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Football News: Watford Season Review

Watford Season Review
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Watford Season Review

The more things change, the more things stay the same in Watford's case. It seems like the same old story at the Hornets, a new manager for the season, who gets fired at the end of the season so they can bring in a new manager. Stability is not a word that is easily associated with Watford under the Pozzo families ownership. Still, it could be worse, just ask Granada fans, who are finding out just what kind of mess the Pozzos left behind them when they went. Is that hiding under the bonnet of this Watford team, ready to drag the club back down out of the Premier League at any moment?

Right now though, there are clearly some issues within the club, which are holding it back from doing any more than staying afloat in the Prem. A promising season was turned into one of utterly boring mediocrity, both in terms of the play and the league position. Never really in danger of relegation, despite ending the season in 17th, just one place clear of the danger zone, never really challenging for Europe, Watford were never really doing anything of interest at all.

The play on the pitch resembled the state of play off it, yawn inducing would be a misrepresentation, as it was never exciting enough to induce a reaction of any kind, even a yawn. One of the most mystifying parts of last season was how Watford were able to be so dire, yet were in such a good position in the league table. The team managed to fix that particular issue with a run of five straight defeats to end the season seeing them slide down to rest in 17th, just one place above the drop zone. That is probably one place, maybe, above where their overall play deserved over the course of the season.

It was probably a relief to everyone who plans to watch any Hornets matches next season that Walter Mazzarri received his marching orders and Marco Silva, who had excited so many at Hull City, was brought in to replace him. How long will he get to make his mark?


Walter Mazzarri

Mazzarri is just one of many things about Watford I struggle to understand. Everything about the team was set up to be attacking, the formation, the players, except the way Mazzarri used them. When people talk about a stereotypical Italian coach, one who sees the perfect match as one his team wins 1-0 by scoring on their only shot, while stopping the opposition getting a single chance, they could so easily be referring to Mazzarri, at times. So often he sent out a team filled with attackers, playing what looked like a 3-4-3, but it would be, in practice, a 5-4-1, with the 1 expected to drop back into midfield and help out.

So often they seemed to have little intent of attacking, unless a ball whacked in the general direction of Troy Deeney is counted as attacking intent? Mazzarri just seems a bad fit for English football, certainly for Watford as he came close to a full on players' revolt during the season. His decision to inform the media that his players were suffering from 'overload' and to rest them, when not one seemed to agree that they were tired, caused massive amounts of friction. Public discord between himself and captain Troy Deeney in fact, as Deeney was quick to tell the media that he was in fact fit and raring to go.

What Watford had in Mazzarri was a manager who actually made things worse than they needed to be. He was an anchor holding back the team, rather than the manager finding ways to move them forward. He managed to find ways to lose, rather than ways to win, with his tactics and man-management (or lack of). Which makes the appointment of Marco Silva all the more interesting, to see what he can do with Watford.

Marks out of 10: -3


Odion Ighalo

Had nothing like the same impact as he had the previous year, in fact he looked like a player who just wanted to be anywhere but there. It was clear that he was still sulking after a number of potential summer moves to bigger clubs came to nothing. Ighalo showed exactly what he was all about when he ran off to take the big money on offer in Chinese football in the January window, with just one goal and one assist from the first half of the season to show for his efforts.

To be fair to Ighalo, the football was much less attacking, with Deeney no longer a partner up top for him, Deeney was usually in his own half chasing back, rather than providing support for the attack. Ighalo was very isolated and his tricks were no longer coming off as they did for a large period of the previous season. Partially due to defenders having a better idea of his play and the lack of support giving him less space to work in. However he was poor, whatever the reasons, and it was probably the best move for all that he left.

Marks out of 10: 0


Matej Vydra

Only managed one appearance before being sold to Derby County in August. Never managed to show any sign of being a Premier League striker in his time there though.

Marks out of 10: 0


Adlene Guedioura

The Algerian midfielder was mostly on the bench, struggling to make a positive impact on the team. It was probably a relief for all parties when Middlesbrough stepped in and bought him on transfer deadline day in January.

Marks out of 10: 0


Ikechi Anya

The Scottish winger/full back made one short cameo as a sub before being shipped off to Derby in the Championship.

Marks out of 10: 2


Jerome Sinclair

The young forward left Liverpool in the summer in the hope of getting more first team opportunities at Watford this season. Just one start and 4 sub appearances later, he was off to Birmingham City on loan in the January window, as those first team opportunities never appeared. Though it must be pointed out that he did fail to impress when he played, so it is difficult to blame Watford for his lack of chances.

Marks out of 10: 1



This was a season of what could have been for the young Brazilian left sided player. He joined Watford late in the transfer window, from Chelsea, on loan. Got himself onto the bench there, one short sub appearance and then suffered a knee injury that ruled him out for months, which resulted in him returning to the Pensioners in the January window.

Marks out of 10: 0


Costel Pantilimon

Arrived from Sunderland as a back up to Gomes on a free transfer, spending most of the season picking splinters out of his backside. Managed two sub appearances in the league and cup games. A competent back up, but nothing more.

Marks out of 10: 0


Heurelho Gomes

Gomes has to be the most frustrating keeper around. At times he pulls off saves he has no right to make and you are unable to do anything but applaud. The problem comes when you take the time to look back at his performance over a game, when you take out the emotional reaction you have to a player pulling off an acrobatic save. Once you examine his game closely, you start to understand why he failed at Tottenham Hotspur and why he conceded 65 goals in 39 matches.

Extremely acrobatic, but prone to errors, not just in terms of weak kicks, missed easy saves, lack of command over his area, flaps at crosses and inability to organise his defence, but also when he does make saves, he tends to just push it anywhere, rather than to safety. Exciting and entertaining to watch, but his game has so many flaws it is a wonder he is first choice at a top flight club.

Marks out of 10: 1.5


Christian Kabasele

The big Belgian arrived from Genk in the summer and struggled to settle in to English football. He was very inconsistent, which led to him failing to hold down a first team place every week. In the end he made just 9 starts and 9 substitute appearances, though a couple of injuries did hinder him.

Marks out of 10: 4


Sebastian Prodl

The centre back was the lynchpin of the Watford defence last season, turning in some decent performances over the course of the season. However there were also times that the Austrian looked a little lost by the instructions given to him and struggled.

Marks out of 10: 6


Craig Cathcart

When Cathcart jumped the sinking ship of Blackpool, a return to Watford must have seemed a nice, comfortable place to return to, having spent time on loan there while a Manchester United youth prospect. At first it might have seemed a good choice, by the end of the season he must have been wondering what the future will hold for him. The Northern Irishman started the season at centre back before a hernia ruled him out for 3 months, on his return he struggled to force his way into the side in his favoured position, mainly being used as injury cover at right back. A knee injury ended his season early.

Marks out of 10: 4.5


Miguel Britos

This season showed some promising signs for the summer signing from Napoli. In the main he was defensively solid, though showed signs of an almost stereotypical Uruguayan tendency towards foul play. That resulted in 4 games being missed through suspension alone. Personally I think you can cope with that, as defenders have to be expected to pick up cards at times. Especially in a team like Watford, who invited the opposition onto them each game.

Marks out of 10: 5.5


Younes Kaboul

Kaboul was probably extremely grateful to get a move away from Sunderland, and the looming threat of relegation, in the summer. His main issue has always been the problem of injuries, which again interrupted his season on a number of occasions. With Watford having a surfeit of experienced centre backs, it does seem an odd signing. Kaboul has the pace and strength to be top class, but lacks the positional play and quality on the ball needed.

Marks out of 10: 3


Adrian Mariappa

Mariappa's return to Watford, from Crystal Palace, on a free transfer, made him yet another experienced central defender with injury problems, to add to the group of them alongside him. For most of the season his signing seemed to be completely pointless, partially due to him being being injured and partially due to the huge amount of options available to the manager in his position. However Mariappa came into his own during the run in, as Watford faced an injury crisis in defence. While those 7 appearances were vital to the team, questions must be asked of why there was no youth player to cover that injury crisis.

Marks out of 10: 4


Jose Holebas

The left back arrived from AS Roma in the summer as yet another in their slew of veteran defenders, in a strange transfer policy. Holebas' main strength is that left foot of his can provide fantastic delivery, both from crosses and dead ball situations. However, he does have a disciplinary issue, picking up 14 yellow cards over the course of the season. Overall Holebas' contribution was mixed, with tactics often shackling him and reducing his contribution to the attack, where his lovely left foot could have done some damage.

Marks out of 10: 4.5


Daryl Janmaat

Janmaat was linked with moves to big clubs while Newcastle United were in the Premier League, so it was probably a big surprise to the Dutch full back that only Watford made a genuine bid for him following the Toon's relegation. Niggling injuries meant he was in and out of the squad far more than he would have liked, it also affected his form. At least, I personally would give him the benefit of the doubt that the niggles were the reason for his poor form over the course of the season.

Marks out of 10: 3


Etienne Capoue

Capoue started off the season on fire, scoring 4 goals in the first 5 matches from midfield, and making himself look a bargain signing from Spurs. However Mazzarri's tinkering saw him moved all over the midfield, breaking up his form as he never got a truly sustained run in any one position. Over the course of this one season, Capoue was utilised on the left and right of midfield, as well as a defensive midfielder, a box to box midfielder and an attacking midfielder. Managing just 3 more goals over the course of the season, Capoue still managed to be Watford's second highest scorer, showing exactly why they struggled so badly.

Marks out of 10: 6.5


Valon Behrami

Another example of Watford's strange policy of signing over the hill veterans to the team, Behrami is one of many players who are the wrong side of 30 added during the summer transfer window, this time signed from Bundesliga side Hamburg SV. The 32 year old Swiss midfielder figured regularly when fit, but he has struggled to settle in England and it showed in his performances, which were not at the level that was expected of him.

Marks out of 10: 4


Tom Cleverley

Arrived from Everton on a loan until the end of the season, a loan which should be made permanent on July 1st, and slotted straight into the side. Cleverley's ability to pass sideways and backwards, no matter how many forward options were available to him, were much prized by Mazzarri.

Marks out of 10: 3


Abdoulaye Doucoure

Doucoure is unusual in the Watford squad, he is one of a very small number of Hornets' players under the age of 30. It took him until January to get a place in the team, but once in there he has become hard to shift. Doucoure provided an energy and workrate that the rest of the team lacked.

Marks out of 10: 5.5


Ben Watson

Struggled to get anywhere near the team over the coourse of the season, following his red card in the opening match. Contributed little.

Marks out of 10: -2


Camilo Zuniga

The Colombian arrived on loan from Napoli in the summer, but failed to establish himself. Zuniga struggled to even find himself a role in the side, being used to fill in where and when needed, mostly from the bench, in both full back positions and central midfield. He was aggressive and tried hard, but failed to convince Mazzarri that he was worthy of a regular starting berth.

Marks out of 10: 1


Roberto Pereyra

When the Argentine midfielder arrived in the summer from Juventus, he was meant to bring the creativity and quality that was sorely lacking in the Watford team. Pereyra's start to life at Watford suggests he might well have done so, with some really promising performances until an ACL injury ended his season in December. The Hornets looked a much better side with him in it and never really seemed to recover from his injury.

Marks out of 10: 5


Nordin Amrabat

Amrabat can be summed up quite easily, lots of industry with very little to show for it. He works hard, but there is a complete lack of thought behind his work and even less end product. Maximum effort for minimum achievement.

Marks out of 10: 3


Isaac Success

The youngest member of the Watford squad, Nigerian attacker Success failed to live up to his name. Patially due to injuries and partly due to being unable to get a starting berth in the side. Showed pace and a willingness to charge forward, but little intelligence. It was more about promise or potential than success.

Marks out of 10: 2


Mauro Zarate

Zarate was brought back to English football from Fiorentina, in an attempt to replace the creativity lost when Pereyra picked up his ACL injury. Unfortunately the Argentine was only able to manage 3 starts, only to be struck down by an ACL injury of his own, ruling him out of the season.

Marks out of 10: 0


M'Biaye Niang

The January loan signing from AC Milan is one of those players that inconsistent could have been invented to describe. It is hard to decide what Niang's best position is as, despite starting 15 matches, there was never a match where he actually looked like he knew where he was playing or what he was meant to be doing. It does not help that he has a similarly awkward style to Peter Crouch, which makes him look like he is always on the verge of losing the ball. However, he is quick and powerful, with genuine potential to be a good player, if someone can just figure out how to harness his abilities within a team framework.

Marks out of 10: 3.5


Troy Deeney

Deeney is the captain, talisman and top scorer in this team. He is the pivot around which it all happens. He is to Watford what Gylfi Sigurdsson is to Swansea City.

Marks out of 10: 7


Stefano Okaka

Okaka suffered a season badly disrupted by injuries and never really got to show what he could do. However, it must be said that he did not show anything to excite the fans with his performances this season.

Marks out of 10: 1

Written by Tris Burke June 20 2017 13:25:30