Miguel Britos’ Rise From Zero to Hero
Posted by Ryan Smith | Published on February 21, 2016
Miguel Britos arrived at Watford FC with not many supporters knowing who he was or why he was needed at the club. At the time, Watford had not long appointed Quique Sanchez Flores as their head coach and the partnership that Gabriele Angella and Craig Cathcart formed in the Championship the season before under Slavisa Jokanovic seemed the only way forward for Watford’s defence. Things looked on the up for the Uruguayan, as shortly after the Capital One Cup game against Preston North End, Angella made a loan switch to QPR. However the signing still seemed a waste of money given that The Hornets had just signed Sebastian Prödl. Would he (Britos) become another Essaid Belkalem? Get a couple of games a season in the cup competitions due to a starting defender being injured/rested, have the odd good game, be forced into the U21 squad and eventually sold on?
Indeed, that statement was beginning to become true at the beginning of Premier League season. The ever reliable Northern Irish international Craig Cathcart formed a very solid partnership with experienced Austrian defender Sebastian Prödl, bought in from Werder Bremen in the summer. It looked almost impossible for Britos break into the first team.
That was until Watford’s first game in the Capital One Cup came around against Preston North End at Deepdale. There were wholesale changes from the side that lined up against Southampton just a few days before in the 0-0 result at Vicarage Road. Britos was partnered Angella in the centre of defence (who would depart Vicarage Road for QPR shortly after this game as mentioned above). He managed just 42 minutes before being cautioned for a foul and was then sent off for violent conduct in the 75th minute. He’d had a poor game during the 75 minutes he did play. Made poor decisions, appalling passes with most of them, embarrassingly going out for throw-ins, and the red card topped it off – not the greatest way to introduce yourself to your new fans, eh?
It would take Britos nearly 2 months to work his way back into the first team at Watford. His second chance came against an in-form Stoke side at the Britannia. There was a lot made of Flores’ decision to drop the in-form Prödl among the Watford fan base on social media, with some fans predicting a loss due to his name being in the starting 11. Britos won 33% of his aerial duels against Stoke’s front three, made 3 interceptions and as many clearances. He also had 79% pass accuracy throughout the whole game – which is impressive considering he’d never played a competitive game with his team-mates for the day. Any doubts about the Uruguayan’s conduct were brushed aside at the full-time whistle as he was arguably one of Watford’s best players on the day, as goals from captain Troy Deeney (his first of the season) and Almen Abdi (also his first) saw off Mark Hughes’ in-form Potters’ side.
Britos would find himself partnered with Craig Cathcart the following week in a 2-0 win against West Ham at Vicarage Road. Winning 40% of his aerial battles, making 6 vital clearances and 2 interceptions it was no wonder that in the coming weeks and months, the partnership of Craig Cathcart and Miguel Britos was keeping Sebastian Prödl out of the starting 11. The Waford faithful were warming to the Uruguayan. As you can imagine, it was a very good time to be a Watford fan. Two in-form centre backs in Prödl and Britos with Cathcart the backbone in the centre of defence – it’s fair to say, the back line of Watford’s was looking very promising for the clubs first time back in the Premier League since the 2006/07 season.
The Uruguayan has managed to keep 6 clean sheets in the 17 appearances he’s had with The Hornets. You only need to watch the way he commands the back line, plays himself out of tight situations with ease and keeps some of the Premier League’s most talented playmakers such as Phillipe Coutinho and Dimitri Payet quiet, to realise that Britos could be one of Watford’s key players to keep them up in the top flight this season. Britos has also averaged a very fair 6.92 rating in the 17 appearances he has made for Watford, which is the second highest average rating in The Hornets defence behind young full-back, Nathan Ake who is on loan from Champions, Chelsea. Whilst the limelight has been firmly on the men leading the line for Watford in Ighalo and Deeney – rightly so, you cannot underestimate Britos’ contribution to Watford’s back line. Being: commanding, confident, calm and level headed are just some of the qualities that he has brought to Watford this season.
Of course, I have mainly focused on Miguel Britos in this article, but special mentions to Allan Nyom who is the most complete right-back I have seen in Watford colours in years, a mixture of pace and strength makes him a great full-back defensively. His pace and strength also makes him a real unit going forward. Nathan Ake just oozes talent and potential every time he steps out onto the pitch. And last but not least, The Hornets experienced keeper Heurelho Gomes who has kept Watford in some games that looked destined to be heavy defeats.