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Watford 4-1 Chelsea: 5 things we learned as Hornets run riot

Tuesday 6th February 2018

Reigning Premier League champions Chelsea suffered further misery on Monday night, losing 4-1 away at struggling Watford. Following an embarrassing performance from Antonio Conte's men and a clinical display from the hosts, here are five talking points from Vicarage Road.

Gracia helped Watford return to basics 

Watford will revel in the plaudits after demolishing Chelsea. While eye-catching take-ons from Gerard Deulofeu and corporal like dominance from Abdoulaye Doucoure will likely capture the headlines, the most impressive aspect of the success was Javi Gracia's influence. The Spanish manager ensured that the Hornets went back to the very basics. 

The match went according to Gracia's plan for the opening third, as Watford limited Chelsea with high pressing and then capitalised on the visiting team's dreadful errors. The defining moment came when Tiemoue Bakayoko was harshly dismissed for two bookable offences, each coming from Watford's perseverance and persistence off the ball. 

From there onwards, the Hornets grew in confidence and had the nerve to go on the front foot, posing Antonio Conte's men serious problems. The scoreline didn't flatter the hosts in the end. Watford's team performance certainly merited the comfortable victory.

Gracia's tactical nous and powerful motivational skills deserve credit. After taking over from Marco Silva, the Spaniard looks to be turning things around at Vicarage Road.

Bakayoko's presence heaps pressure on Kante 

En route to Premier League glory last season, the midfield partnership between Nemanja Matic and N'Golo Kante proved pivotal. The duo were the spine of a strong team, bouncing off each other to control central areas. It's truly baffling, therefore, that Chelsea allowed Matic to join former boss Jose Mourinho at rivals Manchester United. 

Matic is a two-time Premier League winner with obvious credentials, but the Blues thought they could replace him with an inexperienced Ligue 1 midfielder in Tiemoue Bakayoko. How wrong they were

Even before his dismissal against Watford, Bakayoko's lack of conviction left Kante with the work of two central midfielders. And not for the first time this season. The £40 million spent on the French rookie is looking worse value with each passing week.

Spare a thought for Kante, though, whose level hasn't dropped since been voted the PFA Player of the Year ten months ago. Chelsea must find him a reliable partner in the summer.  

Cahill's days as a quality centre back numbered 

Although David Luiz put in a worse performance at Vicarage Road, Gary Cahill's flaws were exposed once again. It's difficult to pick fault with the Englishman's career since moving to Chelsea in January 2012. However, his recent decline is reminiscent of John Terry a few years ago.

Cahill still possesses the raw attributes that made him a star. He's brave and dominant in the air, confident on the ball and a respected presence at the back. Slowly but surely, however, Chelsea's captain has transitioned into a one-paced, sluggish centre back with an inability to make his legs and brain work in tandem. 

It's harsh to suggest Cahil's days at the top are finished. He's clearly still a committed organiser who would thrive in a back four. But his ineptitude to perform in pro-active methods and against the Premier League's best attackers is becoming more obvious. 

Horrendous business has set Chelsea back  

Top teams must buy when they're strong. Chelsea failed miserably in that regard after climbing the title in 2014-15. The club didn't learn from past mistakes this season.  

With a Champions League campaign to play, Chelsea's squad needed more depth and competition for places. Despite links to proven talents such as romelu Lukaku, Virgil van Dijk and Alex Sandro throughout the summer, the Blues settled for mediocrity.  

After selling crucial players Diego Costa and Matic, Chelsea needlessly allowed Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Kurt Zouma and Tammy Abraham to leave on loan. The club proceeded to throw money at sub-par, mostly unproven players. Davide Zappacosta, Danny Drinkwater, Antonio Rudiger and later Emerson Palmieri all arrived at Stamford Bridge. They were arguably a step backwards in quality. 

Conte blatantly disagreed with the board's transfer dealings. Discontent grew and has now fashioned itself onto the pitch. It's now surely a matter of when, not if, the Italian departs. Chelsea would then be left desperately trying to replace an intelligent coach while struggling to sell several inept signings.   

Richarlison is a star

Eyebrows were raised when the Hornets swooped for the 20-year-old Brazilian, Richarlison, in July. Queries were aimed at the player's decision to join a side of Watford's stature, but some focused on the high fee spent to acquire an unproven talent. While the £20 million shelled out on Andre Gray is looking like a poor investment, Richarlison's value has shot way beyond his £11.2 million price tag.

Although Gracia made the decision to hook him on 65 minutes against Chelsea, Richarlison's determination and work-rate epitomised Watford's display. The winger's end product needs work, yet he went toe-to-toe with Cesar Azpilicueta, showing great strength, acceleration and a willingness to go on either foot. 

Gerard Deulofeu rightfully earned the man of the match award, but Richarlison caused Chelsea constant problems. His impressive season continues.

Ryan Wilson

Total articles: 13

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