Key areas Watford must improve on ahead of the 2019-20 season
Watford’s 2018-19 campaign was nothing short of a spectacular one. They registered their best-ever finish in the Premier League and finished as runners up in only their second FA Cup final in history. Watford, for the majority of the previous season, plied their trade at the top half of the Premier League table and produced displays that showed that they have a promise to feature as a team in the top-10 of the English premiership before they ended up 11th.
The curtain-raiser to the 2019-20 season is some weeks away and here we discuss the areas of strengthening that the Hornets need to effectively work upon, on priority.
Filling in the defensive loopholes
Despite the presence of some quality defenders in Jose Holebas, Daryl Janmaat, Craig Cathcart, Kiko Femenia and Christian Kabasele, the Hornets conceded 59 goals and kept just seven clean sheets in the Premier League. To add further, Watford collected the most yellow cards (77) in the 2018-19 season as a result of instability in the playing formations and being susceptible to opposition pressure.
Taking a close look at these stats, the signature of a seasoned player in Craig Dawson adds a fresh outlook to the defence and could see the of the Hornets possibly be more disciplined on the field, while registering more clean sheets on the table. However, with the majority of their backline in the last leg of their careers, the addition of some formidable young defenders will be a long-term solution to filling in the defensive loopholes.
Keeping hold of Abdoulaye Doucouré
The box-to-box midfielder was one of the key figures of Watford’s 2018-19 Premier League campaign, having a tackle success rate of 54% and completing 1,942 passes (the most by any player for the club). Alongside Etienne Capoue, Doucoure has established himself as a strong link between a hit-or-miss defence and the attack. He has also contributed five goals and seven assists to the Hornets’ cause.
Earlier in May, the Frenchman vocalized his intentions of playing for a ‘Champions League’ club in Europe and given that Watford are chasing a spot in the Europa League, having missed out last season, manager Javi Gracia must tie down the 26-year-old to a long-term contract beyond the current deal which ends in 2023.
Resolving the Cleverley dilemma
While Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue have been steady in the midfield, Watford are ruing the performance output of an injury-prone Tom Cleverley, who was absent for almost a year due to an Achilles injury. A quality central midfielder on his day, Cleverley has completed 7,751 passes and has a tackle success rate of 73% in his Premier League career.
But, as Javi Gracia has reaped fruits from his heavy reliance on Capoue, the future of Cleverley remains slightly unclear and it is to be seen how long he fits in the plans of the club.
A successor to Troy Deeney
Veteran striker Deeney’s 2018-19 season was one of his best at Vicarage Road, scoring 11 goals in all competitions for the Hornets. The 31-year-old netted nine times in the Premier League and enjoyed fine support from his attacking partners, Gerard Deulofeu (10 goals, five assists) and Andre Gray (seven goals, two assists).
Although the English attacker is in the final stages of his career, he has some firepower left in him to create some magic in front of the Watford fans. But in the long-run and to keep up with the competitiveness of modern-day football, Javi Gracia has to look for a potential successor to Deeney to act as a possible third attacker alongside 25-year-old Deulofeu and 28-year-old Gray.
Words: William Paul