Watford return to the top division of English football after an eight year absence as they look to preserve their Premier League status beyond the first season for the first time ever. They will be looking to build on some brilliant form last season as they look to follow in the footsteps of Leicester City and beat the drop at the first attempt. The Hornets look to combine the core from last season with lots of additions to the squad as they look for relative success.
Story of Last Season
The Hornets had a phenomenal 2014/15 campaign as they were promoted from the Championship after a 2nd place finish. In fact, Watford could well have lifted the title but for a 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday on the final day which saw them lose out to Bournemouth in that particular race. Their success was built on the three front-line strikers as Troy Deeney, Matej Vydra and Odion Ighalo netted 57 league goals between them. Watford finished with 27 wins, 8 draws and 11 defeats to reach the figure of 89 points. They also scored 91 goals and conceded 50 which resulted in a highly commendable goal difference of +41.
Watford FC have made an astonishing number of signings so far this summer as they look to build a side capable of staying in the top division this season.
Matej Vydra: The Czech international striker has signed on a permanent basis from Udinese after a successful loan spell at the club. Matej Vydra; 23, scored 16 goals in 31 league appearances last season and has since signed on a five year contract at Vicarage Road for an undisclosed fee.
Sebastian Prodl: Austrian defender Sebastian Prodl has joined on a free transfer from Werder Bremen. 28 year old Prodl made 133 appearances for Bremen, netting 11 goals and securing an average rating of 7.02 last season.
Giedrius Arlauskis: Lithuanian goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis has been added into Watford’s ranks from Romanian champions Steaua Bucharest. The 27 year old helped his side to a domestic treble in 2014/15 and has signed on a free transfer. The stopper will provide competition for current number one Heurelho Gomes but will face a challenge to displace the former Spurs man.
Jose Holebas: Greek international defender Jose Holebas has signed from Serie A Runners-up Roma. Now at the age of 31, Holebas made 30 starts in his only season in Rome, netting 1 goal in the process and assisting a further goal to finish with an average league rating of 7.27. The athletic full-back has been contracted to a 3 year deal after moving for an undisclosed fee.
Etienne Capoue: Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Etienne Capoue has joined the Hornets after a decidedly poor spell in North London. Capoue made just 24 starts in two years at Spurs with an average league rating of just 6.92 last season, although he did achieve a pass percentage of 87.4%. The 27 year old Frenchman has been awarded a 4 year contract after a fee believed to be around £7 million was agreed between the two sides during the summer.
Valon Behrami: The ex-West Ham midfield enforcer Valon Behrami has signed from German side Hamburg. The 30 year old Swiss international made 22 appearances in the Bundesliga but struggled with indiscipline, picking up 7 yellows and a red card over the course of the campaign. He finished the season with a disappointing average rating of 6.94. The fee is rumoured to be somewhere between 2 and 2.5 million pounds.
Allan Nyom: Cameroonian international right-back Allan Nyom is another player to have signed for Watford from Udinese, after spending his entire time registered to the Italian club on loan to Granada. The 27 year old defender made 135 league appearances in four seasons in Spain, scoring 1 goal. Nyom had an average rating of 7.00 last season and has moved for an undisclosed fee, signing a 4 year contract.
Miguel Britos: Centre-Back Miguel Britos has been acquired from serial Serie A powerhouses Napoli. At 30 years of age now, Britos made 82 starts for Napoli after signing from Bologna, netting 3 goals and securing an average league rating of 7.30 in 2013/14. His performance levels dropped off last year, averaging just 6.89 and has signed for the Hornets on a 3 year deal for an undisclosed fee.
Jose Manuel Jurado: Spanish playmaker Jose Manuel Jurado is another addition to Watford’s from Russian side Spartak Moscow. The Spaniard made 44 starts for the Russian outfit, scoring 11 goals along the way but achieved an average rating last season of just 6.85. Jurado, 29, signed on a 3 year deal for an undisclosed fee.
Steven Berghuis: The Hornets have recently acquired Dutch forward Steven Berghuis from Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar. 23 year old Berghuis has signed for a reported £4.6 million on a 4 year contract. The Dutchman made 56 appearnces for AZ, scoring 20 goals and setting up a further 10. Berghuis had a brilliant season last year with 11 goals in just 19 starts, with an average rating of 7.47.
Watford’s main player is without doubt their captain and striker Troy Deeney. Their poacher-in-chief must look to score in addition to being an asset off the pitch in an ambassadorial role. Deeney will have a vital role to play in the dressing room, keeping everyone motivated but at the same time help the team be successful going forward. The strong target man has been at the club for 5 years and took over the captaincy at the start of Watford’s memorable 2014/15 season following the retirement of Manuel Almunia. The Englishman will look to help his side move on to bigger and better things and his goals could be the difference between staying up and an instant return to the Championship. 21 strikes last season show just what the former Walsall man is capable of.
Scotland international winger Ikechi Anya is another player to watch out for as Watford look to preserve their top flight status. The flyer who operates primarily on the flanks has an abundance of pace and skill and was an important part of the Hornets’ promotion. Anya is known for his lung busting runs down the wing, but can also fill in anywhere along the middle of the park and at full back. It is that versatility that could ultimately help his side the most. Anya achieved 7 assists but must surely look to improve on his potency in front of goal, not managing to beat the ‘keeper once last time out.
The other key player for Watford this season is their Brazilian keeper Heurelho Gomes who has previous top flight experience after an ill-fated spell at Spurs. The Watford shot-stopper will be an important member of the Vicarage Road outfit as they look to shore up the defence ahead of a very tough campaign. Gomes will need to make key saves at vital times, be commanding in his penalty area, and always keep his defence motivated and at their best. A weak season from the goalkeeper will surely lead to relegation whereas a few strong months could be the deciding factor in the extent of Watford’s stay in England’s top division.
Enrique Sanchez Flores is the new man at the helm for the Hornets after the club decided against renewing the contract of Slavica Jokanovic due to internal differences. The former Spanish international right back has become the new head coach of the Premier League side after spells in his native Spain, Portugal and the United Arab Emirates. Flores has been off the radar for a few years now after enjoying successful spells at Getafe, Valencia and Atletico Madrid, as well as some mixed fortunes at Benfica. He moved to the UAE, but struggled at the helm of both Al Ahli and Al Ain and returned to Getafe in January this year after 9 months without a club. After quitting the side just 6 weeks later citing personal reasons, he has made the move to the Premier League outfit. His honours include the Portuguese Cup, Europa League, UEFA Super Cup, President’s Cup (twice), the Emirates Cup in the UAE as well as being a runner-up in the Copa Del Rey.
First Six Fixtures
Everton (A), West Bromwich Albion (H), Southampton (H), Manchester City (A), Swansea City (H), Newcastle United (A):
Watford start with a tough test as they travel to Goodison Park to take on Everton. The Hornets will be looking for their new signings to be an instant success, but I can only see this going one way in what should be a comfortable win for the Toffees.
The Hornets then host West Bromwich Albion in arguably their most winnable of the first six fixtures. An early goal will be vital for either side and I believe Troy Deeney will be the difference between the sides, with Watford scraping the three points.
A tough fixture follows as they host the high flying Saints who have added to a season of promise with quality acquisitions. Watford will surely give it a good go, but I see them coming up just short in a valiant defeat.
Next up for Watford is arguably one of their toughest matches this season as they travel to the Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City. The key to retaining respectability will be solidity at the back, but ultimately this could prove to be a very heavy defeat for the London side.
Swansea follow up at Vicarage Road and this should be a good game between two decent footballing sides. Both teams will attack each other and look to cause damage and I think they will cancel each other out with both sides collecting a point.
The sixth fixture for the Hornets sees them travel to Tyneside to take on a Newcastle side that could produce absolutely any level of performance. This is a game that is exceptionally hard to predict, with the Geordies’ season full of Jekyll and Hyde performances, but I believe home advantage will just see the Toon Army through to the win.
Watford start with a mix of winnable games and tough games and I believe that 7 points from these first 6 games would be seen as a success for the side. Unfortunately I envisage the Hornets only picking up 4 points, with all 3 away games ending in defeats. If this is to be the case, then this could well be an early blow that the side find it difficult to recover from as they move towards the clutches of the Premier League trap door.
Final Standing Prediction – 20th
The Hornets have not heeded the warnings of QPR’s two ill-fated campaigns in the Premier League and I can only see it going one way; an immediate return to Championship football. If key players perform at their best then they could stage a surprise, but from the numerous signings so far, it seems quite clear that the manager does not have much trust in the side that got them promoted. The spine remains intact but as the additions continue to roll in, it will only add to the pressure and unsettle the side. I believe they are the least equipped of the promoted sides to stay up and I can see them finishing in last place.
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