Femenía: “Pearson Has Given Us The Extra Boost”
By Kevin Affleck
Kiko Femenía credits Nigel Pearson with the turnaround that has seen the team lift itself out of the relegation zone.
The Hornets looked adrift when Pearson arrived to watch the home game with Crystal Palace and were nine points off safety going into the home game with Manchester United just before Christmas. The Head Coach has helped choreograph five wins and three draws since he arrived, tripling the Hornets' points tally and navigating a way up to 17th.
“He has come and shared his ideas and I think the team has been able to incorporate them, which has given us the extra boost in confidence that we needed,” Femenía told Premier League Productions. “Few people had faith in us but now we are where we are. Since he arrived, confidence has grown within the squad, he has made us believe in ourselves and our teammates and it is fair to say that, since he came, we have played good matches.”
Pearson changed the formation to a 4-3-3, played Abdoulaye Doucouré in a more advanced role and stationed Will Hughes at the base of the midfield, but Femenía believes the way the Head Coach has put smiles on faces and restored confidence has been the key.
“I think the biggest change is the belief we have in ourselves,” said the full-back. “I think we had lost that a bit. The players knew how to play, all we needed was a confidence boost from someone that believed in us and the gaffer came in and showed us that he believed in us and I think now we are playing really well.”
Pearson got the team believing in itself to such an extent that they were able to end Liverpool's 44-match unbeaten run.
“We played a great game right from the go,” said Femenía. “I know the three goals came in the second half but I think the first half we had chances. From the go, we were going for a win and we were obviously deserving of the win. Of course, beating a club like that gives an extra boost to our confidence and motivation ahead of playing the remaining games. We now know we can beat anyone, more so at home with our fans.”
The game also marked the return of Femenía, 29, from a hamstring injury.
“I was lucky that I was back for that game and that we played so well,” he said. “I am very happy I could play a small role in that victory and always supporting the team that is now getting points. It is always difficult for a player when they can’t contribute and watch how results are going in their team’s favour.”
The run-in has been suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak and the Premier League have said their aim is to reschedule the matches when it is safe to do so. The Hornets have five at home and four away.
“We know it won’t be easy, no team is easy to face,” said Femenía. “It doesn’t matter who the teams are, clubs at the bottom are also sneaking points and other teams are gifting points. So we just need to set our sights on the future and believe in ourselves. We have nine games left and we should treat them like finals. But overall, it is a case of remaining calm, playing each game as it comes. We have shown that we can win against anyone. We just need to be united, strong and mentally prepared.”
The Hornets are out of the bottom three on goal difference and have to pick up sufficient points in games against Leicester City, Burnley, Southampton, Chelsea, Norwich, Newcastle, West Ham, Manchester City and Arsenal to ensure they finish above the dotted line.
“Of course, I am convinced we can,” said Femenía. “We are fighting for it and I think we deserve to for both the club and the fans. I think home games will help, we need to win as many points as possible. It’s not going to be easy, but I think when we play at home we are united and successful and so I think we will escape relegation. I prefer not to look at the table because at the end of the day, the table doesn’t saying anything. It’s all about winning both at the top of the table and the bottom. You need to win to escape relegation. It’s not about looking at others and seeing whether they lost, won or drew – we need to be stronger and focus on ourselves and look to the game ahead as a chance to get three points.”