First Team 13/09/2019

Cleverley: “I'm Sure There Will Be Changes”

Tom Cleverley expects this Watford team to have a new look about them under Quique Sánchez Flores after the returning Spaniard made it crystal clear in training this week what he demands from the players.

The Head Coach took his first session on Monday afternoon and wasted no time in outlining his philosophy and how the team will shape up under his watch.

“We've only had a few days with him but he's very black and white in what he wants,” said Cleverley in an interview with Premier League Productions. “There is no grey area. He wants us to be more organised as we've conceded too many goals. We've not had a pre-season with this coach but I'm sure there will be changes. It might not be clear for the fans to see, but I can see there will be changes.”

Cleverley looks like a Sánchez Flores type of player. First and foremost, he works his socks off, he is tactically disciplined and can fit into a few systems.

“We've had a couple of chats, just on some tactical issues and positional things,” he said. “He seems a really good football man and a really good guy. He's straight forward with people and did a good job the last time he was here. I'm looking forward to working with him. This week there has been a lot of tactical work. We will have had a good six days to prepare and that's a good block of work to have with a new manager.”

There has been an inevitable bounce in training this week, the one that comes at any club when a new coach turns up and Cleverley knows that needs to be translated into Sunday's game and the ones after that.

“The intensity increases a little bit when you get a new manager,” he said. “We've not lost confidence. We know we had one really flat performance against Brighton but the next three could have gone either way. We've not lost confidence in our performance, we just know we need to start picking up results. You just need a little bit of luck in this league. Last year we were more clinical in both boxes. In the first four games this year we have created chances and not finished them. We've not been as intense in defending in our own box and that costs you at this level.”

With Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pépé in the opposition ranks on Sunday, Watford will need to be on their defensive mettle and really put into practise the defensive work Sánchez Flores has done with them this week.

“Danny [Welbeck] knows them well but he [Unai Emery] looks like a top coach and they've got some top players,” said Cleverley. “It's going to be a difficult game. We need to play like we did in 2017 and last year, when we went down to ten men, we were really good. We can give them a game, definitely. We've got to approach it with belief, with confidence and the start will be important against that level of opposition. We feel fully prepared, we've worked hard in the international break and hopefully with a bit of luck and we can produce some results.”

Cleverley, 30, is just glad to be back playing. He spent nearly a year out through injury and the game at Newcastle represented his first 90 minutes since March 9.

“I can always be better,” he said. “It's been nice to start the last two. It seemed a long way back from where I was this time last year. I'd just had my surgery. I didn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now I'm told it could be my 200th Premier League game if I take part [on Sunday]. It's nice to start achieving things again because it was a very low point last year. I'm 100 per cent now, though.”

First Team 12/09/2019

Big Interview: Danny Welbeck

Danny Welbeck discusses highs and lows with Arsenal, plans to help Watford reach the next level and this weekend's reunion with the Gunners - pick up Sunday's match programme for the full in-depth interview.


HIGHS & LOWS WITH ARSENAL

Right from the beginning of my time at Arsenal I always felt a lot of love and support from the fans. Obviously, we had some great times there and some terrible lows as well. Things were difficult for me at times but when I’m on the pitch I’m always going to give it 100 per cent and the fans saw that and recognised that. They saw me go through some really hard times but they were always there to support me.

I have so many great memories, especially winning the FA Cup final in 2017. We were up against a good Chelsea side and it was a very good performance that day. To win the cup was a great feeling and it was a really big high for myself personally. Scoring a hat-trick in the Champions League was another, and coming back from injury to score the winner at Leicester was another thing I’ll always remember. There are also memories that people won’t have seen, like making lifelong friends at the club and all the people who have helped me along my journey. 

ANOTHER SETBACK

My last game for Arsenal was against Sporting last November, and that’s when I injured my ankle. It wasn’t nice at all. The physio ran on and he was grabbing my leg, and I just knew from that moment I had done something that wasn’t going to just keep me out for a couple of weeks. Having already come back from some pretty serious injuries, it was so hard. I remember getting in that dressing room and you don’t want to know what I was saying. The staff were great with me and the players came and supported me. My family and friends came to the hospital that night but once everyone was gone and I was in that hospital room on my own I just had a little cry to myself, letting my emotions out. But the next day I just thought, ‘right it’s happened now and I’ve just got to crack on and try to come back stronger’. It’s so important to let your emotions out first and then crack on. 

A FOND FAREWELL

Naturally it's always sad to leave somewhere that you've been for so long, and that's how it was at Arsenal. At the end of the day this is football, the game moves on. I had some great times at the club and made some lifelong friends but I'm at Watford now and I’m excited for what's ahead.

A WARM WELCOME

I did have offers from other clubs in the Premier League and abroad but I decided to come to Watford because there’s a really good team here and some talented players. I knew a few of the lads already from Manchester United – like Clevz, Craig and Fozzy – and I’ve played against plenty more of them in the Premier League before so it’s been easy settling in. Everyone’s been really welcoming – the staff and everyone around the training ground have made it so easy for me. It was massive to feel the love straight away from the fans as well. Me and Ismaïla were given a great reception before the Brighton game and it was great to come out and be welcomed down at The Vic. I very much appreciated them singing my name at Goodison Park too. It makes you want to repay that faith and support and try to make them sing even more.

EXCITING TIMES

It’s been a slow start to the season but we’re knuckling down and getting to work and I believe we’ll be in a better position soon. It’s exciting times for me personally as I want to be on the pitch and back playing in the Premier League week in, week out. That’s my aim and with the team here I’m sure we can push on to a higher level. In terms of individual targets, anything can happen in football so I go into every game just wanting to win. I’ve been brought up with the mindset of only focusing on the next game so that’s how I’ll continue, but I know what I can do as a player and if I achieve those things I’m sure I can help the team get to a higher level. 

SUNDAY’S REUNION

I’ve played against former clubs before, like Manchester United when I was at Arsenal, and now I’m going to be coming up against Arsenal for the first time since I left. At the end of the day it’s another game – 11 players on a football pitch against another 11 players – so I’m going to give my best and try to win. Paul McGuinness, my youth team manager at United, would always say ‘play the game, not the occasion’ and that’s something that’s always stuck with me. So I’m not going to allow the occasion to get into my head. Someone said the other day that maybe the script is written for me to score my first Watford goal against Arsenal, but the script writers aren’t playing the game so I’m just going to give my best and try to win the game for Watford.