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Ighalo celebrates his goal against Villa with Deeney

Ighalo and Deeney – one of the best strike partnerships in England

Nigerian international and Watford striker Odion Ighalo has formed one of the best strike duos with his team’s captain Troy Deeney. Ighalo said earlier this month in an interview with Sky Sports that: “I’m a little bit surprised about it [my form]. There are great players in this county doing well, but for me coming from nowhere and being the leading scorer is a great thing.”

This article originally published on ESPN looks at why Ighalo and Deeney mean trouble for defences in England.

Troy Deeney, Odion Ighalo are one of the Premier League’s best strike duos


Watford’s 3-2 victory over Aston Villa on Saturday was an excellent example of how fine the margins are in football. It certainly wasn’t an easy ride and there was something uncomfortable the build-up to this game.

The fact that Watford were looking at an away match in the Premier League and fancying their chances just felt wrong. When the club’s fans start to feel confident there’s usually a humbling experience lurking just around the corner.

On another day, perhaps Villa could have provided it. They were not as terrible as they have been, and a glance at the numbers would suggest they were the superior side. They enjoyed twice as much possession as Watford, and when one side is keeping the ball significantly better than the other, you’d expect that team to come out on top.

Watch the goals:

But Watford had more attempts on goal than the hosts, were more clinical, and ultimately they defended better too, although Villa offered very little competition on that last point.

Watford’s willingness to give up possession is a risky strategy, and unlikely to prove effective against the Premier League’s best teams. But against everyone else they have a tried and tested method that works. The method is pretty straightforward, simply move the ball as quickly as possible to the forwards then get out of the way. Having two forwards that are good at scoring is therefore quite important.

Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney are not the two best strikers in the league, but there aren’t two players who work more effectively together at the moment. It is becoming futile to argue that Watford’s reliance on their strikers is a flaw because time and again they are creating and scoring the goals that earn them the points.

Every time one of them is on the ball, the other is making a run behind or attempting to link up with their strike partner. It looks instinctive but that’s too simplistic — they must work on this in training, because one always knows where the other is and vice-versa.

Deeney anchors the attack, using his strength to retain the ball high up the pitch and bring others into the game. Once he turns to face goal he is immediately looking for Ighalo, who has usually started to make a run already. Against Villa, it was Deeney’s through ball to Ighalo that the unfortunate Alan Hutton was trying to cut out when he directed the ball past Brad Guzan and into his own net.

Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney have formed a great understanding in Watford’s attack.
Deeney’s work as a provider has been evident all season, and he should have registered another assist earlier in the game when teeing up Etienne Capoue, who shot straight at Guzan when through on goal.

For a player associated with power and aggression, Deeney has a remarkable gift for the more delicate arts of the game, such as threading perfectly weighted passes between defenders. His ability to provide the killer pass often puts his teammates to shame.

How often do you see attacks break down because a pass his ever so slightly under hit, meaning a player has to check his run slightly? It is such a crucial skill but so few players have the ability to produce that type of pass consistently. It is also extremely difficult to defend, which means you don’t need to dominate possession to create good chances.

Watford know that if they keep finding Deeney and Ighalo around the box then they will create chances, even when the team is not playing that well. There is perhaps a comparison to be drawn with Watford’s great 1980’s side, which was often maligned for adopting a ‘direct’ approach. They certainly looked to get the ball forward as quickly as possible, but the reason they were successful was because they had some great players in the final third such as John Barnes, Luther Blissett and Nigel Callaghan.

This Watford team are earning the respect of their peers and haven’t been subjected to much criticism, but the principle isn’t that far removed.

It was Deeney’s more stereotypical play that earned him a treasured goal in front of the Villa fans. Ighalo’s shot was half-blocked, looping across goal, and it was Deeney who reacted the quickest, towering above the centre-backs to score an excellent header.

There is something inevitable about the way Deeney runs onto the ball in that situation. Everyone knows what is going to happen next — even the ball, which practically jumped into the net of its own accord. Deeney was booked for his celebration that didn’t appear to include much more than a knee slide and a point to the shirt.

But the enormous grin on his face must have been visible to everyone, even those at the very back of the vast Holte End. The former Villa youth team striker, with a Birmingham City tattoo on his leg, had scored what proved to be the decisive goal. It really was a great day for narrative.

Every time a run of poor results looms, Watford manage to halt the slide with another victory. Thanks to this win Watford are pretty much half-way to safety already, sitting nine points above the drop zone. They have two more big opportunities coming up in the shape of Norwich at home and Sunderland away. Another win before the brutal run of Christmas fixtures (Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, and Man City) would ensure a very healthy buffer.

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