First Team 06/03/2020

Pearson: “I Want Us To Always Be Competitive”

By Kevin Affleck

Nigel Pearson has no doubt about which division the club will be playing in next season after watching his side confirm its rich potential in that memorable win over Liverpool.

The Hornets pulled off their best ever Premier League win and one of its greatest all-time victories by putting three answered goals past Liverpool at a crackling Vicarage Road. The Head Coach knew his side were on the right track long before the riotous events on Saturday and saw enough in the game and in the immediate aftermath to know that wasn't a flash in the pan.

“I believe we'll stay in the Premier League,” said the bullish Head Coach who has trebled the Hornets' points tally since he took charge. “We worked very hard to get into a competitive situation. We've had some very good performances, some very good days and some days where we were not quite at our best. What I want us to always do is be as competitive as we can and have the intent to produce our best performance.

“Last week we were able to do it and I thought we played very well to get a fabulous win. Straight after the that game the mood in the dressing room was elated, but the players were very clear these are not the games we are going to need to win. Their understanding of our situation is pretty clear. I like the fact they are aware we have got to find a level of performance every time. The reality is that you are not going to be at your best every week, but providing I see the right effort and commitment, I think we have got a really good chance of staying up.”

Pearson takes his buoyant side to Selhurst Park on Saturday to face a Crystal Palace side who pulled off their own great escape in 2017/18. They had no points or goals after seven games yet managed to finish 14th.

“They've got good players,” said Pearson. “Roy's teams are very well set out and from being in real difficulty when Roy took over, they've been able to get a good level of stability. We know it's going to be a very tough game for us. The corresponding game was goalless but...both sides tried to win it. It wasn't a boring game of chess. It was two committed sides who nullified each other. It will be a tough game, for sure.”

The game on Saturday will pitch Pearson against Hodgson, two wily English coaches with plenty of experience and tactical acumen between them.

“He's had such a varied career and his contribution to the game is very well recognised throughout the world,” said Pearson. “He's managed extensively in Scandavia, in Italy, with the Swiss national side and he's multi-lingual. He's an English manager who has travelled extensively and been successful. He's had an incredible career.”

First Team 05/03/2020

Team News: Crystal Palace

By Kevin Affleck

Nigel Pearson is understandably disappointed to lose a player of Gerard Deulofeu's calibre for an extended period, but has laid down the challenge to those in the running to replace the Spaniard to step up and fill his magic-ladden boots.

The former Barcelona forward ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament and tore the meniscus in his right knee following a challenge with Virgil van Dijk in the riotous 3-0 win over Liverpool on Saturday. The 25-year-old is due to have surgery in Barcelona, leaving a hole in the Watford team and the Head Coach is looking at Roberto Pereyra, Ignacio Pussetto and Danny Welbeck as options to fill his shoes on the left side of the front three.

“It's disappointing because he's been one of our really good performers,” said Pearson. “He's been a match-winner, is a very creative player and he will be a miss, but what we have to make sure is that when he does have his surgery, that it's successful and it's about planning his recovery there on in. At this point, prior to surgery, I can't give an indication [into the period on the sidelines]. Normally, these types of injuries you are looking at five to six months, something like that. In the meantime, the players we have available must make sure they are ready to do the job required.”

Troy Deeney told the stricken Deulofeu at half-time on Saturday that he would vow to win the game for him and he delivered big style.

“Wishing @gerardeulofeu all the best with surgery and recovery,” tweeted the captain today. “I'm sure the professionalism you show every day will have you back quicker than ever. See you soon, amigo.”

Apart from Deulofeu and Daryl Janmaat, who is making really good progress following knee surgery, Pearson has a fully-fit squad to choose from for the visit to Selhurst Park on Saturday – and that includes the in-form Ismaïla Sarr.

“He's a player who has had a big impact coming back into the side, a very telling one, too,” said Pearson of the Senegal forward who scored twice against Liverpool. “He's going to be important for us. He's a player with lots of potential but I'm reluctant to put too much emphasis on one player. His qualities give us something very, very different. If we can keep him fit, and he produces the type of form he has been, it is obvious we have a real match-winner.”

Sarr, who was 21 when he joined in the summer, took a while to settle after his club-record move from Rennes, but he's now looking every inch the player the club knew they had signed.

“He's a young man who wants to play regular football, who decided to come to us and we've invested a lot of money in him,” said Pearson. “He's still got things to learn but his natural ability and his physical attributes mean is he a very modern-day player who has the potential to have a very good career.”