Match Preview: Watford (h) 1/9/12

Today The Rams take on Gianfranco Zola’s Watford. This is the last match before the international break and Derby are without a win, 3 points is desperately needed to help kick-start the season.

Mark Davies Mark Davies of Bolton Wanderers chases Will Hughes of Derby County during the npower Championship match between Bolton Wanderers and Derby County at Reebok Stadium on August 21, 2012 in Bolton, England.

This is a guest post preview for the game by Jonathan Rodgers.

Of course, Derby County are my club and I’ve supported them since I was a teenager but, for various reasons, my “second” team is definitely Watford FC. I probably watch them 5-6 times a season.

My first Watford game of this season was at home against Birmingham on Saturday and the game finished with a well deserved, entertaining victory for the boys in Yellow. This led a few of the Rams fans who saw the game on Sky to speculate on Twitter that we were in for a tough game on 1 September when Watford visit Pride Park. No doubt they were also mindful of our defeat there last season, where we never recovered from conceding two early, soft goals.
I’m confident that Derby can win on Saturday, if we carry on playing the positive way we’ve started the season and get the tactics right but playing Watford does hold some dangers. They were a decent team anyway last season but during the summer were taken over by Udinese’s Pozzo family and this has resulted in an influx of 11 new players, mainly on loan from Udinese & Granada. Gianfranco Zola has also taken over as manager with a coterie of Italian coaches and is trying to implement a passing style of football.

Last season, Derby were undone by two industrious central midfielders (Jonathan Hogg & our old friend John Eustace) and two nippy, clever wingers (Alex Kanafloc & Sean Murray). They may play with wingers this time but the system is likely to be pretty fluid with a midfield three swapping positions regularly in front of a holding midfielder. I reckon it will be 4-1-3-2. One thing that will be obvious is that they will try and play the ball out from the back rather than lumping the ball forward (although they do have that option).

In goal will be Manuel Alumnia who was released from Arsenal in the summer. He’s looked pretty solid (175 appearances for Arsenal is not to be sneezed at) so far this season and appears to have been told by Zola to play the ball out to the defenders rather than punt it upfield.
In central defence will probably be Martin Taylor and Nyron Nosworthy. Both are good, robust Championship defenders but might suffer if they have to play against tricky pacy forwards. Have we got any of those..?They also have a new role to cope with this season in that they will have to play the ball out from the back. To be fair, Taylor appeared to excel at this in the Brum game and even ventured forward to good effect on several occasions. Brum did sit back and allow this to happen though, so things might be different if Theo rampages around up front for us like he did last season
The full backs will probably be Daniel Pudil (on loan from Granada) on the left and Lloyd Doyley, Watford’s longest serving player on the right. Pudil is a lanky attacking threat down the left and a 22 cap Czech international. I was quite impressed by him but not sure his defensive skills have been tested yet.
Sitting in front of the back four will probably be Jonathan Hogg, a tenacious ball winner and a player I think is vitally important to the team, breaking up play and playing it simply to more attack minded players. The creative presence in central midfield is Almen Abdi (a Swiss international on loan from Udinese with over 40 games in the bag in the last two seasons in Seria A) Skilful and a very decent passer of the ball, Abdi doesn’t do much tracking back etc. (One Watford blogger @mattrowson described him as a Craig Ramage tribute act – a very apt description for those who recall the languid ex Derby/Watford midfielder. )
Making up the rest of a very fluid midfield quartet are Mark Yeates and Sean Murray. Yeates has played well most times I’ve seen him but some Watford fans/bloggers seem to take a dim view of him. He works hard, gets his head down and had a brilliant game on Saturday, slotting through a great pass for the second goal. Murray came out of Academy last season with a great fanfare and most Watford fans fear he’ll be snapped up by a Premier League club by next Summer. A skilful wide player with a decent goal record, Murray has started this season slowly, perhaps due to fitness issues.
Up front will probably be Matej Vydra and Chris Iwelumo (or Big Chris as most fans know him).
Vydra, just called up by the Czech Republic, is a quick, skilful striker who I reckon will end the season with 15+ goals (he’s scored 2 already including a stunner against Brum). Don’t bet against him scoring on Saturday.
Big Chris is a bit of an enigma. An often frustratingly immobile target man if ever there was one but sometimes capable of powerful, skilful front running and weighing in with the odd important goal.

My prediction for the weekend.
A 2-1 win for the Rams but only if we put sufficient pressure on Taylor & Nosworthy at the back and Abdi in midfield. Plus we have to be very careful about Vydra and Murray.
Come on you Rams!

Thanks Jonathan Rodgers for the article. Follow on twitter @popsider

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