Follow the Ball – Game 7: Watford vs Chelsea

 
February is the shortest month of the year and yet I could end up watching Chelsea six times in the next 29 days if they are able to hold on to their crown as Follow the Ball champions for the next four weeks and one day. That’s as many games as I watched during the 31 day long January. I’ve picked the wrong time of the year to start this.

MK Dons put up as much resistance as I expected them to do and Chelsea were able to sweep them aside with minimal fuss. As such, they retained their title as the Champions of my unbeaten year of football. Throughout 2016 I have resolved to enjoy an unbeaten year of football, and will spend my time watching football in a winner stays on style. Things kicked off with Arsenal and after they were beaten 0-1 at home by Diego Costa, I’ve hitched myself to the Chelsea wagon.

Game 3: Liverpool 3-3 Arsenal (c)
Barclays Premier League, Wednesday 13th January 2016, Anfield

Game 4: Stoke City 0-0 Arsenal (c)
Barclays Premier League, Sunday 17th January 2016, Britannia Stadium

Game 5: Arsenal (c) 0-1 Chelsea
Barclays Premier League, Sunday 24th January 2016, Emirates Stadium

Game 6: MK Dons 1-5 Chelsea (c)
The Emirates FA Cup, Sunday 31st January 2016, Stadium mk

Back to the Premier League we go; and for a relative mid-table clash as 10th placed Watford host 13th placed Chelsea.

Game 7: Watford v Chelsea
Barclays Premier League, Wednesday 3rd February 2016, Vicarage Road

The Skinny: From what I’ve seen and read, Watford have not been good of late. Other than beating Newcastle United twice and needing an 89th minute winner against Nottingham Forest, they haven’t had much to cheer about. Forest are on an impressive run in the Championship to give Watford due credit but just one win in six Premier League matches since Christmas Day isn’t good enough.

Just before their recent 2-1 win over Newcastle United (they also beat them 1-0 in the FA Cup), Michael Moruzzi could be found on ESPN talking about the possibility of Watford losing and then slipping into the relegation battle. Watford started December by putting together a four match winning run in the league and I’d already placed them into the “comfortably safe” mid-table range of my mind. I assumed that with 28 points on the board by Christmas Day they’d find a way to bundle over the 40 point line.

The win over Newcastle lifts them back into that grey area of indistinguishable mid-table (alongside Chelsea) and should give them confidence for the visit of their “local” rivals – or is Chelsea too far south of central London for this to be a derby?

I’m yet to see Chelsea tested but the two games they have won so far have been very solid performances. Arsenal went down to 10 men too early in the game for any conclusions to be made about the Chelsea players, and MK Dons didn’t bother to make things difficult for their Premier League opponents. This may be a similar game as I suspect Watford will happily take a draw now and move on.

The Match: One of those games where both managers will probably be disappointed that they didn’t nick a winner, and reasonably relieved that their opponents didn’t find the corner with one of their chances.

Watford had the better of the first half chances and had Odion Ighalo got a pretty connection on either of his two main opportunities he might have added to his 14 Premier League goals so far this season. Based on what I saw, I’m happy to declare them safe. Having been the biggest spenders in Europe during January, they should have enough in their ranks to retain their Premier League status for another year.

Gus Hiddink remains unbeaten for Chelsea and that is probably the biggest Chelsea-related takeaway from this game. The Premier League is gone and I suspect it won’t matter all that much to the players if they finish the season in 13th or 9th. Instead, they will tread water for the remainder of the season until they get to play in the matches that they care about – the Champions League ties, the FA Cup games and the big clashes in the Premier League. With Manchester United at Stamford Bridge looming on Sunday, Watford away on a Wednesday is all a bit “meh”.

The Result: Watford 0-0 Chelsea

A 0-0 draw suits both teams. Move on.

What’s next? Chelsea vs Manchester United in the Premier League