Given the nature of football during the pandemic to throw up unexpected scenarios, the closely-contested race for automatic promotion in the Championship has demonstrated that some things just never change.
Watford currently sits second behind runaway leaders Norwich City on 66 points after 35 games played, level with a Swansea City side that has a game outstanding. Both teams have taken advantage of Brentford’s February wobble to sit third and fourth respectively with the Bees’ run of four defeats in seven seeing them temporarily lose their spot in the top three ahead of Friday evening's victory.
Leading Watford’s charge is Ismaila Sarr, the Hertfordshire outfit’s top contributor in the final third. The Senegal attacker has been involved in 12 goals and assists for Xisco’s team, scoring eight times and setting up four more to account for 26 percent of the team’s return.
There was always a feeling that the 23-year-old deserved top-tier football given his performances for the side who went down post-lockdown in July despite a late revival. Sarr’s speed and trickery have proven to be an asset for the Vicarage Road outfit, completing 1.9 dribbles per game—third behind Ovie Ejaria (2.7) and Bright Osayi-Samuel (2.8), who’s since departed for Fenerbahce in January.
No player has won more penalties than the springy West African (four) and his 10 big chances created is only outdone by Norwich’s talismanic playmaker Emiliano Buendia (13) and Harvey Elliott (11).
If Sarr’s importance to Watford’s cause is known, Andre Ayew’s prominence in Swansea’s run of results in recent weeks has to be praised to high heaven. He’s been involved in 16 goals so far, placing him seventh in the Championship after 14 goals and two assists.
There’ll be the immediate inclination to point out five of the Ghana forward’s strikes have come from the spot, but the timing of those spot-kicks put a different context on the incidents.
While Ayew has netted a penalty in each of his last four outings for the Swans, two, in particular, stand out: he scored a 96th-minute spot-kick in the 2-1 win over Stoke City on March 3 before keeping his composure to win the game against Middlesbrough at the death three days later.