Watford have found a new identity since switching to the 4-3-3 formation. The change, thus far, has brought about a 6-0 thumping of Bristol City, which was followed by a 1-0 away victory against Preston North End. Although the goal in the latter came from a penalty, the reason for the Hornets’ newfound attacking threat relies on the usage of the wide areas. But, the best has not appeared just yet.
Sarr And Femenia Provide Blueprint
Kiko Femenia and Ismaila Sarr have been standout performers for Watford on many occasions this season – with Femenia being the Hornets’ most consistent of players. Ever since Xisco Munoz decided to deploy a 4-3-3, both have further elevated their performance in the attacking phases of play.
Sarr had a mediocre match against Preston, but he was undoubtedly the Man of the Match against Bristol City. Femenia has performed admirably in both. Their link-up play and overlapping runs are what have propelled their success. The 4-3-3 is conducive to such movements, and Femenia and Sarr have adapted exceptionally.
Against Bristol City, Sarr scored twice, notched two assists, and was primarily responsible for the match’s opening goal. The fourth goal is the prime example of Femenia and Sarr’s threat together – chemistry that needs to be replicated on the left side of the pitch.
For the fourth goal against Bristol City, at the beginning of the attacking movement, Femenia made a surge down the right flank. Sarr had the ball about ten yards behind Femenia, meaning Femenia was the furthest man forward on the right side following the overlapping run. Sarr then fed the ball to Femenia on the wing, who slowed down the play until Sarr made it into the box. Femenia delicately chipped a ball to Sarr’s feet near the byline. Sarr then had a wide-open Ken Sema to find in the middle of the box. Femenia and Sarr’s intricate movement and interplay allowed for the Hornets to score a goal of the highest quality – movements they will be able to replicate on a match-by-match basis.
Even though Sarr was not as impressive against Preston, the overlapping runs from Femenia were still present and caused problems for the back-line. Sema and Adam Masina need to take note, as that bit of intricacy seems slightly less present on the left side.
Sema And Masina Need To Copy The Right
Although Sema and Masina have performed well as individuals in most of their appearances this season, there seems to be a bit of a disjoint went it comes to linking up in attacking play. Masina appears more reluctant than Femenia to make overlapping runs into attacking positions. On a couple of occasions against Preston, Sema and Masina’s miscommunications led to cheap goal kicks for the opposition.
Again, both have been phenomenal individually and have done their duties well. Masina has been robust and reliable in defense since returning from injury. Sema has continued to make his strong, calculated runs to the byline to fizz threatening balls across the box. But, to take Watford’s attacking threat to the next level, the two need to replicate the right side. In fact, Watford were able to take the lead the lone time they did mimic Sarr and Femenia successfully.
Success When Replication Occurred
The play which led to the penalty started with a Craig Cathcart long-ball in the direction of Sema. The Preston defender headed the ball to Tom Cleverley, who then headed the ball back to Sema. By the time Sema got the ball at his feet, Cleverley peeled out wide and Masina made an overlapping run (with Cleverley) to find himself five yards outside of the box in a central position.
Sema then found Masina in his dangerous position. The left-back then took two touches to give the ball back to Sema, who had peeled wide to give himself room to cross. Sema’s first-touch cross led to Joao Pedro being taken down in the box for the penalty.
It was Masina’s run forward which was the key in the attacking movement. If Sema and Masina put together movements like this at the rate Sarr and Femenia do, it will be hard for even the best of defenses to halt what can become an attacking juggernaut.
Wing-Play Key To Promotion
The 4-3-3 formation gives Watford the perfect balance. The Hornets’ defense has been one of the league’s best all season. Having three central-midfielders guarantees Watford midfield dominance in most matches. So, the attack is what will determine if the Hornets are to return to the Premier League. If Watford continue to establish intricate wide play as their form of attacking identity, then the Club’s prospects of promotion will continue to grow brighter.
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