First Team 20/01/2020

Shakespeare: “We Have Really Endorsed The Team Ethic”

By Kevin Affleck

Craig Shakespeare was delighted the team kept another clean sheet on Saturday, believing their resoluteness in defence is providing the bedrock for their climb up the table.

The shut-out they achieved against Tottenham Hotspur, who reached the Champions League final last season, was their eighth of the campaign, a remarkable number for a team that has spent much of it in the bottom three. Indeed, only runaway league leaders Liverpool have achieved more, which suggests the Hornets are doing something right defensively.

“They [Tottenham] have some very good attacking players, some real firepower,” Shakespeare said on Added Time. “I like to give credit to us as a team. I thought we were outstanding defensively again. That's another clean sheet and it's important we build on that. We have attacking players that can create, that can win the game. If we are solid at the back it allows you to go forward and win the game.”

The clean sheets have arrived with different personnel at the back, whether it be Kiko Femenía or Daryl Janmaat or Adrian Mariappa at right-back, José Holebas, Femenía or Adam Masina at left-back or Christian Kabasele or Craig Dawson partnering Craig Cathcart at the heart of the defence. It shows the strength in the depth, the robustness of the team structure and the collective will to keep the ball out of Ben Foster's net.

“It's a good starting point,” said Shakespeare. “The basics are very important and that's to defend well. Then, if you can, implement the attacking side, where we have got the players. Since we have come in, we have really endorsed the team ethic. It's vital everyone buys into that. We've tried to get over [the message] that the team ethic is more important than the individual. As an individual you need to complement the ethic.”

Ignacio Pussetto clearly got the memo, the new signing making a remarkable goal-line clearance from Erik Lamela in injury-time to preserve a vital point.

“We are hoping he only has to clear the ball off the line occasionally,” joked Shakespeare. “We are looking at him further forward, really, and hopefully he gets his chances. He's had a whirlwind few days, really. He looks a very likeable lad and has mixed in really well. He's getting to know the players and let's see what's he's capable of.”

Everyone knows what Troy Deeney is capable of as his track record at this place speaks for itself. Shakespeare said there was no blame apportioned to Deeney on Saturday for what was only his sixth penalty miss in ten years at this club.

“Penalties are massive opportunities to win the game,” said the Assistant Coach. “But Troy didn't let it affect his performance. I thought he was immense throughout the 90 minutes. He was fine [afterwards]. You tend to get players apologise for missing penalties but, for me, there is no reason to apologise. He has won us numerous points this season. He practises them during the week and his quality and success rate was really high. You have to give the goalkeeper a bit of credit.”

First Team 19/01/2020

Chalobah: “We’re In A Very Positive Frame Of Mind”

Nathaniel Chalobah felt the point picked up against José Mourinho's Tottenham Hotspur was one gained rather than two dropped, despite the Hornets failing to convert a penalty in the second half.

“It's a point won and they are a good side,” said the midfielder. “The start was very difficult for us because they are a possession side, but I thought we did very well in the second half.

“We have to focus on our performances. The last three or four games we have been at a good level and the results will follow the performances.”

Results breed positivity and Chalobah said the mood in the camp has been high, but nobody is getting ahead of themselves as the team have a lot of catching up to do in order to truly escape the relegation dogfight.

“We are in a very positive frame of mind and we know the situation we are in,” he said, ”We would take the point given the circumstances of the game, but we have got to keep on improving on ourselves and as a team.

“The manager has tried to keep the message that the results don’t matter, to keep our feet on the ground and stay humble. We know the situation we are in and we are working hard every day to try and improve.”

The Hornets could have won it with the penalty, but the away side came just as close to scoring a winner when Erik Lamela's effort was hooked off the line in injury time by his compatriot Ignacio Pussetto.

“You could possibly say that [we were unlucky not to win], but this is football. On another day Troy puts the penalty in and we all move forward and no-one thinks about it but sometimes these things happen,” said Chalobah.

“We will have to get around each other and go again in the next game. I couldn't see [the goal-line clearance] from my angle but I was just buzzing he cleared it off the line. I saw the picture when I was on the bench and thought 'oh my god'.

“A point against Tottenham is always something to be proud of. You've got to be positive and take the same type of performance into the next game really and take it step by step.”