If Remi Garde didn't know exactly what he was getting himself into before last week's thrashing at Goodison Park, he definitely knows now. The points need to start coming from somewhere, and fast. As such, Garde will be thinking that this weekend's match against Watford is a tremendous opportunity to gain some points. This is the type of match that you need to be able to win to survive in the Premier League. That's not to say it'll be an easy match, however, as Watford have quietly had a strong season, sitting in 13th, with some breathing room from the bottom three. To check in on the Hornets' campaign, we connected with Bradley, who runs the show over at The Watford Blog.
I've gotta say, I've been impressed with Watford this season. They were a unlucky against United last weekend, but even without taking any points from that match, they sit on a solid 16 points. Is this where you thought Watford would be at this stage of the season?
Bradley: Not at all. I think many fans hoped that we would be around the mid-table mark, but really they thought we'd be closer to the relegation zone. I thought we would do reasonably well, but I thought we'd be in 15th or 16th. It's been a good start to the season though. We could and probably should have more points on the board than what we have. We arguably should have got a point vs Manchester United, Leicester and Palace and should have taken all three against Everton and Southampton. But, on the whole, it's been a good start to the season.
Do you think Watford are good enough to maintain their mid-table status for the rest of the season? Or will they be sucked back into a relegation battle?
Bradley: The way that we have started this season, I honestly think that we are more than capable of finishing around mid-table. We've looked right at home in the Premier League and have been competitive in every single game so far. We've beaten some decent Premier League sides so far and we've given some of the big boys a run for their money. For sixty minutes against Arsenal we were superb and we played reasonably well in the second half against United. If we continue how we have started, I think we will be fine.
Before the season, I picked Quique Sanchez Flores to be the first manager sacked. He was replacing a man who had just got the Wasps promoted, and was Watford's fifth manager of the last year. I figured a newly promoted side + instability = sacking. Instead, particularly given Villa's shambles of a season, I'm left feeling envious of Watford's head man. How are Watford fans feeling about the Spaniard?
Bradley: There is generally a positive feeling among Watford fans about Quique Sanchez Flores. He is a charming guy and has spoken frequently about how much the support from Watford fans mean to him. He's also won Watford fans over with matters on the field. We've played some decent football so far and have given every team we've faced a run for their money. Tactically, he is very clever, devising a new game plan for each game after analysing the opposition and drilling it into the players throughout the week. Our defence has been superb and we've only conceded 14 goals so far. The players have gelled relatively well and we look like a decent team. So on the whole, there is a positive feeling among Watford fans regarding Quique Sanchez Flores.
The schedule makers certainly didn't do you any favors over the Christmas period: Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, Man City. Not exactly the friendliest looking fixtures. Does that make taking the three points away from Villa Park even more crucial?
Bradley: I think our next three games are ones that we simply cannot afford to lose. After Villa, we face Norwich and Sunderland, all teams that are below us in the table and probably sides who we are fighting against to avoid relegation. The fixtures over Christmas may not be great, but our next three games are ones that we cannot lose, otherwise we will be sucked back in to the relegation battle. If we can get anywhere between 5-7 points from our next three games I would be happy. Hopefully we can pick up a point or two against some of the big boys over Christmas, but I'm not expecting any.
They were fairly active over the summer, bringing in a number of new faces, but are there any areas you think Watford need to address in the January window?
Bradley: I think we should add another striker to the squad, as if either Deeney or Ighalo got injured, we'd be in a bit of a pickle. We do have young Belgian striker, Obbi Oulare, on the books, but he hasn't played a minute of action since arriving from Club Brugge in the summer. I also think we could do with another winger. We have struggled down the wings this season and could do with an out-and-out winger in the squad who can deliver a good ball. We need a bit more cutting edge in attack so another striker and winger would be ideal.
Your nominee for player of the season so far?
Bradley: There's a few contenders here. I couldn't pick one, as there have been a number of players who have performed well. Odion Ighalo has been superb, scoring seven goals and he brings a lot of skill and pace up front, something which frightens defenders. It would be a toss up between him and Etienne Capoue. The French midfielder has really flourished since signing from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer. He goes about his business well and combines both his attacking and defensive duties efficiently. He is also excellent on the ball and has a bit of skill about him as well. There is a vine going round on Twitter with his nutmeg on Jesse Lingard last Saturday. That's not the first time he has nutmegged someone on the opposition this season! So I would say it is a toss up between Ighalo and Capoue.
If you could have any Villa player switch over to the Hornets, who would it be?
Bradley: I think it would be Micah Richards. He would bring a wealth of experience to the side and his versatility in defence would be handy. Would be a good back-up to have to Allan Nyom at right-back.
We've been one of the worst teams in the league the past 5 years or so. Do you want us to go down to simply get rid of a very bad team? Or do you want us to stick around, and hopefully rebound back to the Villa of old? Basically, have you given up on Villa?
Bradley: Aston Villa has always been a good club and I sympathise with what the supporters have been through over the last few years. I would like to see you rebound back to your former glory, but the way things are unfolding up at Villa Park at the minute, I can't see it happening for a while.
Once again, huge thanks to Bradley for his pre-match insight. Head over to The Watford Blog or follow him on twitter @WatfordFCBlog.