The goals have dried up for both Watford and Newcastle as the season draws to a close and Steve Rawlings is not convinced we're in for a change of tact at Vicarage Road on Saturday...
“Benitez has done a remarkable job at Newcastle this season with what’s effectively a Championship squad and I can see his side bouncing back after last week’s disappointment, but the stats don’t paint a good picture for the Magpies and the safest play in the outright market may well be the draw at an industry-wide best of 12/5 with the Sportsbook.”
Watford V Newcastle United
Saturday 5 May, 15:00
Honeymoon over for Gracia as Hornets continue to struggle
New manager, Javi Gracia, who was only appointed at the end of January, hit the ground running and the Hornets lost only one of his first five at the helm but they've been poor since.
After back-to-back 1-0 home wins against Everton and West Brom, Watford have picked up just two points from a possible 21 in the Premier League, drawing 2-2 at home with Bournemouth and 0-0 at home with Crystal Palace.
Gracia's honeymoon period has long since finished and knowing that they're safe, thanks mainly to a great start to the season, the Hornets aren't finishing the campaign off strongly at all and they've failed to score in five of their last seven matches, including each of the last three.
This is their final home game of the season and they haven't won the last match of a campaign at Vicarage Road (excluding playoffs) since they beat Middlesbrough 2-1 in the Championship six years ago, courtesy of an 88th minute Troy Deeney strike.
Can Benitez's men bounce back after back-to-back defeats?
Up until a fortnight ago, Newcastle were finishing the season strongly. They beat Manchester United 1-0 back in February and they won four in-a-row against Southampton, Huddersfield, Leicester (away) and Arsenal to dismiss any concerns there might have been about the Magpies returning to the Championship, but they've lost their last two matches 1-0 to the two teams Watford last beat by the same score - Everton and West Brom.
There's perhaps no shame in losing by the odd goal at Goodison Park, it's never an easy place to visit, but the Toon Army will be disappointed to have lost at home to the bottom club, even though the Baggies have had something of a revival under caretaker boss, Darren Moore, winning eight of a possible 12 points.
Newcastle's goal for the season was to stay up so it's not a surprise to see their levels drop now they're completely safe but a top-ten finish (currently 10th) is a legitimate target now and manager, Rafa Benitez, wasn't happy after the defeat at St. James' last weekend.
"We tried to do it, but I'm not happy with our performance on the ball, without the ball. Everything we did in the last few games, we didn't do."
Stalemate the value outcome at Vicarage Road
Watford may not be firing on all cylinders right now but they're looking to win their fifth in-a-row against Newcastle. They beat them 2-1 home and away in the Premier League in the 2015/16 season, as well as 1-0 at home in the FA Cup, and they won at St James' Park back in November 3-0.
That does perhaps need to be put in to some sort of context though. Newcastle were poor enough to be relegated two seasons ago and when Watford comprehensively beat them back in November they were bang in the middle of their worst slump of the season, which saw them pick up just a solitary point in nine Premier League matches. The Magpies don't have a terrific record at Vicarage Road either though and after seven attempts, they're yet to win a top-flight tie there. They've drawn four and won three.
Despite their poor recent run, the Hornets are still no pushovers at home. They haven't won at Vicarage Road for two months but they've still only lost one of their last seven at home. Even so, it's very difficult to advocate backing a team on such a poor run with so little to play for.
Benitez has done a remarkable job at Newcastle this season with what's effectively a Championship squad and I can see his side bouncing back after last week's disappointment, but the stats don't paint a good picture for the Magpies and the safest play in the outright market may well be the draw at an industry-wide best of 12/5 with the Sportsbook.
Goals and excitement could be in short supply
There has been an average of 2.89 goals in Premier League games involving Watford this season and an average 2.26 when Newcastle have taken to the field and when we look at their home and away records, the argument for goals strengthens. Premier League games at Vicarage Road have produced an average of 3.06 goals and when Newcastle go on the road there are an average of 2.59 goals per games.
Those stats suggest Over 2.5 Goals is the play but two safe sides finishing the season poorly isn't the recipe for a cracking encounter and we can probably expect something of a damp squib of a match on Saturday. Newcastle have gone a couple of games without finding the net and Watford have drawn a blank in their last three Premier League encounters. Despite the season-long stats, Under 2.5 Goals is the odds-on favourite and rightly so.
It's a similar looking picture with the Both Teams to Score market. Only 47% of games involving Watford have seen both sides score and just 43% of Newcastle matches have seen both teams find the net but those stats change when we look at Watford's home games and Newcastle's away matches in isolation.
Both teams have scored in 11 of 18 of Watford's home ties to date (61%) and 53% of Newcastle's away games (9 of 17) have seen both sides score. That would suggest Yes in the Both Teams to Score market is the statistical play but again, with both teams stuttering, opposing the season-long stats and playing No at odds-against may be the best way to go.
Stats wise, Roger East ranks as a bang average Premier League referee. He's brandished two reds and 52 yellows in 17 Premier League matches, so he averages 3.06 yellows per game.
Staked: 37 pts
Returned: 43.14 pts
P/L: +6.14 pts