Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

'I’m thinking this could be double digits': Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster on facing Manchester City's marauders

Pep Guardiola pleased with the reaction of his players following setback against Norwich

“To get in at 5-0 at half-time I was over the moon.” It was not Pep Guardiola speaking, or any of his five goalscorers. Nor was it one of their Manchester City teammates, relieved that a loss at Norwich City would not lead to back-to-back defeats. Rather, it was the goalkeeper who could already have suffered from backache, so often did he bend down to retrieve the ball from his net.

“To go 5-0 down after 20 minutes, I’m thinking ‘This could be double digits,’” added Watford’s Ben Foster. “It could be a cricket score. It’s human nature. You have to fear the worst. They were scary at times. From a goalie’s point of view, it was just relentless. You could see them opening us up and the chances developing in front of your eyes.” Watford ended up enduring their record league defeat, losing 8-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday. In a way, Foster was almost relieved.

“They hit the post twice in the first half,” he noted. “They hit the crossbar in the second half and [Kevin] de Bruyne put one wide.” It could have been more. “There will be a nine or 10 out there soon, not that eight is a great thing,” Foster said. “They will do it to someone.”

It was not an exercise in excuse-making, with Foster frank about Watford’s failings, and his prediction may come true. This was the ninth time since the start of last season when City have scored at least six goals in a game. Manchester United’s Premier League record, a 9-0 win against Ipswich Town in 1995, may yet come under threat. Foster offered an insight into what City’s victims experience in his analysis of why they excel.

“Their aggression, they are always on it, always on the front foot,” he explained. “Nobody gets a second to think about it. Our players are getting the ball passed to them, and before they know what to do with it, they’ve got a Man City player attacking them. They all do it together. Their shape is incredible. They’re all absolute specimens of men. They’re all the same sort of build, they’re not the tallest but they are all so strong and rapid. Their acceleration and touch is incredible. They were breathtaking. They were incredible and at times it was almost too easy for them.”

Watford are bottom of the league but they had registered 31 shots against Arsenal six days earlier. “We were riding a little bit high,” Foster reflected. “We came into this game with a little bit of confidence thinking we might be able to nick something here. But the gameplan we had was out of the window after 50 seconds.”

Then David Silva scored, courtesy of a wonderful cross from De Bruyne, and the floodgates opened. Guardiola jokingly downplayed the Belgian’s brilliance. “He was quite good, yeah? The guy has a future, yeah?” he asked. “Sometimes I’m a little bit [angry] when he loses the simple ball - how with your quality you can lose it? – but he is incredibly talented player. Sometimes he sees something the other guys cannot see on the pitch.”

The City manager was delighted with what he witnessed himself; his players’ reaction to disappointment at Carrow Road encouraged him.

“After Norwich, in the locker room, in the training session, they didn’t talk too much,” he said. “They were sad, they didn’t laugh too much. On the coach, on the plane, when we landed here, the people didn’t talk and that is a good sign and I like it. Football, sport, life: it is about moments. It is about how you handle it, how you react.”

As Foster can testify, City reacted well.

Updated: September 23, 2019 09:50 AM

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