Second Season Syndrome? Not For Watford
Posted by Sean Walker | Published on December 2, 2016
With game week fourteen just around the corner, I take a look at Watford’s impressive start to their second year of Premier League football consecutively.
At the end of Watford’s 2015/2016 campaign, Quique Sanchez Flores was sacked. Despite keeping The Hornets up in their first year of top flight football since 2007 – due to poor transfers, a style of football implemented that clearly was not working and a lack of change in what Quique was doing, the Spaniard was shown the door by Chairman Gino Pozzo.
Many neutrals and naïve pundits were certain that this decision would be the doom of Watford, tipping The Hornets to be relegated. This has not been the case, Walter Mazzarri has certainly shown he is far more developed as a coach. So, what has Walter done differently?
Well, first of all, the system. Mazzarri has implemented a 3-5-2 system, which has recently been varied into a 4-4-2, a 3-4-2-1 or a 4-4-1-1. The players brought in have been smart signings, players who can adapt to different positions and roles, Janmaat, Zuniga and Isaac Success are all prime examples of this.
Watford arguably had the toughest start to the season with West Ham, Southampton, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea all to play in Watford’s opening five league fixtures. However, Mazzarri’s men picked up seven points. From then, the Hertfordshire-based club have gone from strength to strength.
Etienne Capoue – The Frenchman has been given more freedom to push further up the pitch and hasn’t he made the most of it. Scoring five goals already this season, Capoue has been far better compared to last season’s campaign, however; the lack of consistency from Watford’s number 29 is a concern.
Nordin Amrabat – Undoubtedly Watford’s best player this season. Wingback, partnering Watford skipper Troy Deeney up top or as a number ten, Amrabat has been exceptional. The Moroccan has been nominated for player of the month, and despite not scoring for Watford, with a mixture of pace and strength – Amrabat has been very effective. What has impressed most Watford fans is his transformation from last season to this season. Nordin struggled to fit into the side, after being bought from Spanish side Malaga for six million pounds, poor performances and a lack of goals made it looked like he was going to be a flop. Nevertheless, straight from the first game at St.Mary’s, Amrabat has been a whole new player for the better.
Sebastian Prodl – Despite not getting off to the best of starts, Sebastian Prodl has been one of Watford’s best performer so far this season. The Austrian international was linked with feeder club Udinese in the summer, however, Prodl decided to stay in England. He had to wait to regain his place in the side, but when he did, he impressed. A man of the match display against Manchester United started a string of top drawer performances, now he is perhaps Watford’s most influential defender.
After receiving a lot of stick, losing his place in the side and some awful performances for a long time, Watford’s former golden boy looks like he could be on his way out in January. Ighalo has been playing on his reputation for far too long, and once Success is back, Ighalo will fall to the bottom of the pecking order. He has been linked to Napoli and West Ham already; it looks like Ighalo will be on his way out in an attempt to recapture his form.
After recently making his debut for Belgium, Kabasele is slowly making a name for himself, yet his sporadic first team football opportunities means that he will probably on his way out on loan in the summer. Kabasele has been down the pecking order and not too impressive whilst on the pitch, I myself would be very surprised if he stayed.
With Ighalo possibly on his way to Napoli, there are reports that Gabbiadini could be going the other way. The striker scored nine in thirty last season and could be an exceptional but realistic strike partner for Deeney in January.
Ntep’s contract is running out in the summer, and Watford are looking to exploit this. For four million, Ntep would be a Watford player. The Frenchman is able to play out wide, winger or wing-back, plus at the age just twenty-four, there’s not much that can go wrong.
Watford travel to West Brom tomorrow afternoon, after a loss to Stoke City, it will be interesting to see how the players respond.