Watford head into a vital three game period in their search for Premier League survival off the back of a third consecutive defeat, after they were brushed aside by Chelsea, losing 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.

An Olivier Giroud goal and a Willian penalty had the hosts firmly in control in the first-half, before Ross Barkley’s finish in stoppage time sealed a miserable evening out for the Hornets, who remain teetering precariously above the relegation zone, after once again struggling to cause significant problems for their opponent’s goalkeeper.

Head coach Nigel Pearson tried a different tactical approach to the frustrating long-ball game plans that saw them beaten by both Burnley and Southampton, with his side opting to knock the ball around more and try and build attacks through possession.

Some personnel changes were made as well with Nathaniel Chalobah returning to the starting lineup after he was dropped for his involvement in Andre Gray’s party last week, while Gray himself was back on the bench. Adrian Mariappa and Christian Kabasele were also brought into the starting XI, with Roberto Pereyra, Adam Masina and Craig Cathcart making way.

The shift in approach was generally more attractive to watch and did look as if it could prove effective at stages in the first-half as Watford recovered from an opening ten minutes on the back foot and enjoyed some possession.

Ben Foster got down swiftly to deny Giroud after keeping out Willian with the first effort on target in the match, while Craig Dawson’s ambitious strike from range came nowhere near threatening Kepa Arrizabalaga’s net.

Then, following the first water break of the evening, the home side emerged more alert than their visitors and when Barkley slipped Giroud into the area, just behind the Hornets’ back line, he flicked the ball on the turn into the bottom corner of Foster’s net to open the scoring.

Watford would not recover from that in the first-half and spent the remainder of the opening 45 on the back foot, giving Chelsea plenty of opportunities to score from free-kicks with a series of clumsy fouls on the edge of the penalty area.

While Willian failed to make the most of those chances, he was less wasteful from the spot after Etienne Capoue barged Chrsitian Pulisic to the ground in the area. The Brazilian sent Foster the wrong way and the sides were divided by two at the break.

The second-half quickly settled into a rhythm with Watford sitting deep and absorbing wave after wave of Chelsea pressure.

Foster was alert to smother a similar effort from Giroud to the one that had opened the scoring in the first-half, while the keeper also denied both Willian’s effort after he cut inside from the wing and Zouma’s header from the resulting corner.

Adam Masina’s long range effort in the 74th minute was Watford’s first shot on target. That went straight at Arrizabalaga, while Dawson’s header on the end of a Will Hughes free-kick was put well over.

Masina managed a second strike on target from a free-kick with ten minutes remaining, but the Spanish goalkeeper was more than equal to it, as he was to substitute Danny Welbeck’s shot from inside the box moments later.

Watford created one more chance from their brief moment on the front foot with Welbeck pulling the ball back to Hughes from the goal-line, only for the midfielder to miss the ball from the edge of the six-yard-box.

The game was finally put beyond the Hornets when Cesar Azpilicueta cut the ball back for Barkley, who smashed the ball into the top corner from the edge of the area.

The Hornets now host Norwich and Newcastle United before a trip to West Ham, in what could be their three most important games of the season. While there were some encouraging signs during this game, they will still need to improve a lot more if they are to get the points they need to stay up.