Talking Tactics

Promoted clubs: Watford back with new-look attack

By Adrian Clarke 12 Jun 2021
Sarr and Joao Pedro

Adrian Clarke on how Hornets have got the best out of stars like Ismaila Sarr and Joao Pedro

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Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical elements of the three clubs promoted to the Premier League for 2021/22.


For the majority of last season Watford changed between 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 formations and never looked fully at ease in either.

But from February onwards, following December's appointment of head coach Xisco Munoz, they settled on a 4-3-3 system and never looked back.

It was a balanced shape that suited their players and helped to transform the quality of their football.

How Watford won promotion

Will Hughes, who had been used out of position at times, looked far more comfortable pulling the strings as the anchor of a midfield trio.

In attack, Watford moved away from using captain Troy Deeney as an automatic pick.

Instead, talented young forward Joao Pedro was flanked by pacy wide men Ismaila Sarr and Ken Sema, forming a terrific trio.

Munoz used the 4-3-3 system in 17 of the final 18 matches, and Watford won 13 of them to cruise to automatic promotion.

Joao Pedro's 2020/21 goals

One of Watford's strongest areas is their right wing.

Full-back Kiko Femenia and wide forward Sarr have struck up a wonderful understanding and tormented a number of Championship sides.

Watford's top creators 2020/21
Open-play chances created Open-play crosses
Sarr 42 Sarr 150
Sema 39 Sema 118
Femenia 27 Femenia 106
Pedro 24 Ngakia 58

Sarr’s blistering speed is a major asset, helping Watford transition from defence to attack extremely quickly.

With him on the right and Sema on the left, the Hornets will offer a serious counter-attacking threat this term.

Sarr revelled in the 4-3-3 formation, scoring 13 goals and adding four assists last term, with eight of his strikes coming during a terrific run-in.

Sarr's goals 2020/21

Watford's home form was also a key factor last season.

They won 12 out of their 13 home matches under Munoz, keeping 11 clean sheets and conceding only three goals.

Indeed, across last season as a whole Watford earned 59 points at Vicarage Road, 11 more than any other club in their home matches.

They scored first in 21 of their 23 home fixtures, winning 18.

Visiting teams will certainly have a fight on their hands in Hertfordshire this season.

Top teams for scoring first at home
2020/21 Matches scored first in Points in those matches
Watford 21 56
Norwich 16 39
Reading 15 37
Also in this series

Part 1: Promoted clubs: Norwich return with improved defence
Part 2: Promoted stars: Pukki must be clinical for Norwich
Part 4: Promoted stars: Sierralta can excel for Watford
Part 5: Promoted clubs: Brentford have the balance to thrive
Part 6: Promoted stars: Toney the full package

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