Swansea City-Watford Preview
Swansea City may have lamented the timing of the first break given their fast start. But after their players made strong contributions for their international squads, the Swans appear to be in high spirits ahead of Saturday's match versus Watford at Vicarage Road.
One of three teams in the table without a loss, Swansea (2-2-0) are enjoying their best start in Premier League history and currently in fourth place - four points behind early pacesetters Manchester City. The Swans went into the recess on a high after a 2-1 victory over Manchester United on Aug. 30, overturning an early second-half deficit on goals by Andre Ayew and Bafetimbi Gomis in a five-minute span.
"Our performances and results so far have given us confidence but we need to continue working hard to get the outcome we want Saturday," midfielder Federico Fernandez told Swansea's official website. "It has been a good start for us, too, but now we face another difficult game."
Ayew and Gomis have accounted for all seven of Swansea's league goals, with Gomis netting in all four matches. But Fernandez thinks his teammates may be ready to add their names to the scoresheet after watching them play for their respective European squads for qualifying.
"I looked out to see how the boys got on for their countries, and it was great to see Gylfi (Sigurdsson) score and then help Iceland qualify for the tournament," the Argentine said. "Jonjo (Shelvey) also got to start for the first time for England, which is great for him. ... And I also saw parts of the Wales games - they are so close to qualifying. Ash (Ashley Williams) and Tayls (Neil Taylor) played very well over the two games and we are glad to see them coming back without any injuries."
A key reason for the Swans' early success has been their balance on both sides of the ball. On defence, they have allowed just 36 shots, and more than half of those attempts have come outside the penalty area. As has been the case since being promoted for the 2011-12 season, Swansea's possession-style offence has paid dividends - they are fourth in the league with a completed pass rate of 83 percent - and they are third in the league with an average of 7.0 shots per match in the central area inside the penalty area.
Watford (0-3-1) return from the break hoping the extra practice time will spark an offence that has found the back of the net just twice to date. The promoted side has gone 277 minutes without a goal in league play since Odion Ighalo's tally gave the Hornets a share of points at Everton on Aug. 8, and 367 minutes overall, and they have failed to put a shot on target in their last two Premier League matches after being outclassed by Manchester City 2-0 on Aug. 29.
"The start of the season is always a period when you have to establish what is the situation of the team," manager Quique Sanchez Flores told the Watford Weekend Preview Show. "We have had a lot of players who have the possibility to play in the next match, so we have used the time to try and correct the situations we are not quite as happy from the first matches."
Since the start of the 2007-08 season, no EPL team has gone three consecutive matches without a shot on goal, and the Hornets are just the third in that span to fail to register one in back-to-back matches.
Despite failing to score at Vicarage Road thus far, the Hornets do feel more comfortable at home. They have held the majority of possession in their two home matches and attempted 29 shots as opposed to conceding nearly 60 percent in their matches while taking 18 shots at Goodison Park and the Etihad.
"A lot of offensive players from the team have stayed here with us, so we have used the time to work on attacking parts of our game," Flores said. "But we are being competitive, we play like a unit, like a block, like a collective, and for me this is a good reason to be happy."
This is the first Premier League meeting between the sides, who last met in league play during the 2010-11 Championship. Swansea have won their last two visits to Vicarage Road and are unbeaten (2-2-0) in their last four against Watford.