Watford have been a completely different team since Nigel Pearson took over - and so has French midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré.

The Hornets have gained ten points from a possible 15 since the former Leicester manager's appointment - including impressive home wins over Manchester United, Aston Villa and Wolves - and are now just win away from climbing out of the bottom three, if results go their way.

Part of this miraculous recovery has stemmed from Pearson's ability to get the best out of Doucouré, who was previously a leading light for Watford. 

Under previous managers, his confidence seemed to have diminished and he looked a shadow of the player that had earned so many plaudits over the previous 18 months. 

But since Pearson has taken charge, he's looked back to his best - and has helped his side overcome a horrific start to the season that yielded just one win in Watford's first 17 (yes, SEVENTEEN) games.

Previous incumbents Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez Flores had both tried, and failed, to remedy Watford's problems, but Pearson seems to have breathed new life into Doucouré - allowing him to play with more freedom, which has seemingly injected a fresh energy into his play.

Prior to his dip in form, the French midfielder had been an integral part of the Hornets since making his debut in the 2016/17 season. He's played over 100 Premier League games to date, scoring 15 times, and was a key component of Watford's run to last season's FA Cup final.

His tireless performances in the centre of midfielder next to compatriot Etienne Capoue earned widespread acclaim, as well as interest from elsewhere. PSG were thought to be keen on one point, with murmurs of a £40m bid doing the rounds, as were Everton, led by former boss Marco Silva. The Toffees even made an offer, but that was swiftly batted away.

Abdoulaye Doucoure

Doucouré was so good that he won Watford's Player of the Season at the end of his second season, having bagged seven goals. 

But this season, up until now, he's struggled - like the majority of his teammates. A lack of confidence from the Hornets' dire start to the campaign or distraction from those interested parties are potential reasons for his dip, but there's no doubting that his performances weren't great.

That's all changed with Pearson's appointment, though. Now, Doucouré has more freedom, playing as part of a three-man central midfield. Previously, he was operating in a two under Gracia and Flores - limiting his opportunities to act as a box-to-box midfielder.

Ably assisted by Capoue and Will Hughes, he's been able to slot in behind target man ​Troy Deeney and has been far from effective. He's running in behind once more, allowing the aforementioned Deeney to drop deeper and help to link up play. 

That has aided better ball retention for the Hornets, which has indirectly led to an increase in Watford's goalscoring - they have almost doubled their tally since Doucouré has moved into this role.

While he may not be the one scoring or assisting them all, there's no doubting that he's benefitted from the tactical switch; the stats showing that he's provided at least one key pass per game since Pearson's arrival.

Perhaps his best performance came on New Year's Day against Wolves, when his marauding run from deep was rewarded with a goal, albeit in slightly fortuitous circumstances, in a 2-1 win.

Undoubtedly, he holds the key to Watford surviving this season - and Pearson will know that keeping Doucouré fit and firing is one of his highest priorities. Disinterested and dismayed no more, he could provide the spark to catapult the Hornets further up the table. 

An increase in goals and assists would be nice, but Watford will just be happy they've got the old Doucouré back, as will the club's supporters.