Stop the world, I wanna get off. Where has August gone? The massive surgery that our team has undergone this summer has given the first few games a somewhat surreal edge and I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering whether I am making sense of it all. Five games, three wins and two defeats. It just doesn't tell the story and it sure doesn't look like Watford have been reading the script.
The script went something like this. Luca Vialli's rampant Watford side tore into the hapless opponents served up by Division One and quickly set up a three-point gap at the top of the table. Man City were put to the sword on the opening day. Newly promoted Rotherham and Walsall never stood a chance and left Vicarage Road happy to get Nil. Wolves, the perennial mid-table monkeys, were given a lesson on their own turf. I should point out right now, this isn't my script. It's not even Luca's script. The script belongs to that supporter that we all know only too well. It belongs to 'The Bloke behind Me'. TBBM is the person who slates Gifton Noel-Williams at every touch. He's the bloke that screams 'Sort it aaaaht' if we're not in front after twenty minutes. Most dangerously, he's the bloke that thinks we're going to walk into the Premiership, and he is not alone. We'll come back to him shortly.
Back in the real world, there are many questions for Watford to answer. Away from home, we have a problem. As the players adjust to one another and to the new system of play, this seems as though it's going to remain the case for a while. Man City, Eyal Berkovic in particular, slaughtered us. There's no other way of looking at it. If Wolves hadn't been so toothless in front of goal, they may have done the same. In both of these games the shape of the side has been all wrong, Luca's decision to play Allan Nielsen at left back at Molineux was as baffling as it was brave. Trying to pass the ball to death is difficult enough and the absence of a true ball winner from the midfield, to get the ball back when moves break down, is not helping either. But it's a learning curve for the new boss as it is for the players and I am sure he will be working on a remedy for our current awayday blues.
In the meantime, the home games have been far more encouraging. During the second half of the Rotherham game, the passing suddenly became more purposeful and aimed into areas where we could hurt the opposition, as opposed to the aimless attempts at keep-ball we had seen previously. Keeping the ball is good, as long as it's usually travelling towards the opponent's goal. Similarly the first half of the Walsall game was as good a display of how I suspect Luca wants us to play the game. If only Tommy Smith had not missed a significant chunk of pre-season, he may well have been providing that cutting edge that turns possession into chances and goals. Further encouragement came after going a goal down; a side that comes from behind to win has something going for it. Another plus point has been our set pieces. That we have scored from corners and direct free kicks already is a positive sign and when the cutting edge arrives, this will stand us in good stead.
The new players that we have seen so far are showing some good signs and beginning to gel. So far, Marcus Gayle must take the plaudits as he has shown a willingness to work hard, win the ball and looks a real team player. He has improved with each game. Patrick Blondeau has been steady enough, as has Ramon Vega. The big Swiss International is fast winning a reputation as a cult hero amongst the faithful. The fact that he runs like a dinosaur has added to this and he seems to have inherited Keith Dublin's sense of digging us out of his own self-inflicted holes a couple of times. Top stuff. Filippo Galli is captaining the side well. His influence got us back into the Walsall game as much as his goal did. That leaves Stephen Hughes, who has come in for some unfair criticism already. Whispers and rumours from Everton should be forgotten, he is a Watford player now and as such he deserves our support. He has looked better when coming off the bench so far but he is another who missed a chunk of pre-season and will surely produce the goods when his fitness returns.
There remains one other player who deserves a mention. When the rest of last season's defenders were culled, questions were asked as to how Paul Robinson survived. His form so far this season answers them all. He has been transformed and is showing us the very best of his game at the moment. He looks fitter than at any time in his Watford career and is clearly taking to the new regime very well. Just as Richard Johnson came good after a few seasons of inconsistency, if Robbo can just cut out the yellow cards this may be the season that he has been threatening to produce all along. Of the other survivors from last season, Espen Baardsen is another who is showing his capabilities well so far this term. The Maine Road scoreline could have been far worse but for the big Norwegian's best game in a Watford shirt. Micah Hyde has recovered well from being in the second half team of listed and youth team players at Aylesbury and forced his way back into the reckoning.
So back to our mate 'the bloke behind me'. The danger is that the attitude that says we will get promotion with one hand tied behind our backs will prevail and hamper us. If the season so far gives us a pointer, it's that creating a promotion winning side is going to take time. We will need to see progress from where we are now, of course, but the indicators are there and I remain convinced that it will come. One thing is for sure, we don't need that script so, please, if you're reading from it, stick it in the bin.
Let's not run before we can walk....