When the 2016-17 Premier League season began last month, there wouldn’t have been many people that would have been considering Watford’s prospects and aims for the next nine months.
All of the pre-season talk was about potential title winners, and how top-flight debutants Brighton and Huddersfield would get on, but three weeks in and talk is beginning to grow about the Hornets.
Marco Silva’s side are one of seven sides to remain unbeaten heading into the international break, holding Liverpool to a dramatic draw at Vicarage Road on the opening day before convincingly beating Bournemouth and securing a point against newly-promoted Brighton in their last time out.
It is a far cry from their woes of last season under Walter Mazzarri, where they managed just a solitary point from the opening three games which set the tone for a disappointing 17th place finish.
Silva was the man who took Hull City to the brink of survival last season, establishing an incredible run of results at the KCOM Stadium that saw them lose just two of their nine home matches during his reign, and he’s seemingly brought the same managerial nous and expansive flair to the Hornets.
However, the main work has been done in the transfer market, with the Portuguese boss putting his own stamp on a relatively poor and jumbled Watford side to ensure each position has strength in depth.
The marquee signing of Andre Gray – for a club record £18.5 million – will be the one that hits the headlines, with the 26-year-old scoring nine times and getting three assists for Burnley last season, and Gray will provide some much-needed pace and guile acting as a spear-head for Watford’s attack.
His link-up play with young Brazilian prospect Richarlison, another summer arrival in an £11 million switch, has been encouraging so far and Silva may have uncovered an excellent budding partnership.
Further back on the pitch the strong business has continued, with young England duo Will Hughes and Nathaniel Chalobah coming in to add some midfield steel, whilst exciting and attack-minded full-backs Marvin Zeegelaar and Kiko Femenia will provide further options to their defence.
Add winger Andre Carrillo from Benfica, Tom Cleverley from Everton, and the Udinese duo of central defender Molla Wague and goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis and it was certainly a busy summer window.
However, out of all of these it’s the addition of Chalobah that was the most impressive, luring Chelsea’s extremely talented youngster and managing to snap him up for the next-to-nothing fee of £5 million.
The 22-year-old has arrived and immediately started playing with an aura of confidence about his play, roaming the midfield and breaking forward with raw pace and intent into the opposition third.
For a side that nobody really spares a thought about, Silva has his side playing a fast-paced and exciting style of football previously unseen at Vicarage Road, and it’s an intriguing time at Watford.
Their season has started in impressive fashion and with fixtures against Southampton, West Brom and Swansea to come in the next month there’s a real chance they could carry on their momentum.
As for the question of where Watford could finish?
The top half of the table will no doubt be the unequivocal aim for Silva as the season goes on, showing a vast improvement on last year, and if they carry on this vein of form it’s very do-able.