Watford 3 Liverpool 3: Five things we learned as Hornets level in injury time

Watford 3 Liverpool 3: The Reds were denied in stoppage time and looked far from convincing as the Philippe Coutinho transfer saga rumbles on

Evan Bartlett
Saturday 12 August 2017 12:26
Jurgen Klopp will have been worried by some of Liverpool's defending at Vicarage Road
Jurgen Klopp will have been worried by some of Liverpool's defending at Vicarage Road

Watford secured a last gasp draw with Liverpool in a topsy-turvy encounter at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

The Reds had come from behind twice to lead 3-2 and looked set for victory despite a far from convincing performance but Miguel Britos popped up for the hosts to score a well deserved equaliser in injury time.

The return of the Premier League enjoyed a breathless return at the Emirates on Friday night and that continued here with Stefano Okaka scoring after just eight minutes, before Sadio Mane levelled for Jurgen Klopp's men.

Watford then went ahead again in the first-half after some sloppy Liverpool defending which allowed Abdoulaye Doucore to tap-in at the back post.

Roberto Firmino and a debut goal from Mo Salah looked as though they had won it for the Reds as Marco Silva's men fell apart in the second-half, but the new Watford manager had the last laugh.

Here are five things we learned...

Liverpool need to resolve the Coutinho situation…

The build-up to this game was dominated by Barcelona’s ongoing pursuit of Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho which must have been a distraction for Liverpool’s players and their fans.

The Reds maintain that they will not sell their star player, and on the evidence of today’s performance they will be a much stronger team if they keep him.

If he is to force his way out then Liverpool will need to work quickly to replace him. With Coutinho missing this through injury, the Reds got a glimpse of what their future without him will look like.

Watford sat deep early on and Liverpool really missed the Brazilian forward’s guile and creativity in the final third.

While Watford eventually gifted them their second and third goals, they will struggle against better teams unless they have Coutinho – or a player of his ilk – to create chances of their own.

…and buy some new defenders

Stefano Okaka ran Liverpool's defence ragged on Saturday

It became clear after just eight minutes the reason why Jurgen Klopp has been pursuing Virgil van Dijk all summer. Liverpool’s defence was scythed open by Roberto Pereyra, whose shot was narrowly deflected wide by a flailing Dejan Lovren. The sense of relief soon disappeared for the Reds however as, from the resulting corner, Watford’s powerful centre-forward Stefano Okaka found himself in acres of space to nod home.

While the Reds got themselves back into it through Mane after half an hour, it then became clear once again that this Liverpool backline is far from one worthy of challenging for the Premier League title.

With poor covering from midfielders Jordan Henderson and Gigi Wijnaldum, the two centre-halves Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren looked exposed and were relentlessly bullied by Okaka who had a hand in Watford’s second, stretching the defence apart to leave Doucoure unmarked at the back post for an easy finish.

Chalobah looks a good signing for Watford

Watford’s midfield three of Abdoulaye Ocoure, Tom Cleverley and Nathaniel Chalobah closed their opponents down with great intensity and were quick at turning defence into attack.

With the two full-backs also sitting deep and maintaining positional discipline, Liverpool were limited to long, hopeful balls into a forward line not set up for that sort of service.

Chalobah, who left Chelsea this summer after a series of loan spells displayed strength, composure and a range of passing that suggests he will be more than comfortable playing regularly in the Premier League. He could play a key role for the Hornets this season.

Mo Salah still has some convincing to do…

Salah arrived at Anfield this summer to much fanfare after two and a half excellent seasons in Serie A. But doubts remain over whether he is suited to the Premier League after his disastrous spell at Chelsea.

The Egyptian played on the right of Liverpool’s front three at Vicarage Road but barely got a touch of the ball in the first-half. While that is arguably not his fault, he wasted the two good chances he did get, blasting over from close range early on and then shanking a cross out for a goal kick just before half-time.

While his pace will be a real threat against sides who look to attack Liverpool, Salah looked limited with left-back Jose Holebas sitting deep and allowing him no space in behind.

He will have gained confidence from his second-half, however, earning the Reds a penalty and then scoring – albeit via a tap-in – to put them ahead. Liverpool fans will hope his season mirrors his performance in the second-half rather than the first.

…and so does Marco Silva

Marco Silva had plenty of positives to take from the draw - but has plenty to work on too

The signing of Marco Silva following his impressive work at Hull City last season appeared to be quite the coup for Watford – regardless of what Paul Merson might tell you. The Portuguese was one of the most sought after managers in the league but had a big job on his hands over the summer after the Hornets’ disastrous end under Walter Mazzarri.

The Silva effect appeared to have had an immediate effect on Watford’s players who looked well drilled in a 4-5-1 formation early on – but then it inexplicably fell apart in the second-half.

Silva would have been disappointed by that defensive deterioration, as they first gifted Liverpool a penalty and then went missing as Salah drifted into the back post to put the Reds ahead.

There were plenty of positives for the new Watford manager but he still has work to do if that second-half performance is anything to go by.

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