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Previewing the Unpreviewable: Watford vs. Newcastle

Newcastle look to bounce back after suffering their first defeat of the Premier League’s Project Restart

Manchester City v Newcastle United - Premier League
Steve Bruce and a fan
Photo by Oli Scarff/Pool viaGetty Images

Well folks, this series has returned! Your not so serious preview of Newcastle's opponents is returning in all its glory with all the hottest takes in the world, all the fun stats and all the stupid inside jokes that come with #blogging.

Chris Lovell’s wonderful previews will be returning soon, but for now, y’all are stuck with me. A 23 year old American from the deep south who doesn’t understand any of the Geordie slang that is frequently dropped in our slack chat. None of that matters though, so let’s just hop into this preview.

Recent Form

Overall, the restart has been fairly positive for both teams. Newcastle come into this match having played some of the best attacking football we have seen from the club all season. Manchester City loss aside, Steve Bruce’s 4 in the back formation has been able to get the best out of key Newcastle players like Allan Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almiron ,Jonjo Shelvey , and even Sean Longstaff, resulting in an impressive 10 goals from the team in 4 matches. Obviously these results have to be taken with a grain of salt as Newcastle has played some of the weaker sides in the Premier League and benefited from being up a man against Sheffield. Nonetheless, it is good to see Newcastle play attacking football regardless of the opponent, especially when this season even against inferior opponents they struggled to generate offense.

Watford on the other hand have not played particularly well, but due to results elsewhere are not being punished for it. After only winning one match since the restart, Watford are still safe for now in 17th with 31 points. Even if they lose against Newcastle, and Bournemouth, who are in 18th, win this weekend Watford would likely still be safe for now with their goal differential. However, Watford will look to try to control as much of their destiny as possible by trying to pick up a win or draw against Newcastle as Newcastle is the second easiest opponent they have left on the schedule.

The results since the restart for each club are below

Watford (DLLLW)

Watford 1-1 Leicester

Burnley 1-0 Watford

Watford 1-3 Southampton

Chelsea 3-0 Watford

Watford 2-1 Norwich

Newcastle (WDLWDL)

Newcastle 3-0 Sheffield United

Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa

Newcastle 0-2 Manchester City (FA Cup)

Bournemouth 1-4 Newcastle

Newcastle 2-2 West Ham

Manchester City 5-0 Newcastle

What do Newcastle have to do to win?

After an embarrassing and likely calculated loss against Manchester City, Newcastle are looking to finish out the season strong. While European football is not really on the cards anymore, a top 10 finish is still something to chase after. If Newcastle want to do that it starts with regaining the intensity they had been bringing to their matches prior Wednesday’s Manchester City mauling.

Manchester City v Newcastle United - Premier League
It was a long day for the players that faced Man City on Wednesday
Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Wednesday Newcastle looked disinterested, lethargic, and exhausted. In fairness, Steve Bruce threw out a very rotated lineup with players who seemingly had nothing to gain from putting in a decent shift. Hopefully with some familiar faces returning to the lineup, they can regain the intensity they've been bringing to every Premier League side. Against a team like Watford, who are going to be missing some of their most threatening players, it is going to be important to close them down quickly, make them feel uncomfortable on the ball, and exploit a shaky back line with the pace of Newcastle’s attackers.

Rolling out the back 4 with the strategic pressing Steve Bruce has been implementing since the restart should get the job done, and at a minimum give Newcastle a chance to pick up some points.

Players to watch

For the past few seasons Watford have looked like a team punching above their weight in the Premier League. They have consistently been in relegation battles nearly every year since being in the Premier League. Them going down has been a question of not if, but when. Every year analysts pick them to get relegated, partially because there is nothing sexy about this roster. When your bright spot on your roster is a 32 year old striker past his prime, you might have an issue.

Despite all of this, Watford has remained in the Premier league, largely because they have signed a bunch of talented players who are largely inconsistent, but all have the ability to take over a match for the better. Players like Isaac Success, Gerard Deulofeu, Roberto Pereyra, Etienne Capoue, Abdoulaye Doucare, Nathaniel Chalobah and big money signing Ismaila Sarr all are extremely talented, but their inconsistency has held them back from taking the club beyond a bottom of the table side.

If you look at Watford’s matches after the restart every single match one of these guys plays extremely well and everyone else plays like utter cow poop. It is truly bizarre to have this many players on one team that are so inconsistent. It easily makes Nigel Pearson’s job one of the hardest in the Prem because he has no idea what version of each player he will get.

A perfect example of this is Roberto Pereyra, who before the restart was one of the best and most consistent players on the Watford roster. He started nearly every match, and was the source of all of the offense for the side. Since the restart however, he has literally been unplayable. He has been relegated to the bench and plays exclusively garbage time because he is so so so so bad. I reckon Yoshinori Muto could get in ahead of him at Watford right now.

Watford FC v Leicester City - Premier League
Since the restart Pereyra has been a shell of himself
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

That being said, since the restart there have been a couple of standout players for Watford. Etienne Capoue, Will Hughes and Nathaniel Chalobah have been solid for Watford in their return to action, particularly Will Hughes who has played all over the midfield for Watford fairly well. Abdoulaye Doucare and Ismaila Sarr were both having really good seasons before the Premier League’s pause, and still of course have the ability to give any team struggles.

Another player to watch would be Danny Welbeck, who score the match winner in their win against Norwich. He surprisingly is the only attacking player to score for the side since the restart. Their leading scorer since the restart has been center back Craig Dawson, who has two goals to his name.

Injuries... of which there are many

The restart, as feared, has resulted in a fair bit of injuries for a lot of clubs due to the quick turnaround and high number of matches being played. Until last week Newcastle really had not felt the effects of the restart to the degree of other teams in the Premier League.

This week however, the injury list for Newcastle is quite long with a few players likely done for the season. Isaac Hayden picked up a Hamstring injury this past week that will likely end his season, Sean Longstaff is in a similar situation after a brilliant display against Bournemouth was cut short due to a Hamstring injury. Ciran Clark and Florian Lejeune are lkely not going to ever make an appearance during this restart as both are still nursing lower body injuries. Andy Carroll and Emil Krafth both picked up injuries in the past few days that have ruled them both out for the foreseeable future. Jamaal Lascelles, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin were rested this past Wednesday as they nursed minor knocks back to full strength. It is probable all 3 of them will play this weekend.

On the Watford side of things, Newcastle Legend Daryl Janmaat is still out with an injury, and is joined on the sideline by two of Watford’s better players Isaac Success and Gerard Deulofeu.

One Bold Prediction

Both Allan Saint- Maximin and Miguel Almiron will score.

It does not happen often, but against a shaky back line like Watford’s who have stuggled against pacey attackers since the restart, I could easily see them both getting a lot of opportunities on the break to score goals. The question in the past has been whether or not they could finish said chances, but fortunately for Newcastle both are playing with an insane amount of confidence and have been two of Newcastle’s best players this season.

One Not So Bold Prediction

Christian Atsu will almost score.

Christian Atsu almost scores every single time he steps on a pitch and we should expect more of the same. Unfortunately for us, this not so bold prediction is looking more and more bold each match, as even with having 5 substitutions we still have only seen Christian Atsu once since the restart. It is truly sad for those of us who enjoy seeing him almost score.

The Elijah Newsome Clout Rating

If you missed the explanation for this revolutionary system an explanation can be found here. If you don’t want to read more than 3 sentences about the word “clout”, just know my Clout rating is a rating based on a club’s swag, influence and relevance.

Everything about Watford is meh. The Crest is laughable, the kits are ugly, the players lack any sort of personality, and I know one Watford fan in the states.

That should be enough to let you know where this is going, but we are still going to justify this awful clout rating they are about to get.

First and foremost, a moose on the crest is not even funny, it is just sad. Most teams choose something intimidating like a cannon, or majestic like a bird, or regal like a lion. Watford here opted to go with this least coordinated, obnoxious, confusing, animal known to man. Moose ( I think that is the plural of moose) are not even interesting animals, they are just either boring or complete assholes. There is no in between. Even nature documentaries would rather focus on the lives of chipmunks rather than give moose any attention. There is probably some logical reason why there is a moose on Watford’s crest. But guess what? I don’t care, because this is not a logical section of this preview. This is all about clout. There is no logic when it comes to clout, you either have it or you don’t, and this crest is the exact opposite of clout. I think honestly the saddest thing about this crest is that the city “Watford” is just on the crest in the most boring way possible. It is a header for an unimpressive animal that has been colored in with the worst possible color scheme.

How can they be smiling with such ugly kits?
Photo by MATT DUNHAM/AFP via Getty Images

If the crest was not bad enough, Watford easily has some of the worst kits in the Premier League. Their demise starts with the colors selected. Yellow, Black, Red is a jarring combination. On their own, the individual colors are great. Red is a wonderful color that exudes power, and is one of the most popular colors in all of sports. Yellow is a vibrant color that is not used often in sports that is often associated with energy and happiness. Black... well it goes with everything and is a badass color.

Even certain combinations of these three colors are brilliant. Red and Black is a classic combination that is seen in every major sporting league often multiple times, because it just works. Black and yellow, while less frequent is still a great color combination that allows yellow to shine.

Unfortunately for Watford, they decided to combine 3 great colors, and instead of the ultimate color scheme, what they got was what looks like some sort of sick bee massacre. When this imagery is then translated to a kit, there is literally nothing you can do to make it look somewhat decent. Adidas has tried everything from solid colors, to stripes, to whatever yin yang design they are trying this year. The yin yang design has been the worst of the bunch, as it looks like piss water refusing to mix with swamp water. All of the kits suck, and they always will when your color combination reminds people of a burnt hot dog at a barbecue.

Things are clearly not going well for Watford, so you would at least hope that they have some sort of fun personalities to keep the fans engaged. Spoiler Alert: they don’t. Isaac Success is probably one of the only relevant players for Watford with any sort of swag, and unfortunately for Watford it is quite possible he won’t be on the team next season to keep them relevant. Outside of Success, the most relevant players are 32 year old Troy Deeney who is a shell of himself and would rather be working on his model ship collection at this rate than playing football; and Danny Welbeck, who’s claim to fame is being ALMOST really good at Arsenal.

So yeah, things are rough for Watford. There is nothing really to be excited about if you are Watford fan which is why I’ll be praying for my one friend who accidentally became a Watford fan. Ethan, if you are reading this, I hope Watford stay up so I can continue to roast you for being a Watford fan.

Projected Lineups

Despite cries for Valentino Lazaro to start, I doubt it actually happens, because for some reason Steve Bruce is not competent enough to recognize he is likely our 4th most dangerous player with the ball at his feet. I could also see Steve Bruce trying to force Joelinton to play out wide again in order to continue to start the red hot Dwight Gayle.

After a solid performance against Manchester City, Danny Rose has likely reinserted himself in the starting lineup for Steve Bruce. With Krafth being injured, and DeAndre Yedlin not starting any meaningful matches in some time, it is likely we see a full back duo of Manquillo and Rose. Bentaleb will likely return to the midfield alongside Jonjo with Miggy playing as a CAM. It’s honestly a coin flip as to whether ASM will actually start this match or not. In my opinion it is not worth playing him the rest of the season, because he is that important to Newcastle’s success. Save him up for the September start date of the 2020-21 season so that Newcastle can secure safety earlier.

For Watford I don’t anticipate them changing the lineup that got them a win against Norwich because that was the first win Watford has had since February. When you are in a relegation battle, you play the players that are hot, They might not be the best players, but playing in form players could be the difference between keeping your sweet cheeks in the Prem or relegation.

Watford Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1): Foster, Kiko Kabsele, Dawson, Masina, Capoue, Hughes, Sarr,Doucoure, Welbeck, Deeney

Newcastle Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1): Dubravka, Manquillo, Fernandez,Lascelles, Rose, Shelvey, Bentaleb, Saint-Maximin, Almiron, Joelinton, Gayle

One Random Fact to Say at the Bar

Well most of you might not be able to say this at a bar but be sure to impress any of your friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, nannies, nanas, parents, husbands or wives with this stat.

Watford are unbeaten in all five of their Premier League home games against Newcastle (2 wins, 3 draws). After winning 2 of their first 3 Premier League matches against Watford, Newcastle have won one of their last 8 matches against the side.

Elijah’s Never Wrong Prediction

Man, Newcastle have STRUGGLED against bad teams this season. Teams that on paper, even Newcastle are better than seem to have given Newcastle struggles this season.

We can never make things easy for ourselves, so I am predicting a 2-2 draw.

Match Facts and Where to Watch

Date: Saturday, 11 July 2020

Kick-off: 7:30 AM EST 12:30 PM GMT

Venue: Vicarage Road Watford

TV Coverage: NBC Sports Gold (USA), Amazon (UK)*

Referee: Craig Pawson

*This match being broadcast on Amazon is completely free, so take advantage of it!