Watford 0 Crystal Palace 1: Yohan Cabaye was off-colour and Watford can beat the drop

ANALYSIS: What we learnt at Vicarage Road, including Alan Pardew’s tinkering causes confusion for Crystal Palace

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Watford have the metal to avoid the drop

Quique Sánchez Flores has changed his backline only once this season which perhaps explains why Watford were yet to concede at home this season - before this afternoon.

With the talents of Odion Ighalo, the highest goalscorer in English football in 2015, in front of the likes of Almen Abdi and José Manuel Jurado, there are foundations to be built upon at Vicarage Road.

Flores is Watford’s fifth manager in 12 months and the Spaniard made 15 signings in the summer in an attempt to get the ready for the rigours of the Premier League.

Many understandably assumed the unrest created by such changes would be the Hornets’ downfall but, as per the script, the Hertfordshire outfit are proving their doubters wrong.

Alan Pardew’s tinkering causes confusion for Crystal Palace

While the six changes made from the defeat of Charlton 4-1 in the Capital One Cup in midweek were not unexpected, the inclusions of Wayne Hennessey, Brede Hangeland and Dwight Gayle unsettled an otherwise steady ship. 

As it turned out Hangeland, the Norwegian former Fulham defender, could have put the Eagles ahead if not for the stellar efforts of Heurelho Gomes in goal for the Hornets.

But the 34-year-old’s lack of pace was badly exposed by Ighalo with worryingly regularity.

Wilfried Zaha, one of the players to start on the bench, emerged from the sidelines to make an immediate contribution and Pardew’s boys looked infinitely more dangerous for it.

The former Manchester United winger has an important campaign ahead, one which could come to define the rest of his career.

Yohan Cabaye was off-colour, but proved his worth

When Crystal Palace signed Yohan Cabaye from Paris Saint German for £10m, it said as much about the impact of television money over the Premier League as it did about the London club’s ambition. 

But regardless of the politics, the Frenchman is a magnificent capture for Pardew to have in his armoury at Selhurst Park.

Cabaye was handed several bites of the cherry in the first half, given three free-kicks in prime assist-territory, but the former Newcastle United midfielder’s best efforts were not enough to carve Watford open.

It may have taken 71 minutes for him to do so, alongside the gift of Allan Nyom’s foul on Zaha, but Cabaye eventually proved his worth with a brilliantly drilled penalty to send Palace on their way.

Almen Abdi could break down barriers for Watford 

Speaking in midweek, Watford midfielder Almen Abdi revealed that he translates his manager’s instructions in one of the most diverse squads in the Premier League.

He said: “I am the translator, I speak four languages – German, English, Serbian and Italian. 

“I like it there are so many different players and characters in there, and it doesn’t matter where you come from the most important thing is we think as a team, as a unit.

“Juan Carlos Paredes and [Victor] Ibarbo don’t speak very good English yet, but the coach is Spanish so they can speak with him.”

The hurdles are steep at Watford, with so many nationalities increasing the possibility of cliques forming in the dressing room, but Abdi offers hope.


Watford have gone about promotion the right way

That line may read oddly for those who jump to mock the instability which is intrinsically linked with Watford Football Club in the modern era.

But the redevelopment work carried out on their Vicarage Road stadium at least suggests they have got one thing right.

The completion of the new Sir Elton John Stand, increasing the capacity to 21,577, allows the club to be confident about their future stability. 

Like Burnley last season, the Hornets haven’t invested a huge deal of money into the transfer market. Instead Flores and his backroom team have been instructed to keep a close eye on their funds as it is poured into the club’s foundations instead.

It may be an unpopular move in the short-term, but the next generation of Watford fans will surely thank them for making it.