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Previous season’s position: 2nd in the Championship Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker): 1,000-1 The plan Summertime at Vicarage Road are rarely boring, but the last two have been doozies even by Watford’s standards.
With relegation in 2020 and promotion this year, there have been prolonged times of wild uncertainty in which it has been difficult to determine which players will stay, who will choose the new ones, and whether or not anyone plans to play them in what configuration.
Gino Pozzo’s reputation as a maestro of the transfer market has tarnished a little in recent seasons.
Nonetheless, it worked out last time, and they have the novelty of managerial continuity in Xisco Munoz (albeit there is some bench-based churn, as he has a new assistant, for traditionalists).
After a rough start to last season under the perpetually scowling Vladimir Ivic, a dose of his joyful enthusiasm was just what the players needed, and the promotion-clinching run of 14 wins in 17 games was a great performance.
Yet, questions linger concerning the 40-year-old’s use of substitutes and ability to influence match flow, and his coaching abilities are set to be put to the test like never before.
Even after the team’s transformation into a point-gathering machine in February, performances were rarely as impressive as outcomes, and if he knows his best lineup, he has kept it well hidden in preseason.
The defense was terrific last season and has only been slightly altered by the addition of Danny Rose, but Munoz appears to be starting from scratch.
Despite the fact that only one member of in season’s first-team squad has left (winger Philip Zinckernagel, who was strangely deemed worthy of a five-and-a-half-year deal when he signed from Bodo/Glimt last December, got five assists in the nine games he started, was mostly played out of position and without a break after the conclusion of the Norwegian campaign, was played mostly out of position and without a break after the end of the Norwegian campaign, was
He appeared to be versatile and inventive, but he has gone on a season-long loan to Nottingham Forest) and the selectorial waters have been muddy by a slew of newcomers.
The consequence is a senior squad of 35 players, which is almost as large as the lucrative contracts handed out to Andre Gray and Isaac Success, which continue to scare away potential suitors (though the players’ performances haven’t exactly helped).
Watford have been obliged to reinforce their team without excessive expenditure after relegation, a season spent in the second tier mostly without fans, and the requirement to service all of those contracts have driven them to the edge of a financial abyss.
Cucho Hernandez, who, after four long-term loans, is finally in line to play a competitive game for the club he joined as an 18-year-old in 2017, and free transfers Joshua King and Ashley Fletcher, who each played five league games last season, all in the Championship, have been added to an assault that never quite fired last season.
Cucho Hernandez (right) is set to make his Watford debut following four loan spells.
They have also signed Emmanuel Dennis, a player with excellent pace and ability who scored twice for Club Brugge in the Champions League at the Bernabeu in 2019. Photograph: Paul Childs/Action Images/Reuters
The 23-year-old was released in November after storming off the squad bus after someone else took his favorite seat. He subsequently had a catastrophic loan spell at Cologne, which concluded with Horst Heldt, the club’s sports director, apologising for bringing him to the club.
There’s bound to be a lethal combination between those forwards, Ismaila Sarr, and Joao Pedro, and Troy Deeney will want to crowbar his way into it.
The midfield has also been restructured, in part because Will Hughes, the club’s most consistent player in recent seasons, has been demoted to the Under-23s after refusing to extend his contract, which expires next summer, a decision that clearly benefits no one.
If our authors have any doubts about the roster, they have none about the likely outcome: Watford are expected to finish last.
This isn’t always terrible news: since their promotion in 2015, we’ve only seen one season in which we thought they’d avoid relegation – and that was the year they were relegated.
If the Vicarage Road floodlights fail, Watford can always rely on Munoz’s smile, which can undoubtedly light up a room and is certainly worth testing across longer distances.
His camaraderie is championship-caliber, bordering on Kloppian, and he managed to unify a fractious club last season.
Yet management is about more than happiness, and his technical competence has yet to be proven: it took six weeks, nine games, and injury-forced change before he ditched a failing 4-4-2 and turned to the 4-3-3 that powered the side to promotion.
His assistant, Roberto Cuesta, has since moved to NK Istra in Croatia, where he conducted much of the mid-match cajoling.
José Ramon Rodriguez, his replacement, is a rising figure in the Spanish coaching scene and four months Deeney’s junior.
Sarr, a key player in the Championship, scored or assisted 23 goals in 39 games last season, and was on the field for all but nine minutes of those games.
His physical resistance is only significantly less outstanding than his attacking contributions for a young player with explosive speed.
Watford’s opponents are unlikely to sit as deep as they did last season, giving them more opportunities to exploit Sarr’s speed.
They now have some forwards in Dennis and King who may be able to keep up with him.
Gino Pozzo, the club’s owner, is a mysterious figure whose objectives are unknown, but despite the fact that few Watford fans know who he is or why he is there, he deserves a lot of credit for leading Watford to their sixth top-flight season – there have been 14 in the club’s 125-year history.
Nonetheless, there have been just as many perplexing transfers as there have been flawless ones, and several aspects of the club’s transfer policy, particularly the ideological objection to paying non-trivial transfer fees for defenders, appear perplexing.
Daniel Bachmann moved from being a benchwarmer for Watford to being Austria’s No 1 at Euro 2020.
Daniel Bachmann was an unremarkable Championship bench-warmer until January, when Ben Foster hurt his finger and Bachmann was pushed into the lineup. After 13 clean sheets in 23 games – the best clean-sheet percentage in the Football League – he was Austria’s first choice.
“If you had told me six months ago that you were going to be Number 1 in the Premier League and represent your country at the Euros…
“Thinking about where I was and where I am now gives me goosebumps,” he remarked in May.
Watfords fans aren’t known for their volume, but The 1881 – an independent supporters club – gives it their all, creates excellent flags, and gained brownie points by offering to cover the costs of cleaning up after the supporters promotion celebration. Return to Vicarage Road The good The Vic is a nice mid-sized, no-frills town-centre stadium with the fan experience improved by new caterers – th
The poor The Vicarage Road End looks to have been constructed by someone who doesn’t use the restroom very often, and there are drawbacks to sitting in the Elton John Stand on sunny afternoons (sunglasses are required) and wet afternoons (a poncho is required if you’re in the front six rows).
The crest The stag, or hart, is the symbol of Hertfordshire, Watford’s home county, thus an antlered quadruped was a natural choice.
Nonetheless, it’s unclear how they came to choose a moose.
Trending topics Deeney is a living legend – in the sense that he hasn’t been seen in years but some people still believe in him Sarr is so fast that you need VAR to see him If Xisco was that happy while he was alone in a strange place and separated from his loved ones by a global pandemic, how happy will he be now?
The only channel to properly cover Watford is Ben Foster’s YouTube. The mascot Harry the Hornet is a cheery, drum-bashing, man-sized wasp with a penchant for winding up Crystal Palace managers.
For mocking Wilfried Zahas’ alleged dive, Sam Allardyce has called him “out of order” and Roy Hodgson has called him “disgraceful.”

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