Watford

Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

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

Leave a comment

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.

Ayew the hero for Palace against Watford

Leave a comment

Crystal Palace beat Watford 1-0 at Selhurst Park on Saturday in a tight, feisty clash between two teams who know each other very well.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Jordan Ayew was once again the hero for Crystal Palace as he rifled home a fine goal in the first half and Roy Hodgson‘s side held on for the all three points thanks to a third-straight shutout and 1-0 win. Nigel Pearson‘s Watford huffed and puffed but remain in the relegation scrap after they failed to build on their incredible win against Liverpool last weekend.

With the win Palace move into 10th place and have 40 points, as they are just five points off the top four. Watford remain in 17th place and only out of the relegation zone on goal difference.


3 things we learned

1. Ayew having a sneaky good season: Eight goals in the Premier League is his best-ever return and Ayew has been so important to Palace, especially with Wilfried Zaha not hitting top form week in, week out this season. Ayew isn’t the most natural finisher in the world but he works hard and is taking a lot of the chances Palace create for him. He has now scored one goal on eight occasions this season and on each occasion he has scored Palace are unbeaten with six wins and two draws.

2. Watford’s inconsistency infuriating: They have now beat Liverpool, Wolves and Man United since Nigel Pearson arrived but are still in the thick of the relegation battle. Nigel Pearson’s Watford just can’t string together a run of wins against teams just above them.

3. Hodgson underrated: The 72-year-old Palace coach has led them to 11th and 12th place finishes in the last two seasons and they are now 10th. Does he get the credit he deserves? Probably not. Hodgson signed a one-year contract extension this week and after not being given funds to strengthen in January and after Aaron Wan-Bissaka was sold in the summer, you have to applaud the job he has done. What you see is what you get with Hodgson. His teams are organized and grind out wins. Palace may not be the best team to watch but they are getting it done.

Man of the Match: Christian Benteke – So often a scapegoat, the center forward held the ball up, almost scored with an acrobatic effort and brought out the best in Ayew and Zaha around him. Benteke gets plenty of stick but he is finally playing regularly and even if the goals aren’t flowing he provides a focal point to Palace’s attack.


Abdoulaye Doucoure almost squeezed home a shot at the near post early on and from a corner soon after Watford caused all kinds of problems but Crystal Palace cleared.

Will Hughes then dragged a shot wide as Watford came flying out of the traps and were obviously buoyed by their win against Liverpool.

Palace then took the lead with a superb goal as Ayew smashed home from the edge of the box after a lovely flowing move down the left which saw Zaha play in Benteke who found James McArthur to assist Ayew.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The game was very feisty with plenty of flash points, most involving Wilfried Zaha, as Watford and Etienne Capoue in particular targeted the Palace winger.

Zaha responded by going on a mazy run and forced Ben Foster into a fine stop down low as Watford’s goalkeeper stood tall.

Troy Deeney forced Vicente Guaita into a fine stop after his powerful effort from outside the box, then Christian Benteke sent one of his trademark acrobatic efforts inches wide.

In the Mixed Zone with JPW: Episode 3

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NBC Sports’ Pro Soccer Talk lead writer and editor Joe Prince-Wright shares his behind-the-scenes access into the Premier League mixed zones highlighting the intriguing interviews from this week’s marquee matches.

This week, JPW shares his mixed zone interviews from Wolves-Tottenham, Watford-Liverpool and Everton-Man United.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

He also spoke exclusively with Eric Dier who for the first time revealed that he is keen to play in his natural position at center back under Jose Mourinho, rather than in midfield.

“I have always been very politically correct on the subject because of many different reasons but I’ve come to a… It’s been something that isn’t new for me. The old manager knew where I stood for a long time about position and centre-back is where I see my future and I think where I can be the best I can be. With Pochettino, I started to play there this season, in the two games before he left, and I’m happy I got the chance to play there under Mourinho,” Dier said.

To listen to more from the mixed zone with Joe Prince-Wright as he takes you deep inside stadiums, subscribe to In the Mixed Zone with JPW Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow him on Twitter @JPW_NBCSports here.

Click here for In the Mixed Zone with archive ]

Click play below to listen to Episode 3 in full.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 28

Leave a comment

One and two are pretty much set in stone, but there’s a new three on the block and only they seem a threat to challenge two.

It’s a lot of words to preview one of our final club power rankings of the Premier League season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Norwich City — A great win over Leicester inspires thoughts that the tricky schedule won’t be as big of an issue as it first looked.
Last week: 20
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 1-0 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Sheffield United

19. Aston Villa — The guts shown in the League Cup Final are replicable. Can Dean Smith coax them out again (and again)?
Last week: 19
Season high: 6
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Saints
Up next: 4 p.m. ET Monday at Leicester City

18. Bournemouth —  Nice draw with Chelsea.
Last week: 17
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 2-2 v. Chelsea
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

17. Watford — The win over Liverpool is a dream. The loss of Gerard Deulofeu is a nightmare.
Last week: 18
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 3-0 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Palace

16. Newcastle United — So drab. And if there isn’t another win soon, the back end of the schedule will send them down.
Last week: 15
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 0-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

15. Brighton and Hove Albion — At some point, the unluckiness has to wear on the Seagulls. Performances have been better than the depths of the table.
Last week: 13
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Wolves

14. West Ham United — much-needed win has them out of the table on goal differential.
Last week: 16
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 3-1 v. Southampton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Arsenal

13. Crystal Palace — Roy Hodgson deserves a lot of praise for conjuring life back into the Eagles. If Christian Benteke could finish, the Eagles would be tempting the UEL places.
Last week: 14
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 1-0 at Brighton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

12. Southampton — The Saints are on a plateau.
Last week: 12
Season high: 7
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-1 at West Ham
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Newcastle United

11. Sheffield United — Did the week off provide Chris Wilder a plan to play Sander Berge and John Lundstram together effectively?
Last week: 11
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Brighton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sunday v. Norwich City

10. Burnley — Unextinguishable.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 0-0 at Newcastle United
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Spurs

9. Arsenal — Pablo Mari looked good against Portsmouth. West Ham will be a slight step up.
Last week: 8
Season high: 4
Season low: 13
Last match: Won 3-2 v. Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sunday v. West Ham

8. Leicester City — Two points from four matches, with Villa next. Brendan Rodgers should count his blessings the chasing pack has largely taken a collective nap.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Norwich City
Up next: 4 p.m. ET Monday v. Aston Villa

7. Manchester United — Bruno Fernandes is a magician. It’s a shame we won’t get to see him with Marcus Rashford any time soon (though he’s set to make it back before the end of the season).
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Everton
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday v. Man City

6. Everton — Is Jordan Pickford really a problem? For your average side, no, but Everton wants to shoot high. He needs to do a bit better with the expected stops, because he’s got a knack for the wild stops.
Last week: 9
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Manchester United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sunday at Chelsea

5. Tottenham Hotspur — Results must improve, but so much the system. What’s the plan?
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 3-2 v. Wolves
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

4. Chelsea — Disappointing draw with Bournemouth, but few behind them did anything to justify dropping them further.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Bournemouth
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton

3. Wolves — They can and will out-run and outlast you, and Raul Jimenez will devour your back line.
Last week: 7
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 3-2 at Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Brighton

2. Man City — Bold prediction considering Aymeric Laporte is out: City will finish within 19 points of Liverpool to preserve their record triumph from 2017/18 over Manchester United.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Won 1-0 at Leicester City
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

1. Liverpool — A loss was bound to happen, and more may come as Liverpool reprioritizes the Champions League and perhaps the FA Cup.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Lost 3-0 at Watford
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

Deulofeu out for season in massive blow to Watford

Gerard Deulofeu
Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

As big of a win as Watford’s 3-0 defeat of Liverpool was on Saturday, they suffered a loss of similar magnitude.

Gerard Deulofeu tore a meniscus and ruptured an ACL and will miss the rest of the season and likely the start of next.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“We wish him all the best, we wish his family well,” said club captain Troy Deeney. “Unfortunately this is the game that we play. It’s going to be a real tough one and we wish him well. I said to him at half-time ‘we’re going to win this for you’, and thankfully we did, thankfully I’m a man of my word.”

Deulofeu had four goals and five assists in just over 2,100 minutes this season, chipping in 1.2 tackles and .9 interceptions per contest.

He’s also averaging 1.6 key passes and 2.2 successful dribbles per game (all stats via WhoScored). Both of those figures are top 20 in the Premier League.

Deulofeu is a huge loss for the Hornets, who will need more magic from Ismaila Sarr and consistency from Roberto Pereyra. Will Hughes has impressed as well but there are few playmakers like Deulofeu in the league, let alone Watford.

The good news is that Watford is currently outside the drop zone on goal differential, and still face five bottom half sides.