Watford looking to build on a successful season
While impartial observers might have been looking for an upset, there was an air of inevitability about this year’s FA Cup final, and it served to demonstrate just how stratified the Premier League has become. City and Liverpool were in a battle of their own from December onwards, while the remainder of the ‘big six’ tussled for the remaining two automatic qualification spots for the UEFA Champions League.
Then there is the third stratum, and here, Watford were a dominant force, seemingly destined for a top eight finish before a disappointing conclusion to the season that saw them win just one of the last six league games of the campaign. That dip in fortune dropped them into the bottom half, but 50 points was still the most they had ever recorded in a Premier League season.
Combined with that remarkable FA Cup run, there are more positives than negatives for the Hornets to take into next year. Those looking for a dark horse to cause a few upsets next year will soon be scouring sites like sportsbet.io and Watford football club should be top of the list when it comes to mid-table teams capable of springing a surprise.
So where has this success come from? Let’s take a look at five of the names that have made a difference this year, and how they might be able to take Watford on to even greater things in 2019/20.
Here’s the man around whom Watford have been able to craft a team that can punch above its weight. As well as his undoubted talent and scoring ability, Deeney has taken the role of captain to heart, working well with the midfield and helping Javi Gracia get the best out of precocious talent, such as that of fellow striker Gerard Deulofeu.
Deeney finished the season with 11 goals and three assists, but it is his contribution off the pitch as much as on it that will be a deciding factor if Watford are to achieve greater success next season.
The Greece international has never been far from the headlines this season. Unfortunately, that has not always been for the right reasons – he looked set to break the Premier League record for most bookings in a season, before being overtaken, ironically by fellow Watford player Etienne Capoue.
That should not detract from his contribution to the team, however, and he has combined strength and determination with that famed aggression to counter even the best attacks in the Premier League. Javi Gracia will be hoping for more of the same next year from the 34-year-old.
The former Barcelona player has long been touted as one of the most exciting talents in the game, and at 24, his best years could still be ahead of him. He finished the season as Watford’s top scorer, with 12 goals and five assists. Despite being seen as the Sundance to Troy Deeney’s Butch Cassidy, the Spaniard has actually scored one goal more than his partner up front, even though he’s had far less time out in the middle.
The biggest question for both Gracia and the Watford faithful will be whether the team can hang on to the rising star. He had two stints at Everton in his younger years, both of which were blighted by inconsistency, but with Marco Silva looking to add strength and variety to The Toffee’s attack, a move on Deulofeu seems highly possible.
Talent up front and determination in defence are great, but it takes a solid midfield to tie it all together. For Watford, that has been personified by Abdoulaye Doucoure above all others over the past season. The 26-year-old from Meulan in France is one of those midfielders who seems to be everywhere at once, and can catch even the best opposition off their guard.
Doucoure caused a media stir earlier this year when he indicated a desire to play Champions League football and was immediately connected with a potential move to Liverpool or Paris Saint-Germain. When no January transfer came about, the gossip died down, but you can be certain it will start up again as soon as the summer transfer window is thrown open.
The Argentina international had two years at Juventus under his belt, and has proved to be the perfect foil for Doucoure in Watford’s midfield. He has also contributed six goals throughout the season.
He is a man with a good football brain who has been shown to thrive under pressure, and Gracia will be looking to him to work alongside Troy Deeney to mentor and inspire the next generation of talent that emerges through the ranks. He will, however, be aware of the growing rumours that Italian side Torino are eager to swoop, and Pereyra’s stock will only rise if he has a successful campaign in Copa America this summer.