So much has been said and debated about the recent ‘schedule’ of fixtures Watford have had to face, and how they have dealt with them.

It’s certainly been discussed at length by head coach Valerien Ismael, and his decisions to rest and/or rotate some players has drawn criticism – as have a number of the performances his team have given.

However, one thing that is beyond doubt is that the Hornets did play the most games in the fewest number of days during the recent period in question.

Watford played seven fixtures in the 21-day period between Sunday January 28 and Saturday February 17, starting with the FA Cup fourth round draw with Southampton at Vicarage Road and culminating in the 1-0 win away at Rotherham on Saturday.

Only three other Championship sides had seven fixtures in roughly the same timeframe (Coventry, Bristol City and Sheffield Wednesday), but that trio played their FA Cup ties on Friday January 26.

That means their seven games were spread over 23 days, so Watford did indeed have the most crowded schedule in the last three weeks.

What didn’t help Ismael was the league match at Sheffield Wednesday on Wednesday January 31.

The Hornets had requested that the game be played at a much later date while the Owls were keen to play as soon as possible after the original date, which was Saturday January 27 – it was obviously cancelled because both sides were involved in the cup that weekend.

When two clubs can’t agree, the EFL then step in and reschedule a game, and they tend to look for the first available date, which was w/c January 29. There was no suggestion the EFL took sides, they just generally opt for the first slot they can find.

So Watford had to travel to Hillsborough and play only three days after the cup draw with Southampton.

Their hosts had played two days earlier and therefore had extra time to prepare and recover.

Because Watford had been made to play on the Wednesday night, it meant they then had only two days to prepare for the home game with Cardiff – which was very much reflected in the Hornets’ performance.

It’s worth pointing out that because of their third round FA Cup exit, Cardiff did not play on the weekend of the 26/27/28, and so they had two weeks off before travelling to Vicarage Road.

Quite clearly the replay at Southampton was an unexpected addition to the fixture list, and Watford came within a minute or two of avoiding it given the Saints’ late equaliser at Vicarage Road.

From Tuesday night at St Mary's it was back to Vicarage Road on Saturday to host leaders Leicester, who had not played in midweek and so had a full seven days to prepare.

The midweek trip to Norwich was on the fixture list from the start of the season so while it wasn’t unexpected, the Hornets were somewhat disadvantaged having played five games in the 17 days preceding the match at Carrow Road compared to the hosts’ three.

Then it was another away trip to Rotherham, who had played just three games in the same period of time that Watford had played six.

Of course, this may all sound like a lot of defence and excuses, but it’s not meant to be.

It’s just what came to light when I took a look at exactly what the recent schedule had been in comparison to the rest of the league.

This is no attempt to pass judgment on team selections or exonerate some particularly abject displays during the last seven games.

It really is just presenting some facts and figures so that fans can decide if what has been said about the crammed fixture list, player tiredness and lack of training time do hold more water when scrutinised.

For instance, in the period between Friday January 26 and Saturday February 17, the average number of games played by teams in the Championship was 5.3.

Therefore, Watford’s seven games was above the average and, as already stated, only three other teams played the same amount.

Indeed four teams, one of them Rotherham, played only four games in that time.

The average number of midweek games that each team faced was 1.5, so again Watford’s three games under floodlights was above average and matched only by the same trio of teams who also played seven times: Coventry, Bristol City and Sheffield Wednesday.

Other than Watford, only two other teams (Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday) played four of their games during that time away from home.

However, only one of the Saints’ away games was in midweek while the Owls travelled twice during the week – Watford played three midweek away matches in that time frame.

The issue there is that a midweek game generally means a day of travel and a day less of training.

Watford travelled to Sheffield, Southampton and Norwich the day before the game. Obviously that’s their choice, and it’s one made to avoid spending the day of a match sat on a coach.

However, it also means they effectively couldn’t do much training on the days they were heading to away those three away games.

So, while it’s possible to contort any set of data to make it read advantageously to the message you want to get across, on this occasion Watford did have the thin end of the scheduling wedge during the last three weeks.

Of course, whether Ismael’s explanation and use of that fixture pile-up in pre and post-match press conferences was justified is very much open to personal interpretation and opinion.

The Watford head coach suggested after Saturday’s win at Rotherham that he expects to see his side bounce back now that run of games is behind them.

“The schedule has played a massive part in the situation we were in,” he said.

“Playing Southampton, Leicester and Norwich in a short period of time, then it can happen that you will lose games.

“But that’s behind us, we learn from it and we have learned for the future. Now we have two Saturday games which means we can recover and be ready to push.”

Indeed, the Hornets have a clear week to prepare for both their next two league games, and although they have a midweek game on March 6 it’s at home which means preparation and training is significantly more manageable.

There are now five Championship matches before the international break in late March.

Three of those are at home and the other pair are two of the shorter journeys (Millwall and Birmingham) in a season where there are actually very few ‘local’ away games.

There is no doubt that the results and performances of recent weeks have been disappointing at best, but as shown here there is some reasonable defence in the scheduling issues that have been cited.

However, on the other hand, with just five games in the next four weeks - three of them at home and two relatively short road trips - then the time to judge where this Watford squad really is at will possibly come after the final whistle at St Andrews on March 16 and the two-week international break begins.

When the season resumes, there will be eight league games left: four at Vicarage Road and four away from home.

Seven of those eight games are against team currently sitting in the top 10 of the Championship.

If, after the final whistle at Birmingham, there is any chance of reaching the play-offs then the Hornets will have their fate in their own hands.

Conversely, if they are sitting in mid-table or worse, then that octet of fixtures could be fulfilled with the need to regularly have a look over shoulders.