Before the international break, Watford played well without getting the points to show for it. That has now changed after two excellent performances to beat West Ham and Manchester United, two of last season’s top seven. There were doubts about the decision to replace Quique Sanchez-Flores with Walter Mazzarri, but the early indications are that it could be a good move.
One player who is enjoying life under the new manager is Troy Deeney. The Watford captain started the season slowly, but has played a pivotal role in both victories.
The Englishman is central to the side’s attack, linking up the play well and providing a physical presence in the final third to unsettle the opposition defence. Watford had the opportunity to sell him for upwards of £25 million during the summer, with champions Leicester City interested in the striker. It would have been tough to turn down, but it is looking like a great decision. Deeney embodies Watford and has been a key part of their rise to the Premier League. It is a good fit for him at Vicarage Road and he is beginning to find his form this season.
On Sunday, his aerial presence stood out as he dominated the Manchester United centre-backs to set up several promising situations for his side. He won five of his 13 offensive aerial duels, which doesn’t look overly impressive. However, even for the ones he lost, he caused problems and the United defenders didn’t manage to clear the ball effectively. The Watford captain knows how to put maximum pressure on opponents and he is the definition of a handful in the final third.
In the final third, Deeney is a reliable outlet, as he holds the ball up and can pick a pass. Only Valon Behrami (81%) had a higher pass completion than Deeney (76%) for the home side. The Hornets’ number nine is composed in possession and is an intelligent thinker when around the penalty box, often choosing the right pass to get a team-mate into a promising position. His ability on the ball suits the new formation that his side are playing, as he is effective at getting the wing backs into the game.
Although he is a striker, the 28-year-old looks to drop between the lines and allow the midfielders to surge beyond him. The space that he creates in the final third provides the opportunity for players like Etienne Capoue to attack the penalty area. The Frenchman’s early goal-scoring form has been a result of this.
The signing of Roberto Pereyra has had an interesting effect for Deeney. Some thought that it would allow the Watford captain to play further up the pitch as a traditional striker. However, he is interchanging well with the former Juventus player creating an unpredictability in the Watford attack. Opposition defences never know where either will be, which leads to mistakes being made in the back four. The arrival of Pereyra has given Deeney more freedom and he is roaming to great effect.
To cap off a great display, Deeney scored from the penalty spot, giving his side a two-goal lead. It was a deserved goal and one that will boost his confidence in front of goal. He has one of the cleanest strikes at the club and took just two shots during the victory over Manchester United. That is an area that he could improve on over the coming weeks.
That said, Watford are emerging quickly as a difficult side to beat and Deeney is beginning to find the form that he showed for a large period of last season. He outperformed his opposite number, Wayne Rooney, and if he continues to influence matches like that, it will only be a matter of time before he is considered for an England call-up.
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