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Premier League 2017-18 preview – Watford

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Like many of the teams towards the bottom of the Premier League table last season — and in most years — Watford had the classic killer combination of a lack of offensive firepower and an equally disappointing struggle of allowing goals.

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Marco Silva has been brought in to help Watford improve upon its 17th place finish from 2016/17, and with several key additions in the midfield the Hornets just might be able to climb the PL table in the Portuguese manager’s first season with the club.

Best, worst case scenarios – Watford will likely be lumped in with many of the usual mid-table suspects, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. If the Hornets can find another stable goalscorer alongside Troy Deeney up front, then perhaps the squad can make a push into the upper half of the table, which is likely the team’s ceiling. The club has also been reported to be close to a deal with young Brazilian Richarlison, and if successful, the 20-year-old Fluminense attacker could be a promising piece to the squad.

Worst-case scenario might just see Silva’s side drop down to the Championship. It’s not far-fetched considering how close Watford was a season ago to falling into England’s second flight. There were major concerns defensively last season, with the club allowing 68 goals in 38 matches, and as mentioned above, Deeney really didn’t have much support in the goalscoring department. He was the only Watford player to crack the 10-goal mark, and that’s something that must change in 2017/18 if the Hornets are to stave off relegation.


Best possible XI is…

Gomes

Janmaat — Kaboul — Britos — Holebas

Doucoure — Chalobah

Amrabat — Cleverley — Pereyra

Deeney


[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

Transfers In: Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea, Undisclosed), Daniel Bachman (Free agent), Kiko Femenia (Alaves, Undisclosed), Will Hughes (Derby County, Undisclosed)

Transfers Out: Juan Carlos Paredes (Emelec, Free), Mario Suarez (Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng, Undisclosed)

Last season:

— 17th in Premier League
— FA Cup 4th Round (lost to Millwall)
— League Cup 2nd Round (lost to Gillingham)

Star player: Troy Deeney — As stated above, Deeney was the only player to crack 10 goals last season. This is a squad that desperately needs somebody to finish chances, and at this very moment, it appears Deeney is the most likely candidate to do so.

Coaches’ Corner: Marco Silva — Say what you will about Silva’s performance at Hull last season, but there really wasn’t much to work with for the Portuguese boss or the Tigers roster. This isn’t a terribly different scenario for the manager, but the club has added some solid pieces this summer, such as Chalobah and Femenia. He’ll certainly have his work cut out for him, and Silva will have to keep a sharp eye out for more additions during January if he is to keep this team afloat.

PST predicts: Goals have been hard to come by for Watford, and at the end of the day that’s what keeps you in the Premier League. The Hornets squeaked by last season with just 40 goals to get them into 17th place, but it’s hard to say if that will be enough again in 2017/18. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, somebody other than Troy Deeney has to emerge on the goalscoring-front, and it has to start earlier rather than later in the season because that could spell doom for Silva and this squad.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis/Mkhitaryan transfer saga and more

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle recap all the key stories from the latest Premier League Saturday fixtures including Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Newcastle (0:20), Chelsea’s 4-0 victory at Brighton (10:15) and the latest on the Alexis Sanchez/Henrikh Mkhitaryan saga after wins for Arsenal and Manchester United (19:00). Plus, a closer look at the bottom of the table and thoughts go out to James McCarthy after his serious injury against West Brom (29:00).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Video: Stoke’s Imbula scores stunner on loan at Toulouse

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Stoke City supporters know the name Giannelli Imbula, and perhaps they’ll be clamoring for the Frenchman to return to the bet365 Stadium if he can score more goals like this.

[ MORE: PL Roundup — Top three all victorious; Gunners thrash Palace ]

The holding midfielder is currently on loan with Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse, and for the first time this season, Imbula opened his goalscoring account in some fashion.

Right on half-hour mark, Imbula unleashed a left-footed strike from nearly 40 yards out to give Toulouse the lead over Montpellier (below).

Imbula joined Stoke during the 2015/16 PL season, and has made 26 appearances for the Potters in his time with the club, prior to his loan to France.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Tottenham

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Southampton will host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both sides hoping to pick up three points for very different reasons.

The Saints are currently in the midst of a fierce relegation battle through 23 matches, and sit in 18th place in the Premier League, while Spurs are hoping challenge for a top-four position.

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Mauricio Pellegrino‘s Southampton could get defender Maya Yoshida back in time for Sunday’s match, however, the side will be without Charlie Austin once more, who is currently nursing a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, a number of key figures will miss the match for Tottenham, including goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Harry Winks. Also, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld remain sidelined with injuries, although the latter is expected to be back soon.

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pellegrino on state of the Saints: “We are not happy with our position but in three or four weeks’ time everything can change. It’s part of our competition. I feel in our team the spirit is really good and everybody is conscious about what we need. I receive these messages from players every day, and we have to convert these feelings into stats.”

Mauricio Pochettino on potential January moves: “To be honest it will be difficult. At some point you always dream but not too much exciting [is happening]. If it happens, it happens. If not, then it doesn’t happen. We are happy with the squad.”

Prediction

Harry Kane is firing at an absurd rate recently, and Southampton’s current form is worrisome to say the least. With just four wins all season, it’s hard to imagine the Saints coming out in front in their clash. Southampton 0-3 Tottenham