Bournemouth v Watford: Okaka converting doubters?

Okaka jumps for joy – hertfordshiremercury.co.uk

These two clubs have been safe as houses in the Premier League over the last two seasons, a scenario few would have envisaged when they first won promotion in 2015.

Indeed, Bournemouth finished as high as ninth last term, scoring 55 goals, more than Manchester United. Their attacking play in last week’s opener away to West Brom therefore, was surprisingly slow and disjointed.

Bournemouth had 71% possession at The Hawthorns but only one shot on target – when, without much power, Nathan Ake headed a corner straight at the goalkeeper. Their efforts in the Black Country were generally tame and wayward.
The partnership of Josh King and Benik Afobe clicked at times last season, but it relied on the former’s mobility. King is not quite at the stage he might hope to be in terms of match sharpness, but he is the only forward with pace because Jermain Defoe is more of an advanced poacher.

Whichever striking combination starts for the West Country outfit this weekend can expect to find more space in forward areas. While West Brom’s back-line dropped deep, Watford’s rear-guard played high up the pitch against a quick Liverpool attack, which was partly what cost them a victory.

Younes Kaboul picked up a minor muscle injury in that match, so the man Marco Silva chooses to partner Miguel Britos will tell us a lot about Sebastian Prodl’s position.

The Austrian, widely regarded as the Hornets’ most complete defender last term, was surprisingly on the bench for the opener. It may be, with rumours of him leaving this month, that Silva is not Prodl’s biggest fan – but his alternative options do not inspire great confidence.

Defensively there are question marks about Watford, but they now play with more purpose going forward than they have under previous regimes. Having divided opinion last season, Stefano Okaka had an excellent first game, causing problems with his pace and power after heading home the opener. Abdoulaye Doucoure capped a strong midfield performance with a goal and Britos tapped home the equalizer with the second of two goals from corners.

That will be a worry for the Cherries, who struggled to deal with set pieces and long throws last time out, goalkeeper Asmir Begovic the one man preventing further punishment. On Saturday, the Bosnian may again have his work cut out.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 1-2