It is fair to say that everything is relatively good at Watford. They are gearing up for a 4th consecutive season in the Premier League their best run of seasons in the Premier League era and I’m sure that securing regular seasons is their ambition from the start of every season. Watford have a good squad and will be confident that survival isn’t an issue however, the fans will want more than just survival and will believe at top half finish is a realistic ambition for the Hornets. However, with the constant changing of manager and playing staff, the fans will hope stability will finally kick in because although they have survived regularly in the Premier League, they seem to always start the season with the new manager and end with a different one who has different ideas and philosophies meaning there isn’t too much stability at the club and the fans will hope that current boss Javi Gracia remains for the foreseeable future.
Javi Gracia came in after the surprise sacking of Marco Silva and to his credit, he sustained Watford’s Premier League status and they finished mid table. However, Watford fans will want more, and they certainly believe in the players at the club and club captain Troy Deeney epitomises the Watford fans. The captain is confident but always honest about Watford’s performances and points and he will know that the fans want more from the team and him as a player. His goal tally wasn’t strong in the previous season and he will be first to admit that game time was limited, and the goals didn’t come for him but he will hope to be back in the fold this season and fire Watford to safety first and then aim for anything better. Javi Gracia certainly solidified Watford’s defence after Marco Silva’s more expansive style but the reserved, quiet Spaniard sorted the defence and tried to incorporate his own ideas. Gracia will hope he sees out the season and of course his main aim is Premier League survival and he has a strong enough squad to get there. Watford have an endless amount of the defenders and Gracia found combinations he was happy with as Watford became a much more solid defensive unit with Christian Kabasele, Miguel Britos and Sebastian Prodl seeing regular game time as well as full backs Daryl Janmaat and Jose Holebas. However, Watford’s midfield did have a variety of changes, but one man was a regular and arguably had his best season in football and that is Abdoulaye Doucoure. The Frenchman was excellent both offensively and defensively. Scoring goals from midfield and protecting the defence, The Frenchman was an integral force in Watford’s side and with interest from bigger clubs, Watford will hope to keep him at the club. Also, the role of Gerard Deulofeu will also important during the season. The Spaniard initially joined on loan in January and was an excellent signing by Gracia. Having disappointed at Everton, the winger managed to find some of his best form in a hornet’s shirt and its no surprise he is a permanent Watford player and now he will hope to have stability in his career and show more of his talent on a bigger stage. Despite Watford’s array of European talent, there are some excellent English players in their ranks including Will Hughes and Nathaniel Chalobah. Although the latter spent much of the season injured, Chalobah did show plenty of glimpses as to why Watford signed him, and he will hope to play much more in the new season. Similarly, Hughes also had injuries but like Chalobah did show some exciting glimpses of the talent he possess and Gracia I’m sure will be incorporating him more into the team. Chalobah and Hughes could play important roles in Watford season and Gracia will hope to be able to call on them.
Watford always seem to be one of the most active in the transfer window due to the countless changes in management and this window is no exception. As well as signing Deulofeu on a permanent deal, Gracia has added new full backs Marc Navarro and Adam Masina as well as goalkeeper Ben Foster and midfielder Ken Sema. Both Navarro and Masina offer competition for the full back role but also increase the frustration of others with Watford having an overload of players in those roles and certainly 2 will have to go to accommodate the new signings. Also, the reliable Ben Foster adds competition for the goalkeeping spot following the end of Orestis Karnezis’ loan spell. However, Watford did lack creativity and goals at times during the previous season and I’m sure Gracia will be targeting a new striker and creative midfielder before the start of the season. Watford do need a regular goal scoring striker with Troy Deeney not finding the net as often as well as the poor goal returns of Stefano Okaka and Andre Gray. Gracia must find someone who will score and make a difference in matches. Similarly, Gracia will want further creativity in midfield due to the poor injury records off Will Hughes and Roberto Pereyra. He will be exploring targets who he feels can play to his style and make significant contributions in the team. Gracia will be relatively happy with his squad and I’m sure will look to add further additions as well letting go some of the players he feels should exit the club and he will be confident of survival without making further additions but if he is an ambitious coach he will target further acquisitions to realise his ambitions for the club.
The Watford fans will be optimistic for the new season and realistically survival in the league is another good season for the Hornets. However, as previously noted, they will want more than that and they will hope the Hornets can challenge the top 10 or even go on a cup run and should they do either or both, it could be an exciting season for the club. Gracia will have faith in his squad and there is enough talent for Watford to do just better than survival but Gracia will stay grounded and he will want to walk before he can fly. Watford could surprise a few times and they will need luck as all teams do but securing their status in the tip flight would represent a good season and I’m sure the club as a collective will be happy with that.