Watford 17th with games against Man City and Arsenal to come; Pearson third head coach to leave Watford this season after Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez Flores.
By Blake Welton
Last Updated: 19/07/20 3:47pm
Nigel Pearson has been sacked as Watford head coach with two games remaining in the season, as the club looks to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
The former Leicester and Derby boss replaced Quique Sanchez Flores in December with Watford nine points adrift at the bottom of the Premier League.
The 56-year-old immediately oversaw a run of four wins in his first seven matches – including Liverpool’s first defeat of the season.
However, the Hornets have only recorded two wins since the restart with Friday night’s 3-1 defeat to fellow relegation rivals West Ham meaning they sit just one place and three points above the drop zone.
That result leaves Watford now needing a win against either Manchester City or Arsenal to be certain of avoiding relegation.
Pearson’s assistant Craig Shakespeare has also been dismissed, with U23s coach Haydn Mullins and goalkeeper coach Graham Stack placed in temporary charge of first team affairs.
Pearson is the third managerial sacking by Watford this season, following Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez-Flores in being shown the door.
Pearson, appointed on a short-term contract until the end of the season, only told Sky Sports last week of his hopes to remain at the club next season with Premier League status assured.
“We discussed this right back when the lockdown started because it was important to clarify that there was a commitment to do the job,” he told Sky Sports
“Both Craig [Shakespeare] and myself, when we joined, our intention was to do what we can this year to retain our status and then go from there. I’ve really enjoyed working here and yeah I would love to stay if the circumstances are right and all parties are in agreement.”
Analysis: Ruthless Pozzo strikes again after slump
Sky Sports’ Ron Walker:
Whatever way you look at it, Nigel Pearson’s achievement in getting Watford to the brink of Premier League safety when he took over a team with seven points from 15 games, and eight adrift of safety, is seriously impressive.
But Watford owner Gino Pozzo has shown plenty of times that numbers only mean so much for him. He sacked Quique Sanchez Flores at the end of the Hornets’ first season back in the top flight in 2016 despite finishing 13th, because of a perceived dull style of football and a slump in the second half of the season.
Watford’s season of change
- September 7, 2019: <b>Javi Gracia</b> sacked after picking up one point from four games, four months after leading Hornets to FA Cup final
- September 8: <b>Quique Sanchez Flores</b> returns to Vicarage Road on two-year deal, four years after leaving
- December 1: Flores sacked after one win in 10 games and just 85 days in charge
- December 6: <b>Nigel Pearson</b> appointed as third manager of season
- July 19, 2020: Pearson sacked two days after 3-1 defeat at relegation rivals West Ham
Pearson’s perceived crimes may not be dissimilar. 14 points from his first seven games in charge have been followed by 11 from the next 13.
Troy Deeney has managed to win more headers than any other Premier League player since he took over – but that is a demonstration of the philosophy of substance over style which the Hornets have adopted in an attempt to secure their survival.
There have been highlights. Initially Pearson’s 4-3-3 set-up, utilising the previously overlooked young dangerman Ismaila Sarr, looked inspired.
However, once the honeymoon period was over, an unbalanced defence did little to help, nor an ACL injury ending Gerard Deulofeu’s season during their best performance of the campaign, stunning Liverpool 3-0 in February.
Under Pearson, Watford have picked up 1.5 points per game with the Spanish winger in the team, barely half that without.
An inability to affect a game became another growing criticism of the manager from fans. Their recent back-to-back wins over Newcastle and Norwich, both from behind, were most noteworthy because the Hornets had conceded first in eight of their previous 10 games, but managed to pick up only a solitary point from them.
Undoubtedly, Pearson’s dismissal is harsh and will be treated as such. Keeping Watford in the Premier League appeared a mammoth task when he took the reins, and now with two games to go and a three-point cushion over the bottom three established, he will not get the chance to enjoy the fruits of his labour.
But Pozzo has rarely cared about sentiment. On past form, the Watford chief will already have an oven-ready appointment up his sleeve. However, at the end of an already chaotic season of upheaval at Vicarage Road, that now seems far from guaranteed.
Whoever takes over at Vicarage Road, becoming the Hornets’ fourth manager since September, may need four points from their first two games to secure Premier League survival. The pressure is well and truly on.
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Source : Sky Sports