Watford earn their first clean sheet in 20 league matches with goalless game against Sheffield United
Watford head coach explains Etienne Capoue’s absence against Sheffield United and sends a ‘message’ to his squad
Despite having just 39 per cent of the ball and registering just two shots on target, Watford created the big opportunities in the match but Andre Gray, Danny Welbeck and Craig Dawson were denied as Blades goalkeeper Dean Henderson redeemed himself after last weekend’s error against Liverpool.
Watford’s teamsheet read like a classified ad: Desperately Seeking Solidity. Their manager, Quique Sánchez Flores, tried to repair a defence that had conceded 20 goals in their previous seven league matches by changing formation and giving Sebastian Prödl a first league start for 17 months, putting him in the heart of a five-man rearguard. Flores later denied it was his intention to sit deep and hope for counterattacks at home to a newly promoted team; but that is how things panned out. The Blades had most of the ball but were unable to unpick the Watford padlock.
Six months ago, as we entertained realistic hopes of European competition, it would not have seemed credible that we’d go into a match at home to a newly promoted side, even a Sheffield United who have started the season in decent form, not being strong favourites to win.
The main positive from the afternoon was that this was the first clean sheet since February. Our defence has been dreadfully leaky and we looked much stronger with three at the back, although this improvement at the back may have been helped by the opposition being Sheffield United. Still, Prödl had a great game, he is much more of a commanding presence at the back than either Cathcart or Dawson. Kabasele was immense and was named man of the match by the sponsors and thoroughly deserved it.