Watford’s head coach has praised his players for turning the doubts at the start of the season into “certainties” after his side reached the halfway point of the campaign back in the play-off zone.
Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest lifted the Hornets back into the top six with 37 points, the club’s highest tally at the midway point of a campaign since 2007/08.
The Forest win may have been a first in three but it continued an upward curve in form for Gianfranco Zola’s men, who have lost just one of their last ten games on the back of an uncertain start to the season that saw them lose seven of their opening 13 matches.
That followed a summer of upheaval at Vicarage Road, with the takeover by the Pozzo family leading to Zola’s appointment in place of now Burnley manager Sean Dyche and an influx of new signings, primarily on loan.
The Italian has also changed the Hornets’ playing style and he has consistently admitted to being surprised at the progress his team have made since the beginning of the season in August.
“That is a thing I pointed out many times considering the difficulties,” Zola said on Monday when he reflected on the first half of the campaign. “We had a lot of doubts and reservations because of the number of players, because of the number of foreigners and because this and because this of that, so we had a lot of things that we were not sure were going to work out but the application and cooperation of the players has been fantastic.
“I’m proud to say they changed all the points that we were unsure of and made them certainties and that is very, very good. The players want to make it work and they’re doing it.”
Asked if there was a game or incident that he regards as a turning point, the Chelsea legend responded: “Huddersfield was the turning point. When we played Huddersfield and won away from home against them [3-2], I think that was the moment in which the team changed the season completely and also the change of system [to 3-5-2 from 4-3-3] has helped a lot in that sense.”
Watford’s improved form over the past two months, in which they have taken 21 points from a possible 30, means they will start 2013 either in, or just outside, the play-off zone and in a position to attack the second half of the campaign in confident mood.
The head coach said: “It’s definitely working in the right direction and we are pleased with that, although as I said before this is a Championship in which you cannot afford to lose attention, to lose focus and concentration because it is a difficult season.
“It is very, very clear in my mind and the players’ minds, the players are doing very well but we are on an improving moment and we are not yet where we want to be.
“We are getting better and better but there is still a lot of work to do so we have to make sure we keep the concentration.”