Will Watford regain form after recent slump?
Seven games into an intriguing Premier League season, Huddersfield Town, Cardiff City and Newcastle United are all without a win, while Manchester City and Liverpool sit level on 19 points atop the table. Not too far behind, one team has begun better than expected. Watford.
Javi Gracia took over the Hornets in January. Ending last campaign in 14th wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything special, either. Nevertheless, surviving England's top flight for one more season was a job well done.
Since August, things have really started to pick up. Watford were victorious in their first four league games, with Brighton & Hove Albion, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur all on the receiving end.
Since beating Spurs 2-1, however, Gracia's side have managed only one point in last three matches. A 1-1 draw at Fulham was sandwiched between defeats to both Manchester United and Arsenal. During those two losses, the Hornets did give good accounts of themselves, restricting the scorelines to 2-1 and 2-0 respectively.
With 13 points from a possible 21, the Hertfordshire-based outfit must be pleased with start. Several players are contributing hugely to such form, including Roberto Pereyra, Troy Deeney and Andre Gray. The trio have scored eight goals between them.
Star performers are key at Vicarage Road right now. Richarlison's departure to Everton was dispiriting, but the fee received couldn't be turned down. The Brazilian attacker arrived in August 2017 for around £12 million from Fluminense. Eleven months later, Watford profited £38 million. A big loss on the pitch yet huge gain off it.
Others contributing to Watford's performance include Etienne Capoue, Will Hughes, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Isaac Success, Kiko, Daryl Janmaat, Jose Holebas, Christian Kabasele and Craig Cathcart. Meanwhile, 35-year-old Ben Foster has been ever-present between the sticks.
Should the Hornets continue in this vein, they could 'do a Burnley' this season. The Clarets finished seventh last time out, much higher than anticipated.
The upcoming batch of fixtures looks encouraging for Watford fans. Next up is Bournemouth at home. They then travel to play Wolverhampton Wanderers before welcoming current table-proppers Huddersfield Town. Those are followed by two away games at struggling Newcastle United and Southampton. All five matches are winnable.
If Gracia's men are still flying high in January, some first-teamers will attract attention. Bigger clubs will no doubt come sniffing, just like one did with Richarlison. Watford's main priority should be to keep invaluable assets. Most notably Pereyra. Such players are important in helping the club to not only maintain standards, but to also evolve as a Premier League mainstay.
Despite suffering poor form at present, the Hornets are a force to be reckoned with. Having already rocked Tottenham, they are capable of defeating any team on their day.
From now until the campaign ends, keep an eye on Watford. They have the potential to surprise many.