On Saturday, Watford lost 4-1 in the third round of the FA Cup at the hands of Leicester City. After the defeat, Claudio Ranieri was not hesitant to admit he had placed out a weakened squad in preparation for a crucial run of fixtures.
Claudio Ranieri Outlines the Rest of Watford’s Month
Watford Head Coach Discusses Defeat at King Power Stadium
From the first whistle, Watford were on the back foot. U23 left-back James Morris made his senior debut and performed well, while young star Joao Pedro scored a wonderful goal before the half-time whistle. But overall, there were not too many positives for Watford as they conceded four times against Leicester for the second time in fewer than two months.
As per the official club website, Ranieri said: “The performance was good, but my priority was to save some players because, for us, the rest of the season is very important.
“We gave rest to some players and gave others a chance, but our movements weren’t always the best because it is a team that haven’t played together.
“I gave a rest to [Emmanuel] Dennis, [Joshua] King, and the others, which for me, was important.”
Claudio Ranieri Looks at Pivotal Span in Relegation Battle
Now eliminated from the FA Cup, the Hornets’ only matches left between now and the start of next season are in the Premier League, with next season’s destinations remaining to be seen. Between January 15 and January 21, Watford come up against Newcastle United, Burnley, and Norwich City, the Hornets’ three biggest rivals in the fight for survival. Picking up maximum points from these matches would give them some much-desired breathing room. Yielding too many points to their rivals could prove to be devastating. The run of matches is what a team of Watford’s stature season’s dreams or nightmares are made from.
“My focus is now only on the next three matches,” Ranieri explained. “We have to be solid, compact, and try to do our best, as we do every match.”
Words on New Signings: Could Feature Immediately, But Nothing Guaranteed
Especially with Newcastle looking to heavily invest in this transfer window under their new ownership and already signing Kieran Trippier, the hierarchy at Vicarage Road know they need to invest, especially in defence, if they are to stand a fighting chance at maintaining their Premier League status. Thus, they have signed centre-back Samir from Udinese, left-back Hassane Kamara from OGC Nice, and defensive-midfielder Edo Kayembe from KAS Eupen.
When discussing why none featured in the FA Cup, Ranieri asserted, “It can be difficult to put them on the pitch without a training session. Some players have finished in December and they need to have a training session.”
He added, “They have to train before I can decide whether they play or not,” and considering the funds that Watford spent on them and the full week of training ahead of the congested fixture list, it would be a surprise if all three do not make their English debuts in the coming days.