Watford did well to earn a point at home against newly-promoted Brighton, following Miguel Britos’ needless sliding challenge midway through the first-half. Anthony Knockaert and Tomer Hemed both hit the post for the visitors, who were unfortunate not to snatch all three points during an intriguing encounter.
On the balance of play, Watford would be glad that they earned a point rather than relinquishing all three against Brighton, who brought some boisterous away support to help fire them an all-important victory here.
It was clear though that the Hornets lacked something: not finishing because they failed to create many clear-cut opportunities, but it was the final ball which crucially proved inconsistent.
The only real players who displayed a determination and hunger to grab a goal were Nathaniel Chalobah and summer signing Richarlison, who already seems to be a fan favourite in north-west London among the Vicarage faithful.
His hustle off-the-ball and dribbling ability with it add another dimension that Nordin Amrabat doesn’t offer down the flanks – the Moroccan international showed flashes but equally frustrated before being sacrificed for Craig Cathcart after Britos’ dismissal.
Knockaert was an ever-present threat for Brighton but often cut a frustrated figure down the flank as he didn’t receive adequate service into his path on a regular basis. There was plenty of space for him to enjoy, especially in the first-half – so much so that fullback Bruno contributed to a 2v1 overload.
Watford were sloppy and too slow in transition defensively, which meant that Heurelho Gomes was forced into a succession of saves either side of the interval to keep the scores level.
Abdoulaye Doucouré played alongside Chalobah as part of Watford’s midfield two and though he looked lost at times, attempted more later on with advancing runs through the middle.
Andre Gray had a tough day at the office and some supporters around me questioned his transfer fee, which wasn’t just annoying to hear but equally naive given the circumstances. Playing on his own in a 4-3-2 formation, it was made even harder by a lack of support with only Richarlison attempting to create chances in the final third on a regular basis.
He chased loose balls, pressed Brighton’s centre-backs but couldn’t create much of note bar firing wide from a half-chance. It’s important they back their club-record signing, as I’ve seen him perform far better than that and you can only hope from a Watford perspective that they allow him time to settle into their playstyle.
Pre-match, I predicted that Watford should and would come away with all three points against a Brighton side who many have as relegation candidates come the latter stages of this Premier League campaign. Miguel Britos’ silly first-half challenge meant he saw red and naturally, the game’s complexity changed completely.
I felt Marco Silva took too long to make substitutions, which is understandable given they had a numerical disadvantage though equally disappointing from a neutral perspective.
Tom Cleverley wasn’t good enough and it was a surprise that he was preferred to Etienne Capoue, in all honesty. Solly March was decent, as was Brighton’s defensive pairing (Duffy-Dunk), though time will tell if they can sustain consistency in the top-flight without a numerical advantage!