Watford begin their new season at Vicarage Road on Saturday, as they face Gareth Ainsworth’s QPR. The Hornets are favourites ahead of the game due to the home advantage and QPR’s recent pre-season showings. Despite this, the Hoops actually did the double over Watford last season and they will wish to repeat that this campaign.
Even though Watford were only relegated from the Premier league in 2021/22 season, they were extremely underwhelming in their attempt to bounce straight back into the top flight and they ultimately finished last season in 11th place. The Hornets did have a relatively decent record at home last season, which should give them confidence going into this weekend, especially as their away form could be described as concerning. At Vicarage Road, they scored 1.52 goals per game and conceded only 1 goal per game which is pretty respectable.
However, with the departure of their two best players, Joao Pedro and Ismaila Sarr, Watford could struggle in front of goal if they do not successfully replace them in the transfer window. They received just over £40 million for the two attackers, yet they haven’t shown much desire to invest and their only notable attacking signing is 28-year-old Rhys Healey on a free from Toulouse. They’ve also bolstered their defence with the addition of Jamal Lewis on loan from Newcastle United.
Boss, Valerien Ismael has preferred a five back formation in pre-season which may give us a glimpse into how Watford will line-up on Saturday. The Hornets will look to dominate the proceedings however the Watford faithful are concerned about the lack of goal scorer in the side, which may become apparent as the game goes on.
Last campaign, QPR struggled under the management of Gareth Ainsworth and they only won one of his first ten games, which funnily enough was against Watford. The Hoops did have a better record away from home than at home last season, which was mainly down to the two victories in the last three games. What will concern the fans the most about last season, was their inability to score enough goals, only Wigan and Cardiff scored fewer than them. Unfortunately for QPR, the goals conceded statistic doesn’t go in their favour either, as they conceded the second most goals last season.
Despite bringing in a handful of players including Jack Colback and Asmir Begovic, none of them look like signings that will help QPR get out of the root they see themselves in. Based on last season’s statistics, Ilias Chair was almost the only player to produce any form of creativity which often meant that the attackers were feeding off scraps.
After QPR’s pre-season concluded this week with a 5-0 loss to League One side Oxford United, Ainsworth wasn’t exactly optimistic about their chances on Saturday which sums up the mood in camp, he stated “Everyone knows we are up against it”, hardly an inspiring message to the fans and his players.
Watford scored in 83% of their home games last season and with QPR’s poor goals conceded record combined with their lack of attacking impetus, it is reasonable to presume that the home side will be confident that they can pick up three points.
Furthermore, unless there is a miraculous change around over the next few days at QPR, I can’t see anything other than a comfortable Watford victory and most of the QPR faithful would incline to agree.