Watford are in their third Premier League campaign since promotion from the second tier of English football in 2015. A club that have not had much consistency in this top flight stint have started the current campaign extremely well. New manger Marco Silva is highly rated and his recruitment and style of play have attracted interest from other clubs. Watford will want to keep hold of him and the players that are excelling and achieve the consistency they need with the Portuguese manager.
Watford returned to Premier League football in 2015. They finished second in the Championship, behind Bournemouth, although they had four managers in the season. It was a chaotic start to the campaign which saw three managers leave by the time the first week in October had finished. When promoted they parted company with the manager, Slaviša Jokanović, who had steadied the ship and helped them achieve promotion. The replacement was Quique Sánchez Flores who put in place the foundations that are currently being built on.
Watford in the Premier League so far
It was all in all a great first season in the Premier League for Watford. a thirteenth placed finished in the league that signalled they had not struggled with relegation. A brave FA Cup run settled the fans even more, seeing their side reach the semi-finals. A run that saw Watford beat Arsenal 2-1 at The Emirates in the quarter-finals of the competition. Unfortunately for Sánchez Flores the Watford board did not share his opinion that the season was successful and his contract was not renewed and he left the club at the end of the season.
“The club and me don’t have the same point of view about the season. We don’t have the necessary conditions to activate the clause to renew my contract so I will leave Watford as a consequence. I felt completely happy with this year and I have enjoyed this experience.” (Quique Sánchez Flores)
Walter Mazzarri replaced Sánchez Flores and it proved a return to reality for Watford. While money was spent and good players brought to the club nothing clicked. The team struggled all season and five straight defeats at the end of the season, the last of which was a 5-0 humiliation at Vicarage Roads at the hands of Manchester City, highlighted were the club where. They finished seventeenth due to the late slump but were never in real danger of being relegated as they were six points clear of the relegation zone. It was announced before the City game that Mazzarri would leave the club at the end of the season.
This campaign has produced fresh hope around Watford Football Club. Marco Silva, although joining from relegated Hull City, has brought an entertaining brand of football to Vicarage Road. Sitting pretty in eighth place in the league only four points behind Arsenal and Liverpool and five behind Tottenham is a good way to measure the early season form. A 3-3 opening day draw with Liverpool was exciting and a 2-1 home victory over Arsenal is a stand out result so far. A three game losing streak was brought to an end recently when Watford saw off David Moyes’ West Ham to regain some momentum.
Silva was able to recruit well over the summer. He made Tom Cleverly’s move from Everton permanent after he spent the second half of the 2016/17 season on loan at the club. He also signed Nathaniel Chalobah from Chelsea who had been on loan at the club in 2012/13. In signing these two players he brought in people with an understanding of the club. They understood the values and history of the club due to representing Watford before and this helps them settle quicker.
Will Hughes was brought in from Derby County for £8 million. Although Hughes has struggled to break into the side his quality cannot be denied. He had been linked with a move away from Derby for some time before joining Watford. He had been linked with a move to Liverpool in the past.
Left-back Marvin Zeegelaar joined for under £3 million from Sporting Lisbon offering experience at the highest level after playing for the Portuguese side five times in the Champions League last season. Silva was also able to snatch Andre Gray away from Premier League rivals Burnley to improve his goal getting options. As well as these three loan players came in – André Carrillo (Benfica), Orestis Karnezis and Molla Wagué (both Udinese).
While all these are superb signings for Watford one stands out from the rest. They were able to attract Brazil u20 prospect Richarlison from Fluminense. The move believed to be in the region of £11.5 million was greeted with great excitement. In the campaign before he joined Watford he scored 18 goals in 22 appearances for Fluminense. The Brazilian is mainly utilised on the left wing but can play comfortably in any attacking position.
He provides excitement and a real goal threat as his direct style of play adds something different in Watford’s attack. He is currently Watford’s top scored with five goals in all competitions.
Adding these players to the foundations that were in place when Silva joined the club leads to the potential for success. A top half finish should be the lowest aim for the club this season, it could be better if the players fulfilling their potential at the moment continue to do so.
Worries for the future?
With the joys of overachieving and playing entertaining football come some negatives. When players perform and managers get the team set up in an attractive and successful way rival clubs start to monitor these individuals. Watford will have to deal with this in the near future.
Dutch manager Ronald Koeman left Everton and Silva has been linked with the job. ‘The Toffees’ missed out on what appeared to be their initial choice to replace Koeman as Sean Dyche distanced himself from the job. Attention soon shifted aggressively onto Silva. Watford must keep hold of Silva and seem determined to do so turning down £10 million which Everton offered to secure the services of the ex Hull City manager.
It is not just Silva who has his suitors. Richarlison has attracted interest from Arsenal. ‘Gunners’ manager Arsene Wenger has highlighted the young Brazilian as a potential replacement for Alexis Sanchez if he does leave in January or when his contract runs out in the summer. It would be hard to resist a move to Arsenal as the club has a great reputation and is consistently involved in European competition.
Silva has achieved a great start to his career at Watford. However, interest from other clubs produce interesting questions. Will the Watford manager have the clubs history with managers in the back of his mind if the option to leave becomes available? It would be difficult not to. The three previous seasons have seen six managers take charge of the club.
“I know the speculation and I know some of you raise doubt about commitment. Me and my players put in a very good answer [against West Ham]. Speculation can happen but it is not fair to doubt commitment.” (Marco Silva)
Consistency is key in football and it is ironic that Watford who have chopped and changed manager, even when it was not the right choice, now find themselves in this position. Perhaps it is a problem of their own making. Watford should do everything in their power to keep Silva at the club and fight for the consistency they need to become successful, if they do not they will find themselves going round in circles until the inevitable relegation battles arrive on their doorstep.
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