Watford's emphatic victory over Bristol City on Saturday provided a much-needed tonic following a string of unsightly performances that had created a palpable sense of frustration among large sections of the supporters.

While the players themselves clearly played their part in the recovery, as they humbled the Robins with a six goal demolition, the real star of the show was the new formation that allowed each and every one of them to perform to their best.

Head coach Xisco Munoz switched from the 4-4-2 that had produced tepid displays in the last three matches and instead opted to use a 4-3-3 with Will Hughes sitting at the base of a midfield trio, allowing the other two, Nathaniel Chalobah and Tom Cleverley, to get further forward and have greater influence on the attack.

It was something the pair had tried to do in the previous formation, but without the cover provided by Hughes in the new system, the risk of leaving the back four exposed meant they could never fully commit going forward.

The change also allowed Hughes to play to his strengths as well, as he repeatedly broke up Bristol City attacks with his idiosyncratic tenacity, while providing the cohesion between defence and attack that has been notably absent for the majority of the season up to this point. His previous forays out on the wing saw him perform well, but never really shine.

Both Cleverley and Chalobah have spoken about the change of formation since the resounding win and said they believe it is something worth sticking with as the Hornets look to discover the type of form they need to challenge the top two.

“I enjoy playing in there with the three guys,” said Chalobah on the club's match day broadcast, Hive Live. “We've all got a lot of experience and we work off each other. Tom gives 100 per cent, Hughesy gives the same and I'd like to put myself in that little bracket. We play to each other's strengths and we clicked very well from the start.”

It took just two minutes for Chalobah to show the benefits of the new system. On too many occasions this season he has looked negative - passing slowly to the side or back to the defenders instead of carrying possession forward and bringing the attacking players into the game.

Picture: Action Images

Picture: Action Images

However, against City on Saturday, he contributed almost immediately, slipping a perfect ball in behind for man of the match Ismaila Sarr, who looked a new player, unfettered with the newfound sense of togetherness, to create the first of five goals in which he was directly involved.

Cleverley explained that having an extra man in behind the attackers provided an extra sense of security and allowed the forwards to get on with their jobs without having to worry about leaving the rest of the team exposed.

“We've got very experienced midfielders in there and it was the first chance we've had to play as a three this season,” he told the club website.

“We know each other's games inside out and it clicked into gear. The front lads [Ken Sema, João Pedro and Ismaīla Sarr] were so dangerous throughout and I think it helped them having the security of us three behind them. It allowed them to go and express themselves."

Tomorrow night's trip to Preston provides Watford with a chance to show that this was not a one-off performance and that they are capable of increasing the pressure on the automatic promotion spots.

Chalobah will likely be involved again, as Munoz confirmed after the game his early substitution was due to him picking up a yellow card, with the head coach reluctant to lose the midfielder to suspension.

Picture: PA

Picture: PA

It's also incredibly likely that the same formation will be used, following its unquestionably successful debut.

Six points currently divide the Hornets from the top two, but performances like the one they produced at the weekend suggest it is far from an insurmountable gap.

The players know they need to find the same intensity again, particularly on the road where their form has been uninspiring so far this season.

“It was a great response,” said Chalobah. “It was crucial and the way we started was brilliant. We set the intensity and we took the game to them, which is great at home. Now we have got to take that form away and get ready for Tuesday.”

Cleverley echoed Chalobah's sentiments, and those of the head coach and said they cannot allow themselves to get carried away after one high-scoring game.

“There is a fine balance between getting excited and carried away," he said. "There is still a long way to go and the task is still at hand. We can't get too excited as we have another game on Tuesday and we need to forget about this quite quickly. The coach was pretty calm. He was pleased with us and kept focusing on our attacking play and being positive. He'll be pleased with the goals we have scored, but it's important we stay focused. We can't afford to get carried away. There is a long way to go.”