I originally wrote this a few weeks ago after the Huddersfield game. Now the season has run its course I thought I would revisit it and see if there was anything I wanted to change.
It’snever er been an easy ride being a fan of Watford. Years of mediocrity interrupted by the 1st Taylor era, followed by more years of mediocrity with the two play-off wins (less said about the seasons that followed both, the better) and then a seeming spiral of near-terminal decline following the financial crises of the early 2010’s.
All of a sudden a saviour (or at least a family thereof) appeared from the east. Gino Pozzo, for reasons I still can’t entirely fathom, decided that our homely little club with its ramshackle stadium, in an uninspiring corner of one of SE England’s least glamorous towns was to be his bridgehead to the riches of the premier league.
I won’t repeat the full history of the years since then, as I am sure we are all aware of it, rather, I want to look to the future and try and get a feeling of where I think the club is going and where I feel it should go.
It has been a strange season by any standards. The hope and excitement that I and most fans greeted the appointment of Marco Silva with evaporated in the late autumn, leaving another season to grind its way to the mediocrity of mid-table survival.
I think I speak for most Watford fans when I say that serious surgery needs to happen to our squad this summer, players who may not have always been fan favourites but usually reliable have begun to creak lately so here goes, feel free to disagree and flame me on social media:
The boss – Gracia is on an 18 month contract. I’m still not sure what his favoured tactical set up is but surely he deserves a transfer window and a pre-season but our dismal away form is a major concern. – Keep, if no better alternative appears.
Heurelho Gomes – A nailed on Vicarage Road legend and seems like a nice guy to boot but like many in the current squad a player whose best days are behind him. Release
Oerestes Karnezis – A good shot stopper who did well to come back after his horror show at Goodison, but still positionally suspect and hasn’t commanded the box well enough when the ball has been lumped in recently. Release
Daniel Bachmann – I saw him play for 45 minutes in pre-season and really can’t say much about him one way or the other. Keep as I’ve got rid of the other two keepers.
Daryl Janmaat – I can’t help liking this guy, even though as every Geordie said when we signed him, he can’t defend for toffee but does offer good attacking threat and I feel that he may yet form a decent partnership on the right with Kiko. Keep
Kiko Feminia – Pace and determination and no small amount of skill. With a bit of decent coaching regarding his positional play, a real superstar could emerge. Keep
Craig Cathcart – Injury has wrecked his season but I reckon he’s got another decent year in his legs, could form a good partnership with Kabasele if both stay fit. Keep
Miguel Britos – The years have finally caught up with the combative Uruguyan. Release
Younes Kaboul – Same as Britos I’m afraid. We’ll always have his free-kick at the Emirates. Release
Seb Prodl – A player who has gone backwards at a rate of knots this season. Seems to have lost the positional sense that used to mask his lack of pace. Release
Adrian Mariappa – Another whose time as a top-flight player has come to an end. Can easily see him dropping down a division and captaining a side to promotion before being released. Release
Chris Kabasele – One of the few players in the current squad who seem to understand the ethos of a “family club”. On the pitch he has improved greatly this season and we have certainly missed him recently. Keep
Molla Wague – “Thanks for you efforts, but we’ve really seen nothing to warrant keeping you.” Release
Marvin Zeegalar – A modern fullback i.e. one who cant’ actually defend that well. Release
Tommie Hoban – Hard to remember his breakthrough season under Zola which was truncated by injury. I think the road back for him won’t go through Vicarage Road. A real pity. Release
Jose Holebas – Burnt his bridges at Southampton in the cup. It’s a sign of our weaknesses that he is probably our best defensive full back but his time is done. Release
Etienne Capoue – A really difficult one this. At times he can look lazy and has a terrible habit of giving the ball away and then fouling the player he’s just lost out to. However, think for a moment of some of our best performances in the PL and one thing they have in common is man-of-the match displays from the Frenchman (particularly away at the Emirates last year). Keep, but sell if a decent enough offer comes in.
Tom Cleverly – No arguments surely, just don’t let him take penalties. Keep and make club captain.
Didier N’Dong – No, me neither. Release.
Nathaniel Chalobah – Without doubt, his injury has damaged our season more than any other. Keep
Abdoulaye Doucoure – Started the season fantastically but carrying the team through the winter seems to have sapped even his phenomenal energy. Despite some worrying “come and get me” pleas to Wenger, I think he still has a lot to prove at the very highest level. Keep
Will Hughes- If his fitness hadn’t been an issue mid-season, he could well be looking forward to a trip to Russia this year. A genuine star in the making. Keep
Andre Carillo – See Molla Wague Release
Roberto Pereyra – Certainly not the number 10 playmaker we thought he might be but certainly shown the ability to give opposition problems on either flank. Still reluctant to go in for 50-50s but seems to be gaining confidence. Keep
Gerard Deulofeu – An all time great performance vs Chlesea, followed by a season-ending injury some how sums up this season. Bags of potential but that’s what Evertonians felt. Keep
Richarlison – Another one whose form came down with the Christmas decorations but the potential is unmistakeable – needs a good rest over the summer. Keep but if others really are serious about £40m bids, bite their hands off.
Dodi Lukebakio- Presumably signed for the future. Keep (I guess)
Stefano Okaka – After his freezing out by Silva, many considered the lumbering Italian “The Answer” – he isn’t. Release
Jerome Sinclair- See Carillo & Wague Release
Andre Grey – He’s getting some stick for his part in the build-up to Huddersfield’s goal (though shocking defending/goalkeeping was surely more at fault) and has not established himself as a fan favourite, but to be fair he has been asked to play in a system that doesn’t suit him. He scored goals in Dyche’s anti-football side so he must have something about him- surely? Keep (with reservations)
Troy Deeney – There have been times this season when I feel his brain has not been fully engaged before he has spoken and that some of the remarks have come back to haunt him. All of this would matter little if his performances and discipline on the pitch had been anything to write home about. Frankly they haven’t, and seven games out through suspension just isn’t acceptable. My money is on his goals shooting West Brom to promotion from the championship next season. Release, with gratitude.
The Club Whilst we are miles ahead off the pitch from where we were when the Pozzi rode into town, there is one thing which baffles more fans than anything – the huge number of injuries the players have suffered and the seeming inability of the medical team to get them fit in a reasonable amount of time. I know the square root of zero about sports medicine but clearly something isn’t working.
The role of Filippo Giraldi has come into question recently and it does seem that his default style of thinking is to go for short-term solutions rather than trying to build for the long-term – maybe it’s time for refreshing that part of the organisation.
Whilst the mood amongst the fanbase is towards the disgruntled end of the spectrum, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are a premier league club, would we really like to go back to the days when signing Carl Dickinson and Chris Iwelumo was a cause for celebration to fans in a three-sided ground?