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United aim to avoid Prem away skid

Five Aside

Watford lose fourth straight, 1-0 at Swansea, as Odion Ighalo misfires

Anyone expecting a positive return to form for Watford was in for a massive disappointment. Another poor display on Monday night resulted in a 1-0 defeat at Swansea City, which makes it four in a row for Quique Flores' team.

It was another performance severely lacking in quality, with the Hornets surrendering possession far too easily and lacking the aggression that made them such difficult opponents earlier in the season. Worse still, the threat of strikers Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney was once again nullified and when those two don't score, Watford don't score. Everything that was good about 2015 appears to have turned bad in 2016.

Flores tried to freshen things up by bringing Valon Behrami back and shunting Etienne Capoue out to the right, but it meant that Watford's most industrious midfielder was in an ill-fitting position and Watford's central pair of Behrami and Ben Watson struggled to exert any influence at all. It was a muddled choice that made little sense at kick off and even less sense by the end.

The challenges posed by a poor run are not entirely unexpected. Any newly promoted club is going to have a spell when they struggle for form -- what matters is how they come out of it. With that in mind, the visit of Newcastle this Saturday suddenly feels like a huge game. Flores and his team need to write off the first three weeks of January and start again.

Swansea CitySwansea City
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Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):

GK Heurelho Gomes, 7 -- Dealt reasonably well with most of Swansea's pressure and couldn't do much about the goal. Wasn't helped by a static defence that was slow to clear and then slow to close down.

DF Allan Nyom, 4 -- Nyom always works hard but has looked increasingly clumsy in recent weeks. The only viable alternative is Juan Carlos Parades, who is not necessarily a better player but would allow Nyom to take a break for a couple of games.

DF Craig Cathcart, 4 -- Seemed to amble towards Ki Sung-yueng and allowed the Swansea man far too much time to cross for the winning goal. Tried some long-range passes out of defence that only succeeded in gifting the ball back to Swansea.

DF Miguel Britos, 5 -- Like Cathcart, Britos has also developed an unwelcome obsession with attempting raking passes out of defence. One such effort was intercepted by a Swansea player inside Watford's half and could have been much more costly than it was.

Odion Ighalo's decline was evident vs. Swansea. If Watford are to rebound, he needs to regain his devastating form.

MF Jose Jurado, 7 -- Probably the only player to emerge with any merit. Never stopped looking for the ball and kept trying to create things. His shooting is unacceptably bad but he stood out for having the courage to keep trying without much support from his teammates.

MF Ben Watson, 5 -- Some sloppy defensive work and poor use of the ball at set pieces. Another one who looks like he needs a rest.

MF Valon Behrami, 6 -- The energy was there but often it looked like he was trying to press on his own, which didn't help maintain a very good shape in midfield. It would be nice to see him start alongside Capoue in the middle again.

MF Etienne Capoue, 5 -- Wasted on the right of midfield, unable to get on the same wavelength as Nyom. Not really Capoue's fault -- he is not a wide midfielder.

FW Troy Deeney, 6 -- The captain was clearly determined to try and make things happen through sheer will power but it wasn't enough. Needs more of the ball in dangerous areas if he's going to rekindle his partnership with Ighalo.

FW Odion Ighalo, 4 -- It is unclear what has happened to Ighalo in the past two games. He has always looked a bit useless when things aren't going his way but for the first 25 minutes on Monday night, he could barely even get the ball under control. Needs a rest but it's hard to see that happening any time soon.


DF Juan Carlos Paredes, NR -- replaced Allan Nyom after 74 minutes and offered more of an attacking threat at right-back.

FW Obbi Oulare, NR -- thrown on in the 87th minute to add bodies in the box but didn't have long enough to make an impact. Not a Premier League to remember.

Michael blogs about Watford for ESPN FC. Follow on Twitter: @Regista_Michael.


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