his part in an outstanding defensive display, especially when Watford were reduced to ten men and Southampton piled on the pressure.

Sebastian Prodl 7

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Like Cathcart, the Austrian put in a tireless shift at the back for Watford. He was alert to clear a dangerous Matt Targett cross and forced Tadic into settling for a corner when Southampton were growing into the game. Read the danger particularly well, an important task as part of a back three when it became necessary to cover the spaces vacated by the wing-backs, and was very strong in the air to suffocate the Saints’ aerial presence. It was Prodl who stepped up just in time to catch Redmond offside before the former Norwich City winger buried what would have been his second. And given how the rest of the game transpired, that was a tremendous bit of awareness from the Watford back-line.

Miguel Britos 7
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A much improved last two performances from Miguel Britos after his poor showing at Queens Park Rangers a fortnight ago. He was particularly alert to cover the gaping holes vacated by the marauding Jose Holebas and was certainly relieved to see his deflection end up in the arms of his goalkeeper early on. Threatened to be caught out on a couple of occasions by the dangerous Tadic but recovered well both times to force him out wide. Should settle into the system of head coach Walter Mazzarri quicker than some of his teammates given his familiarity with the Italian from the pair’s time at Napoli. A solid, dependable display.

Nordin Amrabat 7
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One of the surprise inclusions by Walter Mazzarri as the experiment of playing him at wing-back against QPR was shelved completely against Lorient. Some, including BBC Three Counties’ Geoff Doyle, described it as a huge call before the game. However, Amrabat, who impressed at Loftus Road, gave Watford a pacy outlet down the right-hand side and played his part in the Hornets’ impressive start at St Mary’s. It was his stood-up cross for captain Troy Deeney that led to Etienne Capoue’s opener and his link up play with the midfield was promising. His range of passing and ability to get beyond the Southampton full-backs was a major asset for Mazzarri, as Watford dominated the midfield area for the opening half an hour. Tailed off slightly in the second half, possibly due to lack of fitness, but did ping a beautiful diagonal ball in the direction of Deeney which forced a corner. Amrabat also sprinted back to try to aid Ben Watson, but despite his protestations that he was the last man, Watson was shown his marching orders. He also defended well at the far post from prevent Shane Long getting a leap in the first half. May just have resurrected his Watford career.

Jose Holebas 6
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Failed to spot Redmond peeling off him for the goal and then got in Gomes’ way. Also allowed Tadic to wriggle past him in the first half before standing up a cross for Long, although he wasn’t solely culpable as the tricky Serbian evaded one or two other Watford players. His ability to bomb forward certainly gave Watford greater incisiveness and is clearly a facet of his game he enjoys, but he incurred the wrath of the head coach when he laboured back having conceded possession. He must be one of those at 70-80 per cent fitness. Delivered a couple of dangerous crosses that were crying out for someone to connect with and generally looked better going forward than he did going the other way. An encouraging start to his second coming as a Watford player.

Adlene Guedioura 7
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Hands up who thought Adlène Guedioura would start at St Mary’s? We certainly didn’t. But given the opportunity, the Algerian didn’t disappoint. Popular with the Hornets fans, he gave Watford something of a creative hub in the midfield, linking the play well with Capoue and Amrabat. When Watford played a corner short, Guedioura lined up for a spectacular drive but didn’t connect as he would have liked, though at least he had a go. Gave away a soft free kick, and was booked for the offence, from which Southampton almost scored as Maya Yoshida’s header landed on the roof of the net. A positive run out for the midfielder who grabbed his chance in the absence of Abdoulaye Doucoure with both hands.

Etienne Capoue 9
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Watford’s man of the match, without a doubt, and not just for his goal. The Frenchman was at his combative best breaking up play and triggering attacks going the other way. He covered enormous ground and acted as the thread between the midfield and the front two, displaying the sorts of traits that convinced Watford to buy him last summer. Consistency has always been a question for the midfielder but he grabbed his goal superbly, showing great awareness to latch onto Deeney’s knock down for the opener. Make no mistake it was a brilliant finish but it was his desire to burst past two stationary defenders to get on the end of the chance that was so impressive. This was perhaps his best, or most complete, performance in a Watford shirt but we know Capoue always plays well when the sun shines. He needs to dig it out on occasions like the one at St Mary’s earlier this year.

Valon Behrami 6
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He was perhaps the weakest of Watford’s midfielders, a fact almost certainly due to his lack of minutes. He did well to last an hour before being replaced by Ben Watson. He reads the game superbly and his ability to get stuck in is both a strength and a weakness (Chelsea away last season, anyone?). He made two very good tackles to quell a Southampton move. Began to tire as the second half wore on, coinciding with Southampton’s growing dominance in the midfield area, but these were useful minutes for someone who lacked game-time in pre-season. He’s one of Mazzarri’s on-field lieutenants.

Odion Ighalo 6
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It didn’t quite happen for Odion Ighalo here, but there were some small signs that he will be able to replicate his telepathic partnership with the captain. His link up play was, on the whole, good but he struggled to get himself into position to have efforts at goal. Arguably though, Watford’s goal came from Ighalo’s ability to preoccupy the attention of the Saints back four, thus allowing Capoue the space to surge into. A frustrating afternoon on the whole that was brought to an end late on when Mazzarri reinforced Watford’s rearguard by bringing on Ikechi Anya.

Troy Deeney 6
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We saw the very best of the captain’s awareness to create opportunities for others when he teed up Capoue for Watford’s ninth minute opener. He cleverly pulled on the shoulder of the full-back, giving him maximum chance to connect with Amrabat’s cross. Deeney was at the heart of Watford’s best play in the first half, linking well with the midfield and using his physical presence to give the Saints back four a headache, but Virgil van Dijk coped well on the whole. In the second half we didn’t see a great deal of Watford’s attacking play as the gameplan had to adapt with Southampton dominating in possession. Was the recipient of a diagonal ball from Amrabat and forced a corner but had precious little else in front of goal. Deeney also did very well to buy a late free kick off of van Dijk to waste precious seconds as Watford attempted to hang on for a point. Still looks very heavy.

Substitutes

Ben Watson
The midfielder replaced Behrami to shore up the midfield but was only on the pitch for less than 15 minutes before receiving his marching orders for a cynical foul on Shane Long. A classic case of taking one for the team. Before that he was sloppy in possession around his own box, surrendering possession in a dangerous area. He now misses the Chelsea game.

Juan Camilo Zuniga
It wasn’t the easiest of Watford debuts in the circumstances, with the Colombian forced to dig in and help his side to a point. He did, however, make some crucial blocks and challenges to add another line to Watford’s defence. A promising introduction.

Ikechi Anya
Was brought on by Walter Mazzarri late on to add another body to Watford’s defence in the face of Southampton’s relentless pressure. Did well on a couple of occasions to clear his lines and, with virtually the Saints’ last attempt of the game, was alert to force Redmond onto his left foot and prevent him from mustering an attempt on goal.