Meet the opposition | Watford

29th December
First team

As Swansea City get set to take on Watford in their final game of 2022, we take a closer look at the Hornets.

What’s their story?

Established in 1881 as Watford Rovers, the club changed name to its current moniker in 1898. 

Affectionately known as the Hornets or the Golden Boys, Watford gained Football League status in 1920 and, after spending 60 years in the lower divisions, gained promotion to the top-flight for the first time in 1982.  

Under the ownership of Elton John and management of Graham Taylor the club finished as runners-up to Liverpool in that maiden First Division campaign. 

In a golden era for the club, they spent six seasons in the top-flight, and reached the FA Cup final in 1984. 

Recently, Watford have competed in the Premier League in six out of the last seven seasons, but it has been a period of regular managerial upheaval with the Hornets going through 17 managers in the last 10 years. 

The latest change happened during the September international break, with Slaven Bilic the man tasked with leading them back to the Premier League following relegation last term. 

 How's their form? 

Watford away Olivier Ntcham goal

Improving prior to the Boxing Day loss to Millwall. The Hornets have only lost tthree of their last 10 games, winning six during that time to climb into the play-off places and cement a place in the top six.

They have also kept six clean sheets during that period with Bilic making them an increasingly obdurate and tough opposition.

Who’s the gaffer?

West Brom Slaven Bilic

Slaven Bilic. The former Croatia, West Ham United, Everton and West Bromwich Albion defender is the latest man to take the hotseat at Vicarage Road following the dismissal of Rob Edwards after just 10 league games in charge. 

Bilic returns to the English football pyramid after a stint as head coach of Chinese Super League side Beijing Guoan, who he parted company with in January 2022. 

Boasting a CV with experience in five different countries over 20 years, the Hornets board will be hoping the 54-year-old former can emulate his successful Championship promotion campaign with West Brom in 2020. 

Who's the captain? 

Tom Cleverley

Experienced ex-Manchester United and England midfielder Tom Cleverly was named the new captain for the current season by Rob Edwards in the summer, but he has barely played this season owing to an Achilles injury.

A player with a wealth of Premier League experience at the likes of Wigan, Aston Villa and Everton, Cleverley has been at Vicarage Road since an £8 million move from the Toffees in 2017, appearing in 136 games, scoring eight times in the process. 

Alongside his 13 international caps for the three lions, Cleverley was also part of Great Britain's Olympic squad in 2012. 

Who are the key men?

Joao Pedro

Senegal international Ismaila Sarr is enjoying another fine season for the Hornets, who will be hoping they can hang on to his services beyond the upcoming January transfer window.

The 24-year-old has been at Vicarage Road since the summer of 2019, and his pace and trickery have made him a big success in Hertfordshire.

He has 30 goals in 112 appearances for Watford, with six of those and four assists coming so far this term.

Having started his career in his homeland, Sarr – who featured for Senegal at the World Cup in Qatar – first caught the eye at Metz before a two-year stint with Rennes.

Brazilian youngster João Pedro was another Watford player being courted by top-flight clubs prior to the end of the last transfer window, with both Everton and Newcastle seeing multi-million-pound bids rejected for the ex-Fluminense man.

The striker's directness and ability to cause opposition defences problems with his pace and movement has seen him contribute eight goals and two assists in 19 appearances so far this term.

The 21-year-old came through the youth ranks with Fluminense, joining their academy at the age of 10.

He scored five goals in 29 league appearances before moving to Watford in January 2020, and he has since netted 21 goals for the Golden Boys but did suffer an injury against Millwall which - at the time of writing - makes him a doubt for this evening's game.

Playmaker Ken Sema’s six assists put him joint second in the league while his two goals mean he is one of Watford’s key attacking figures with eight goal contributions.

Born in Norrkoping, the 29-year-old began his career at his hometown club IFK Norrkoping. He made his professional debut at IF Sylvia in 2013, before spells at Ljungskille SK and Ostersunds FK before making the move to England and Watford.

The midfielder has made 111 appearances for the Hornets since arriving in 2018 and is a key figure in the side’s set-piece routines. He will look to get wide and deliver into the box, something he has been very successful at so far this term.

He’s a somewhat versatile player playing off the left and right. He’s also been deployed through the middle and at left back for one game. The stats suggest that he’s at his best coming in off the left scoring both his goals and contributing with two assists from that position.