Nigel Pearson

Nigel Pearson
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Watford fire Nigel Pearson as manager

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Watford have replaced Nigel Pearson as manager for the final two games of the Premier League season.

The club confirmed reports that Nigel Pearson has been relieved of his duties and will not be in charge for Watford’s pivotal last two games as they battle to stay out of the relegation zone.

For the second time this season Hayden Mullins has been appointed as caretaker boss, as reports state that the ownership group and Pearson fell out in recent days.

Watford have now fired three managers this season, as they sit just above the bottom three and have Manchester City and Arsenal left to play.

Pearson released the following statement on his departure from Watford.

The Pozzo family who own Watford have notoriously hired and fired coaches and they will be hoping for a big reaction in the final 180 minutes of the season, as they were will beaten at West Ham on Friday to leave themselves in the relegation scrap.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

They fired Javi Gracia a few months in and replaced him with former boss Quique Sanchez  Flores who lasted a few months before Pearson was appointed in early December.

Pearson had a big impact early on as Watford won four of his first six games including wins over Manchester United, Wolves, Aston Villa and Bournemouth, while they also became the first team to beat Liverpool this season.

However, the Hornets have won two of their last eight games and are in a dangerous position heading into the final two games of the season.

There’s no doubt this Watford team has plenty of talent with the likes of Abdoulaye Doucoure, Ismaila Sarr, Etienne Capoue, Troy Deeney and Roberto Pereyra in attack but defensively goalkeeper Ben Foster hasn’t had a lot of help this season.

Now that Pearson has left Watford, he’s left them with a chance of survival which is more than they looked to have when he first arrived.

There’s no doubt that Watford have lacked belief and direction in recent months but firing Pearson with a few games to go is a very drastic step.

West Ham earns massive win v. Watford

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A three-goal first half has likely secured West Ham United’s Premier League status for another year.

The Irons scored twice in the first 10 minutes and withstood anything Watford brought their way in a 3-1 win at the London Stadium on Friday.

Michail Antonio, Tomas Soucek, and Declan Rice scored for the Irons, with Troy Deeney getting the Hornets’ lone goal.

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

West Ham moves to 37 points, level with Brighton and three more than the defeated Hornets. More importantly, the Irons are six points ahead of 18th-place Bournemouth and 19th-place Aston Villa with two matches to play.

Watford now has to hope for help out-of-town or memorable points against Arsenal or Man City.

West Ham meets Manchester United and Villa to finish their season, so it’s not 100 percent certain they’ll survive but Friday’s win was likely momentous given the club’s superior goal difference over all four clubs remaining with them in the relegation conversation.

WEST HAM – WATFORD FULL MATCH REPLAY


Three things we learned

1. Antonio remains the Irons savior: A man who had 2 goals and 2 assists before the coronavirus pause now is one goal away from his first 10-goal season in the Premier League. Five of his nine PL goals this season have come in the last week after the Irons relegated Norwich City a week ago and may have put Watford on that path on Friday. David Moyes should be buying this man dinner, because the early goal settled nerves in West Ham’s biggest match of the season.

2. Watford becomes supporters of the out-of-town scoreboard: Nigel Pearson’s men next meet Arsenal and Manchester City. While plenty of clubs have found points against those traditional powers during this weird season, you certainly wouldn’t bet on the Hornets to get it done.

3. Rice showcases shooting: Declan Rice is known for controlling the pace in the middle of the park and breaking up the other team’s possession. He’s definitely got goals in his locker, though, despite scoring just thrice in his Premier League career. The latest was a wondrous curler from outside the 18 which left Ben Foster looking like he’d been trying to deconstruct a complex theorem. Rice has now scored in a 1-0 win over Arsenal, a 2-0 defeat of Newcastle, and this 3-1 decision. So it’ll be four next time for the Irons.

Man of the Match

We’re going to go with Soucek, who has been critical to seemingly everything good not done by Antonio in West Ham’s run to safety. The Slavia Prague loanee should be back with the Irons next year if the Londoners have their wits about them.


West Ham – Watford recap

The Irons did not take long to strike, and it’s no surprise that Antonio was the scorer. The man who scored four against Norwich used a deft finish to make it 1-0 after six minutes.

Soucek’s become an offensive threat in recent weeks and got high to head a Jarrod Bowen cross home for 2-0 in the 10th minute.

The third goal was a beauty and could’ve been mistaken for a cross the way Ben Foster reacted to Rice’s tremendous curler from distance.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Christian Kabasele headed just wide in the 48th minute as Watford fought to get back into the match.

They got the goal a minute later when Abdoulaye Doucoure drove into the box and saw his shot pushed off the post by Lukasz Fabianski. Deeney deposited the rebound for 3-1 with 41 minutes to play.

Kiko Femenia dragged a shot wide of the far post in the 59th minute, Watford still pressing for a second.

What we love about Watford

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This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be detailing what we love about each Premier League club competing in the 2019-20 season and next up is Watford.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Each day we will release details on why who adore each team in particular as we remind ourselves just how awesome the PL is as we await its return following the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Time to take a closer look at the Hornets.


Troy Deeney: Troy Deeney is – and has been – the face of Watford since his move from Walsall in 2010. A move that came about after Deeney, a Birmingham native and Birmingham City supporter growing up, submitted a written transfer request to exit a then-League One side to make his way to the Championship. His first year at Vicarage, however, was rough. The striker managed to score only two goals in 36 league appearances, raising questions about whether or not Deeney was built survive outside England’s third division.

Since that trying first year with the Hornets, Deeney hasn’t looked back, making his way into the “Watford’s best players ever” conversation with a remarkable 129 goals in 388 appearances. Only club legends Luther Blissett – considered by many as the best Hornet ever – and John Barnes have more top-flight gals than Deeney himself. 

Historical, last-gasp win against Leicester City: May 2013, Vicarage Road. Leicester City’s Anthony Knockaert goes down in the box after minimal contact with a Watford defender. A penalty is called in the visitor’s favor. The aggregate stands at 2-2 as the clocks ticks the final seconds of a two-legged Championship play-off semifinal between the Hornets and the Foxes. Knockaert’s shot from the spot – directed right down the middle, with pace – is blocked. His second chance as well. Watford recover and immediately go back the other way.

 

Only seconds remain before the head official sends the match to penalty kicks, but Watford is looking for the final blow. Fernando Forestieri desperately sends a textbook cross inside the box. Jonathan Hogg meets the ball midair and heads it into an incoming Deeney, who seals a goal – and celebration – for the ages.

The Watford-Elton John connection: While Manchester City may have Oasis brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher rooting them on, Watford count on the support of multi-generational musician Elton John. A lifelong Hornet supporter, the English rock legend has done more than just “support” the club from the stands, though. 

In 1976, Elton John became Watford’s chairman and director. He eventually sold the club in 1987 before re-purchasing it a decade later from Jack Petchey. John no longer owns his childhood team, but he remains a part of the club as the honorary life-president.

Watford’s Pearson slams PM’s ‘lack of leadership’ on coronavirus

Nigel Pearson
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Watford manager Nigel Pearson has slammed UK prime minister Boris Johnson over what he deems a “lack of leadership” regarding his handling of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which nearly led to Premier League fixtures — along with those of various levels of British soccer — to be played this weekend.

[ MORE: Klopp on PL suspension: “We must protect one another” ]

“I heard one of the statements from the prime minister last night talking about listening, and that the decisions would be based on science and that there’s not necessarily a greater risk with people being together at sporting venues. If that’s based on science, fine, but that doesn’t necessarily make sense to me.

“I wouldn’t want our fans to be going into a situation where they are fearful of contracting something that could possibly affect either themselves or a member of their family.”

“We’ve had players, as most clubs will have done, who have had symptoms of not being well. We’ve had players experiencing illness this week, who have stayed at home.

“We had somebody with a chest infection, somebody with an upset stomach and players who have shown flu-like symptoms. We’ve got one player awaiting tests results on his symptoms.”

A large number of the UK’s soccer leagues intended to go ahead with fixtures as scheduled this weekend — some with empty stadiums, but many with thousands of fans in attendance — on the basis that “the guidance from the relevant authorities remains that there is no medical rationale to close or cancel sporting events at this time,” per a(n early) Thursday statement from the English Football League (EFL).

[ MORE: UEFA postpones Champions League, Europa League fixtures ]

The PL released its own statement, much to the same effect, on Thursday: “Following the latest update from Government issued this afternoon, all Premier League matches will go ahead as scheduled this weekend.”

That statement was quickly backtracked when it was revealed that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta had tested positive for the virus, less than 60 minutes after the PL’s statement. News regarding Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi quickly followed in the same vein, just three hours later.

The sensible decision — to postpone the highest levels of British soccer — was, to Pearson’s overall point, made on Friday. The fact that sporting officials have been forced to take the lead, ahead of government officials from numerous countries around the world, and institute a period of social isolation also speaks to Pearson’s frustration.

Watford’s Sarr’s ‘unbelievable talent’ dooms Liverpool’s historic run

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Who would have guessed that Liverpool’s emphatic unbeaten run of 423 days – the second longest ever top-division unbeaten run – would end on a cold, soggy night at Vicarage Road to the dominance of 22-year-old Ismaila Sarr?

[ MORE: Klopp reacts | Social media, too ]

Liverpool remain indisputable favorites to lift the league title, but they will fall short to Arsenal’s Invincibles. Jurgen Klopp‘s men were vulnerable on Saturday. The potent performance put together by Watford will be talked about for years to come. And perhaps no other player on the field came as close to the protagonist role as Sarr.

The winger stood out from the rest, scoring twice before setting up captain Troy Deeney for the third and final goal of the bout. To the BBC:

“Ismaila Sarr is an unbelievable player, unbelievable talent,” Deeney said about his teammate. “He still has a lot to learn, and will continue to learn. But I think it’s a full team performance and a special mention has to go to Gerard Deulofeu as well, it looks like it’s going to be a bad one.”

Sarr, who turned down Barcelona during his career’s infant years, exhibited exactly why that was an option to begin with. The Senegalese was the cog of a well-oiled engined that took care of its chances. There’s no way around it.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“First of all credit to Watford,” Liverpool’s captain Virgil Van Dijk said following the Reds’ first loss in 45 Premier League matches. “They deserved it. The chances they created they stuck to their plan and I don’t think we created too many big opportunities. We shouldn’t take the credit away from Watford.
“If you concede three goals, that’s something we didn’t have for quite a while. That’s something we have to improve as a team in total and we will. It’s very tough to take this one. The only positive thing is we have an FA Cup game in a couple of days.
“The last game, one set piece, one good goal. Today obviously it should be better. If you look at the whole season we’ve been pretty good defensively. We have the most clean sheets in the league.”
For Nigel Pearson, the win comes at a precious time. The Hornets were on the outside looking in, with a seven-match winless streak behind them heading into Saturday.
In theory, three points in such fashion at home against this Liverpool should taste like silverware to a club flirting with mediocrity like Watford has all season long. In practice, it’s just another vital win for Watford.
“It’s such an important win for us,” he said. “But it is one win. Our season has been tough so far, with losing last week and not playing well, we were keen to get a response.

“They are such an outstanding side, we had to get our performance right – as close to max as possible – and I thought we thoroughly deserved the win. We threatened with the ball and defended with discipline, energy and commitment. That’s been the message from day one.

“It’s in our own hands, and we have to deliver that performance week in, week out.”

And a stellar 90-minute performance from Sarr that will go down in the books for obvious reasons.