By Kevin Affleck
Nigel Pearson says the Hornets' need for points is too great to allow Saturday's game against record-chasing Liverpool to fall into the free-hit category.
The runaway Premier League leaders come to town on Saturday chasing a 19th straight league win, one that would eclipse the top-flight record set by Manchester City in 2017. Three points at Vicarage Road would move the Reds to within three wins of the title, but Pearson is in no mood to have his team roll over and have their tummy tickled.
“We have got our own agenda and that is to save our own season,” he said. “If the players can prove they are capable of playing against the best side in the country, I think that's the motivation the players need. We have to win games for our own season – not to change history for another club. It's about our season, our circumstances. If you go into games writing them off because you are playing against a top side, you limit your opportunities to pick up points. We have to go out there and give it our best. If we are at our best, and they are not, then who knows.
“There is probably less expectation on us in this game than others. There are three points up for grabs in every game you play and, first and foremost, I want us to play as well as we can play. I don't like losing any game but we know we have to be at our best to give ourselves an opportunity in this game.”
One Liverpool legend felt the Hornets gave the Reds their toughest home game of the season when the two sides met in December, and Pearson will want a repeat of that fearless display, albeit with a bit of cutting edge this time.
“First and foremost, our approach this week is to try and get our performance and our application as close to maximum as possible,” he said. “When we played before Christmas, it was a really tough game. Our level of performance was good. Their quality shone through in the end and that won them the game, but we had our opportunities and we didn't take them. We just have to play as close to our maximum as we can and, if we do that, then we can cause anybody problems. It's then whether the key moments go your way or not. It's going to be a very difficult game, but my only concern really is to make sure play we can play as well as we can play and then we need them not quite at their best.”
The game at Liverpool was Pearson's first in charge and that encouraging performance laid the foundation for the four wins in five games that followed. A winless run of five matches has followed that but the Hornets still find themselves with a very decent shot at avoiding relegation – and everybody would have taken that position if you had offered them it when leaving Anfield in the middle of December.
“It's been a dose of realism,” said Pearson. “I've known right from day one it's not going to be straightforward. We've had an extraordinary run of games to get us back in contention and we are still very much in contention. We realise we need to start winning games again, sooner rather than later. We very much have a fighting chance of retaining our Premier League status and that's what it's all about. We've got to make sure our own performance is as good as we know it can be. Last week we were a bit disappointed with ourselves. In a game which was not exactly full of quality we were pretty comfortable and probably were guilty of making mistakes that we had not made in other games. We go into this week's game with an opportunity to put this right.”
The Hornets have done a lot of things right under Pearson. They have taken the lead in all but three of the 11 league games he has been in charge – and one of those was a goalless draw with Tottenham – and it looks like they just need to a weave a bit of game management into their approach.
“In the early part of the season we couldn't score,” he “We are creating chances and I think we trying to utilise our creative players which gets us up the field more often, which helps us create more chances and, hopefully, take more chances, We've dropped points form winning positions for sure, but I don't want to that to become something the players fear. I'd rather take the lead in any game. We'll come good again, for sure.”