Columnist Billy Hawkins talks us through his feelings following Sannino’s resignation and Garcia’s rapid appointment
All change at Vicarage Road then.
Having witnessed that miraculous victory over Huddersfield Town, I was as shocked as anyone to see that Beppe Sannino had left the club.
Despite all the rumoured off-field problems, the rousing attitude of the 4-2 win hinted at a squad unity unseen for a long period of time, and it appeared to have washed away any underlying sense of loathing between playing squad and coach.
However, Sannino did leave, and it took just one day for the club to agree a deal with new manager, former Barcelona graduate Oscar Garcia.
Whatever opinions you may hold concerning the removal of Sannino, there is no denying that Garcia has all the required credentials to take charge of a top level Championship side.
The 41-year old progressed through the La Masia academy in Catalonia, spendng six seasons with the La Liga giants, before going into a coaching role with the Catalan club. He continued his coaching career under Johan Cruyff, working with the Catalonia national team, before joining Israeli Premier League side Maccabi Tel Aviv – winning them their first league title in 10 years in the process.
Following his single year in Tel Aviv, the former Spanish youth international was appointed head coach at Brighton, and led them to a sixth-placed finish in the Championship.
Reactions to his tenure were mixed; whilst his results were praised, a slow and tedious style of football was brought to south coast – a style that fans were glad to see leave.
However, his key coaching ability was one that has not been evident at Vicarage Road since the arrival of the Pozzo family: defensive stability.
In the 46-game regular Championship season, Brighton conceded just 40 goals during Garcia`s tenure. The Seagulls conceded three goals on just two occasions, and never let in more than three, and it was the intense defensive performance that ground their way into the final Play-Off place.
By comparison, the Hornets conceded 64 goals over the course of the season, finishing in a disappointing mid-table position. Whilst Sannino was seen to have improved the defence upon his arrival – and he did – his statistics in English football pale in comparison to Garcia`s reign.
In Sannino`s 31 league games in charge, Watford conceded 42 times, an average of 1.4 goals against per game, and they scored 57 times; or, 1.8 goals per game.
In Garcia`s full season, the 40 goals conceded in 46 games equates to an average of 0.8 goals conceded per game, whilst the 55 goals scored is the same as 1.4 per game.
Chris Anderson and David Sally’s book The Numbers Game brings up an important aspect of the game, and one that is heavily linked to these statistics: that a clean sheet is worth just over two goals scored in terms of points across the course of a season.
Whilst the book analyses the game in terms of numbers a little too heavily, this statement rings true. Chelsea finished last season third in the Premier League, despite failing to own a consistent scorer, all because of their Golden Glove winning clean sheet tally.
If Garcia brings the same defensive strength to Watford as he did to Brighton, those extra points may be the thing to push the Hornets over the line and guarantee promotion.
The appointment may have surprised a few in Hertfordshire when it was announced, but on his previous experience, Garcia was arguably the best candidate out of those available. His Barcelona upbringing promises smooth football, whilst a solid defence will see a welcome return to Vicarage Road.
If both can be combined, the talented squad on show will surely have enough to push for the Premier League – and maybe they will manage to reach it this time.