Cottagers Confidential: Watford was probably one of the favorites for promotion, yet they find themselves out of the playoff positions. They have one win in the last seven games and have currently dropped four straight games. Are you expecting to get back on track versus Fulham, or are cracks starting to show at the club?
Matt Rowson: Difficult one to call really. The squad is arguably the strongest we've ever had - certainly in terms of depth of talent and options. And yet the team is currently some way short of the sum of its parts. We are and have been capable of playing some scintillating football, real ping-ping-ping, wow how did they even THINK that stuff. And yet... particularly in recent weeks there's been a lack of conviction, a lack of welly. Which isn't to say that the cracks are starting to show as you put it... the game against Cardiff was one that we could and should have won comfortably, for example, whilst of the previous difficult run only the defeat at Birmingham was irredeemable, a game that we (at the very least) couldn't have gotten anything from. The problem is that so many of these nearly-but-not-quite games have come one after another.
And a lack of oomph isn't something that Watford fans are used to... indeed, Watford supporters have had to adjust to an almost inverted set of circumstances to three years ago, say, when under questionable leadership off the pitch a series of managers were overachieving with a limited budget based on a well drilled, committed team that was very easy to love and more than the sum of its parts. As for the game on Friday tho... don't be fooled into thinking that this is a Watford team on the slide. There's an extraordinary amount of ability in this Watford squad, and specifically with a lot of pace up front and players who can sling the ball around we're custom made to attack on the break.
CC: Tell us about Slaviša Jokanović. He seems like a mystery man, having never managed in a league most of us watch. He doesn't really seem to have the pedigree that you would have expected in a club with top flight aspirations. His results (albeit in a small sample) have also been poor: two wins in eight games and only grabbing one point per game. Was his hire a stretch due to panic over the weird managerial situation? Do supporters feel he's the right man for the job?
MR: We don't know much about him either. In any event, not sure about "panic"... whilst the number of managers we've had this season is pretty extraordinary only the replacement of McKinlay by Jokanovic (with the side second in the league after only eight days) felt odd. OK, very odd. But as we'll come to in Q3, the Pozzo family haven't come across as trigger-happy emotional, irrational chancers, anything but... so if anything the ostensibly weird decision to replace McKinlay after two games is very much against the grain. It's extremeness, against this backdrop and given the trust the Pozzos have earned, leads me to trust the decision. There's more on the backdrop to this here if you're interested. But what do fans think of Jokanovic? Four defeats on the hop aren't going to win many over, albeit, as above, we've not played THAT badly and have been better than four defeats on the hop suggests.
CC: Many Fulham fans may only know to things about Watford: Elton John used to own the club and now it's owned by Udinese, who seemed to want to use it as a farm club. If you wanted to enlighten someone to Watford, what would you tell them?
MR: See the article linked above for a fuller explanation... but in short, the club was in a precarious, parlous state when the Pozzos took over. They have sorted out the finances and the infrastructure, and built a long-awaited stand down the east side of the ground. The notion of us being a feeder club for Udinese isn't quite accurate... the Pozzos own Udinese, Granada and Watford but the backbone is a vast scouting network, by reputation the largest in the world, which digs up these players and places them where they are deemed to be most needed/most likely to succeed. As such it's an amplified version of the buy-low-sell-high strategy adopted by most medium-to-small clubs, and the list of players unearthed by Udinese is pretty extraordinary (see this for a more detailed account). On the whole, Watford fans are very happy with the big picture (albeit we could do with a win on Friday...)
CC: Predicted lineup and scoreline?
MR: Soreline... could be anything, but we've got loads of pace with which to attack on the break and are visiting I side who will be confident of getting a result. Don't take anything for granted... least of all our line-up, which has vast perutations in terms of both personnel and formation (whereby hangs most of the criticism). One of a very large number of possible permutations/line-ups is: