A Premier League game featuring six goals will always spark questions of defensive fragility and this certainly wasn’t one for connoisseurs of the art of defending.
You can imagine Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville having a field day on Monday night football with their fancy illustrative pens. Attack seemed to be the best form of defence.
Troy Deeney lost Michail Antonio for the opener and Craig Cathcart simply watched as the forward ghosted past him to make it 2-0. For the Hammers, Adrian, James Collins and Sam Byram won’t want to watch replays of any of Watford’s four goals – until Slaven Bilic forces them to, that is, as he told us after the game that he would. The two managers has contrasting views on each team’s defensive performance.
“I’m happy with how we defended after a certain time of the game,” said Walter Mazzarri. “On the first and the second goal we did some mistakes and they don’t have to happen and it’s not our way of playing football. Of course, after the second goal we woke up and in the second half we played a great game.”
Bilic agreed with his counterpart on this point, but felt that Watford’s goals were equally preventable.
“I’m sure that if you talk to Walter Mazzarri about the goals they conceded he will say that they were cheap and too easy, definitely,” said the West Ham boss. “We’ll say that unless there’s some brilliance from, I don’t know, 40 yards or whatever. But this was, from my point of view, way too easy, the first one and the second one.”
Back to Mazzarri, who feels that his team has been creating opportunities for weeks now and finally reaped their rewards at a packed Olympic Stadium.
“I don’t completely agree [that West Ham defended badly],” insisted the Italian. “Like I said before a couple of times, before against Arsenal and against the previous teams, we had a lot of opportunities, they just didn’t go in. I think we did very well in the second half and it mainly is because of us that we have the win today. Not because of the poor defensive [play] of West Ham.”
The Watford boss explained that he told his players to forget the first half and go into the second with a “completely different mentality”. Bilic agreed, and felt that this mentality was a defensive one.
“In the second half we didn’t have that much space behind them,” he said. “In the first half we had so much space behind them that we used with the pace of Mikey [Michail Antonio], of other players, we had so many spaces. In second half they dropped a bit and of course when they scored they dropped a bit more. But they continued to be dangerous.”
“It’s true we were especially defensive,” Mazzarri admitted. “We were afraid but this is mainly because West Ham played very well at the beginning. They were pressuring us but we also felt the pressure not only of them but of the public. After that we also had a couple of opportunities where we could have scored, but we didn’t. At half-time we spoke with the players, we adjusted a couple of things and then the result came our way.”