Watford manager Nigel Pearson described some of his players as passengers after a 3-1 defeat at West Ham United on Friday left his side in danger of relegation from the Premier League.
Pearson watched on aghast as West Ham roared into a three-goal lead inside 36 minutes at the London Stadium with goals by Michail Antonio, Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice.
Troy Deeney did pull a goal back just after half-time but the damage was done and Watford remain three points above Aston Villa and Bournemouth, the sides in 18th and 19th place.
What is also worrying is that Watford’s last two games are at home to Manchester City and away at Arsenal.
“We had passengers tonight which is disappointing at this stage of the season,” said Pearson, who took over in December from Quique Sanchez Flores with Watford bottom of the table.
“The second half was much improved but the game had passed us by. It’s annoying and disappointing. Now we have to find another one or two good results from our remaining games.
“The performance in the first half was very disappointing and I would expect better from our players.” Pearson has gained a reputation as a specialist in relegation battles. In 2014-15 Leicester City were bottom in March but he inspired a stunning escape from the drop, only to be sacked and replaced by Italian Claudio Ranieri.
Pearson was also assistant to Bryan Robson at West Bromwich Albion when they survived on the last day of the 2004-05 season.
Initially, his arrival at Watford sparked an incredible turnaround, with four wins in his first seven games. They also became the first team to beat Liverpool in the league this season in February, just before the novel coronavirus lockdown.
They have won twice since the Premier League restart but defeat by West Ham has left them in the mire.
“It’s about making sure collectively we take responsibility, which I feel we didn’t do in the first half,” he said.
Results elsewhere could still mean Watford will survive, but Pearson knows that they wasted a golden chance to take matters into their own hands at West Ham.
“Tonight was a good example — if you don’t take care of your own performances it will come back to bite you where you don’t want to be bitten.”