When the Pozzo family, the owners of Watford, chose to part company with Quique Sanchez Flores this past summer, there were eyebrows raised. I believed he was harshly dismissed after guiding Watford to safety in the Premier League for the first time and an FA Cup semi-final run.
13 additions later in this summer window, notably Roberto Pereyra from Juventus and a new Italian coach in Walter Mazzarri, how have the revamped Hornets settled down? Judging by their superb 3-1 win over Manchester United this past Sunday, it has not take them long at all.
A tough start to the campaign included home losses to Arsenal and Chelsea mixed with great away results at Southampton and West Ham, but now they look like they’ve clicked into gear. They were stronger, quicker and smarter than Jose Mourinho’s men and deservedly inflicted a third straight defeat to the faltering Red Devils.
A EFL Cup loss aside, Mazzarri has come in and immediately reignited a Watford team that went off colour at the end of last season. Pereyra has come in as the creative cog they needed, proving an upgrade to Jose Jurado and Almen Abdi, who have been let go. Younes Kaboul and Darryl Janmaat are experienced inclusions to what was a shaky back-line, whilst Etienne Capoue has been a revelation in midfield.
Capoue is the Hornets’ top scorer so far with four, all of them just as good as the next. Having scored on only one previous occasion since arriving into English football in 2013, the Frenchman is a new player under Mazzarri, with his late runs into the box proving incredibly effective. The balance offered by having Valon Behrami or Ben Watson alongside him, means Capoue can venture forward and support the front-two, providing an extra option in the middle.
The blend of physicality and flair that Flores previously embedded into the squad has been maintained by Mazzarri, only with better players in the side. Their demolition of West Ham at the Olympic Stadium was a sure sign that his methods have been taken in and used to full effect. Capoue was on the score-sheet along with captain Troy Deeney in the 4-2 rout. The latter remains the focal point of the Hornets, despite the fact his partnership with Odion Ighalo is no longer the sole source of goals.
When the strike duo experienced a drought throughout the second half of last season, results dropped for the Hornets. Four wins in their last 18 of the campaign proved the club’s reliance on the duo. However, with new boys Isaac Success, Kennedy and Stefan Okaka brought in to lighten the load up top, Watford now have an array of choices if the go-to pair begin misfiring. Captain Deeney and talisman Ighalo have two goals each so far and with the quality of service from Pereyra in supply, expect them to get several more.
It says a lot about the effect the Premier League TV rights money has had across the league for all 20 clubs with 13 of them breaking their club records, including Watford. To attract a talent such as Pereyra from Serie A champions Juventus, affording a sum of around £13 million, is a huge statement from the club. The influence of manager Walter Mazzarri would have been important, with his pedigree from Italy, in bringing the Argentinian in. The Pozzo family were bold in making the call to cut Flores but Watford have moved up a level and watching them play, and it doesn’t look like they have reached their peak either.
It was their first win over Manchester United in over 30 years on Sunday and apart from a 15 minute spell in the second half, they were very much deserving of the win. The strength in depth at the club is a major factor in Mazzarri’s immediate impact with substitute Juan Zuniga coming on to score and win a penalty late on as well as a bright cameo from Success. If the spine of Gomes, Britos, Capoue and Deeney can stay fit with Pereyra, Ighalo and Janmaat around them, this season could be the solidifying of Watford as a Premier League club.
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