Just How Good Have We Been?
Sublime, incredible, enjoyable, unbelievable and proud are just a few words that more than adequately sum up the first half of Watford`s Premier League campaign. It`s been a pleasure watching Quique Flores` tactical game plans executed to perfection by Troy Deeney and co. almost week in week out. It`s been a pleasure seeing Watford reach the heady heights of 7th place in the “category” in the words of Flores himself. It`s been a pleasure to watch such a simply set-up, well drilled and hard-working quality team beat the supposed ‘big-boys` in Liverpool and relative minnows in Norwich City. Every game has been hotly contested, perhaps with the exception of Manchester City where we never looked like scoring, and every moment of the campaign so far has, as I`ve said a few times now, been a pleasure.
One of the best things has to be the surprising nature (to the outside world) of our consistently good form and simple style of play that has propelled us into 8th at the time of writing this article. Repetitive and unknowing comments that were flung around after our first few wins; our multinational squad in excess of 20 nationalities, how diabolical the team we just beat were, an amateurish focus on Deeney and Ighalo and how well Flores has done to gel the squad together so quickly have now dried up. Those that supposedly know what they`re talking about, along with the rest of the footballing world, are beginning to realise that we`re a well-oiled side who can beat anyone in the league on our day, with some suggesting we could even go on our European tour! I would go as far to say we are almost certain to stay up, even at this stage and as a cautious and sometimes pessimistic Watford fan. The faint possibility of relegation, yes, I`m looking down not up, would have to see Watford mirror something like Aston Villa`s dire first half of the season.
The highlight of the season for me so far has to be the 3-0 home victory against Liverpool. We tore them to shreds. I rarely saw such dominance when we were in the Championship never mind the Premier League. To thump a side with so much history and a manager who has been talked about ten times more than all of the teams in the bottom half of the Premier League combined (including us and omitting Chelsea) was very satisfying. The emphatic result also exemplified how far we`ve come as a club, particularly since the Pozzo takeover in the summer of 2012, Watford loves you more than you will know!
There can be very little doubt over our player of the season so far in Odion Ighalo. His 14 goals have really made the difference for us this season, and without him and Troy Deeney, we really would be in trouble in goal scoring terms. I dislike the media fuss focussing solely on strikers and our old-fashioned front pairing, particularly when each and every player in the Hornets squad has performed, but when you have a striker who is second in the goal scoring charts so far in a newly promoted side, who can blame them? I`m in little doubt that we will keep hold of the powerful Nigerian over the forthcoming January transfer window, its in the Summer when I think the Pozzo`s may have to stand firm against big interest for him.
As always, the captain Troy Deeney has led the side brilliantly, and to quote Quique Flores he is the “soul” of the team. I`ve been most impressed by his ability to lay on the assists for Ighalo consistently, and his football brain is far better than I ever thought it was, he has a canny knack of knowing where his strike partner is at the same time as holding off two centre backs who are seemingly using him as a climbing frame, not that the referee sees it that way, obviously. What is really appreciated by every Watford fan is his and Ighalo`s work rate and tracking back to help the rest of the team, something that is fundamental in the way Flores sets out his side.
A special mention has to go to Heurelho Gomes, who, with the exception of the Leicester City game, has once again been fantastic. He has saved us many a point, such as his penalty save late on in the game against Bournemouth. Standout signing Etienne Capoue has added quality not seen by a Vicarage Road crowd in a long long time. Not only does he have an astonishing ability to nutmeg opponents, he is a fantastic tackler and has the best stamina and endurance of any Watford player. I also think Allan Nyom at right back has been class. If he ever learns how to cross a ball then he could well be one of the best right backs in the league. He, along with Ighalo, would make my Premier League Team of the Season at this halfway stage.
I probably wasn`t the only one who hadn`t heard of Spaniard Quique Sanchez Flores when he arrived at Vicarage Road in the summer. Uncertainty as to how well he`d adapt to the English game that he`d not experienced before was certainly a worry, but how he has put any concerns to bed. Flores has gelled the team together with relative ease, and any transition period lasted no longer than the time he had with his bunch of players during pre-season. If it weren`t for Claudio Ranieri, Flores would be the manager of the season so far for the job he has done and the way he perfectly sets out his side every game. You never know, he might even get talked about for more than two seconds in the media if he guides us to a top half of the table finish!
Finally, to the transfer window that opens very soon. To ensure we retain our place in the Premier League, a success story in itself, I am of the view that two or three players would be ample. A substitute goalkeeper is needed, with 31-year-old Malaga and Cameroon international Carlos Kameni looking like an imminent signing at the time of writing this article. We also need a winger who can cross the ball, and having turned down Juan Iturbe, I`m sure the Pozzo`s and Flores have someone else in their minds, with Spurs wide man Andros Townsend being linked strongly. Watford will also be chasing a third choice striker to back up Ighalo and Deeney in case, and god forbid, one of them picks up an injury. There have not really been any fresh rumours regarding this type of deal since the Adebayor option was abandoned. Who do you think we need to sing as backup to our current front two?