Watford had two games left in the Premier League. They were in a relegation scrap with Aston Villa and Bournemouth. The board made the decision to sack Nigel Pearson. In the end, Aston Villa avoided the drop and survived relegation. Watford, on the other hand, did not. I believe that if they never sacked their manager, this could have been avoided. Here’s why…
What a silly, silly decision it was from the board. In such an important time for the club and its supporters they thought it was a good time to let a manager go. They had Arsenal and Manchester City to play in their final two games. Against Manchester City they were hammered 4-0. This was the game after Pearson’s departure.
On the final game of the season they played Arsenal. It was the biggest game of the season. 3 points meant that they stayed up and played another season of Premier League football. Anything less meant they would be relegated. The game was huge. The Watford players worked extremely hard and played their hearts out. However, this wasn’t enough. The game was won by Arsenal 3-2, meaning they were relegated to the Championship.
Nigel Pearson was able to keep Watford up if they stayed, in my opinion. The caretaker manager, Hayden Mullins, who was also the Under 23s coach, changed too much. The players were used to playing the type of football that Pearson asks for. He changed too many players in the squad, changed the style of play and changed it from the ordinary.
A different figure in-charge can often cause a shock within the dressing room. They can react differently, for good or for worse. Due to being the Under 23s manager they may have a different type of relationship with Mullins. It may not be as professional as it previously was with Pearson. The players might not have the same respect and order for him as they did with Pearson.
The timing of the departure could have also been better. Change with two games to go isn’t the best way you want to go about avoiding relegation. It gives the players hardly any time to adapt to what is asked of them by the new manager. It may have caused the players additional stress alongside the pressure on you playing in a side which is battling relegation.
Previously, they had performed well against teams like Newcastle (getting a 2-1 victory) and Leicester (drawing 1-1). This shows that they could put in good performances under Nigel Pearson. Obviously, the board never considered this good enough for their standards. These types of performances against good teams could have came in clutch in their games against Manchester City and Arsenal – back to back league winners and FA cup winners.
The fact that they were playing teams of the calibre of Manchester City and Arsenal adds more pressure to the players and squad. The players will have been feeling these pressures before and during these games which had the club’s future in their hands, quite some responsibility. Nigel could have helped partially suppress these nerves as they knew him well as he was a common figure around the squad.