Why Watford’s surprise sting could attract star winter signings
Holly Thackeray | December 16, 2015
Hornets Hertfordshire heroics
With Leicester City deservedly this season’s Premier League poster boys, and en vogue underdogs, Watford and their quiet ascent to seventh spot have largely gone unnoticed, especially amid the Jurgen Klopp commotion and Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea meltdown.
Coach Quique Sanchez Flores arrived in summer amid much mistrust from press, fans and pundits, but the Spaniard has steadily steered his Hornets to 25 points from 16 games and two places from Europa League football, with the minimum amount of fuss.
It’s been quite the turnaround for the Hertfordshire side (superb at 7/4 with Coral for a top 10 finish), who have quietly gone about their business of Premier League survival, with comparatively under-the-radar antics to their previous headline-hogging Championship selves.
Pozzo politics prove prudent
Controversial Italian owners the Pozzo family came under much criticism for their previous revolving door coach policy, and particularly over the axing of promotion-securing boss Slavisa Jokanovic.
Yet, while the hierarchy’s manager shuffling was maligned by many, such axe-wielding, in tandem with a rushed looking recruitment policy yielding 16 new additions, ultimately appears to have worked in their favour.
Current dug-out incumbent Flores is thriving on moulding almost a completely new XI, instead of feeding off the previous coach’s scraps, and coming a cropper against established systems, entrenched ideas and old loyalties.
The multicultural squad, instead of appearing patched together, has gelled in quick-fast time, with five victories from their past seven Premier League games to steam nine and seven points ahead of fellow Championship graduates Bournemouth and Norwich City respectively.
Looking at the amount of change the club incurred before their challenging campaign began, they were widely expected to sink, rather than buck the trend of promotion toils to sail mid-table. Especially with the peculiar decision to allow Matej Vydra out on loan, after the forward helped fire the Hornets to the top-flight.
Though, the 23-year-old has struggled with Reading, while partners in crime Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney’s dangerous relationship has blossomed beautifully, with the pair combining to create 15 of Watford’s 18 league goals.
Top performers and transfer targets
Watford’s seamless transition is far from a two-man effort, however, with steady and consistent selfless team performances from the likes of midfield shield Etienne Capoue, finally showcasing his true talent, and stopper Heurelho Gomes, who has seized his second chance.
Relative Vicarage Road stalwart Almen Abdi is another who strove to impress and carve a place in the regular XI, while fullbacks Allan Nyom and Nathan Ake are looking like increasingly important cogs with every passing game.
The Pozzo empire is not something that rests on its laurels, however, and subsequently, the Hornets have been linked to some rather spectacular transfer targets in Juventus forward Simone Zaza and Roma attacker Juan Iturbe.
Both are on the outs at their Italian clubs, but these moves are perhaps not as unlikely as they may seem at first glance. The Giallorossi are keen to bump Iturbe off their wage bill, and the talented Argentine reportedly fancies trying his talents out on English soil, which could make for a perfect match.
Zaza’s situation is similar, and Watford must ensure they have depth should the goals dry up for skipper Deeney and star striker Igahlo.
Festive trials ahead
The Hornets’ Premier League picture may not look so pretty once the New Year’s party has passed, which may be another reason for adding extra sparkle to the roster.
Watford next face Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City in quick succession, an unenviable run which will truly test their top-tier credentials.
Nobody expects them to emerge unscathed from that perilous patch, but a few points are not beyond them, with captain Deeney recently defiant to press.
The skipper said: “We know we’ve got four tough games coming up. That’s the reason teams stay up in the Premier League – as they get points in this part of the season.
“It’s not about the start of the season but it’s this tricky middle spell. We have a tough winter fixture list and everyone will be writing us off in these games. But we certainly aren’t.”
With that in mind, Watford are rank outsiders at 28/1 for relegation, odds they would surely have been happy with at the start of the season. So, perhaps their upcoming opponents should head Deeney’s words after all…