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End of Term Report Part 7 21/06/2013

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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34- Jack Bonham

What is there to say, really?    Some circumstances can be planned for, anticipated, rehearsed.  Sometimes you can look at how a game pans out and think “well, so-and-so could have been on the bench” or “they weren’t well drilled enough at set pieces”.  Sometimes bad luck just rears its knee right where it hurts and there’s nothing you can do about it.  Injuries to two goalkeepers would have been noteworthy at any stage of the season let alone on the same day, let alone on that day.  There was more to come of course, and the punch-drunk glumness at the final whistle owed as much to reflecting on the missed opportunity afforded by Cardiff’s equaliser as to the goalkeeping conundrum that had preceded it.  I guess it could have been worse;  Almunia could have started the match…

But ultimately it’s for that one, horrible game that Jack Bonham will be remembered.  Impossible to blame him of course… he’d not expected to be on the bench and had just been told that he could look for a new club, hardly ideal preparation for a competitive debut in such a game.  That he conceded two awkward goals, borne in no small part of his inexperience, an unfortunate epitaph for his Watford career.

Next Season:  Jack has already signed for Brentford, where he’ll compete with another ex-Hornet Richard Lee.

36- Alex Geijo

It could so easily have all gone wrong.  There were so many different eventualities, outcomes, of the Pozzo approach in year 1 that were far less favourable than the breathtaking, exhilarating football that we enjoyed resulting in a play-off final (albeit lost) at Wembley.  The template for one of those alternative eventualities is Alex Geijo, a striker of undoubted ability who nonetheless never quite clicked  How different would our season have been if that had been the norm?  This was far from implausible.

In fairness to Alex, he didn’t get the easiest of hands.  Troy Deeney’s imperious return to the fold as the de facto leader of the side, alongside the rapier Vydra with the mischievous Forestieri also pressing for a place left Geijo short of opportunities.  Effectively he was competing for a starting place with Troy – only once, at Turf Moor, did they start together – and Troy was undroppable from the moment he returned to the side; Geijo never afforded the luxury of consecutive starts.

What we did see was often encouraging…  a clever striker with tight control he was often effective foil for his striking partners but rarely looked like being prolific himself, despite the promise of his goalscoring exploits in the Spanish second tier, and even his best performances – at Hillsborough, Elland Road, at home to Charlton – didn’t make Zola’s subsequent selection decisions difficult enough.

Next Season: Given his limited opportunities it’s questionable whether he’d want to spend another season at Vicarage Road;  a return to Spain is the popular prediction.

37- Geoffrey Mujangi Bia

Another who seemed to suffer from the switch to 3-5-2… perhaps a more plausible excuse in his case than in Sean Murray’s since Bia never looked like anything other than an out-and-out winger.  Direct and aggressive with a penchant for running at people, he was a regular scorer in friendly games netting at least five goals in non-competitive ties over the course of the season.  Nonetheless, he never looked like establishing himself in the first team and a season during which he started more League games for Standard Liege than for the Hornets despite joining us in late August has to go down as a disappointment.

Next Season:  Much as an early groin injury and our change in formation worked against Geoffrey, it’s difficult to imagine that either party will be keen on the option to buy being taken up.

38- Cristian Battocchio

At the time of writing we have no confirmation as regards which of last year’s loan stars we will see again at Vicarage Road last season.  A couple of weeks ago, however, having gotten over Wembley (-ish) to bathe in the season’s happy afterglow my brother asserted that “even if Battocchio were the only one to come back, it would be tremendously exciting….”.

Cristian was scarcely involved in the team for the first half of the season, only starting one game in 2012;  gradually however he ousted Mark Yeates from contention to wrestle with Jonathan Hogg for the third place in the midfield trio.  In truth he started a little slowly, despite announcing himself with the deft final touch to that sublime fourth goal against a beleaguered Huddersfield.  He looked good when the team was playing well… energetic and purposeful but comfortable on the ball. When things weren’t going so well, though, he tended to fade into the background a little, not yet bold enough at 21 to change the course of a game.

But this changed, and Battocchio was one of several in whom the real theme of the season – the steady growth and improvement of the team throughout – was evident.  His high point came at Hull at the beginning of April… yes, we know it didn’t matter in the end but it didn’t half matter at the time and Cristian was magnificent in that second half, hurtling after the ball when we weren’t in possession and driving us on when we were.  By the end of the campaign he was a weapon, more than a mere option, and at only just 21 is one of several whose performances last term belied his years.

Next Season:  My brother isn’t the only one who’d love to see Cristian back.  Fingers crossed.

39- Nathaniel Chalobah

He’s still only eighteen.  He’s still only eighteen.  Good grief.

Chalobah was a relatively inconspicuous recruit during the crazy end to last summer, almost slipped past the bouncers whilst they were distracted checking the imports’ credentials.  In the context of all this exotic newness, a youngster loaned out for experience by one of the big clubs was very much old potatoes.  We’d seen this sort of thing plenty of times before, with varying levels of success.

But never quite like this.  Even Tom Cleverley, who made a comparable impact during his loan here four years ago was two or three years older than Chalobah at the same stage, and playing a very different role.  Magnificent as Cleverley was, it’s perhaps less surprising to find a youngster leading from the front, creating and scoring goals, pulling people about, nipping in free kicks.  Chalobah at the age of 17, was immediately the conductor of the side, the metronome, setting the pace.

It would be wrong to suggest that Chalobah was always brilliant.  Quite often he was quite far from brilliant, as if his satnav had been knocked out of kilter and every pass was wrong.  Other times he looked plain cocky, as if he knew that he was above all of this.  Yet another way in which we might have benefited from John Eustace’s presence in the side.

Thing is, he is really too good for this. Buying time, finding space, rolling away from hubbub with the ball to smuggle it off the high street and stroll down a quiet side alley at a leisurely pace. For a seventeen year old to be a lynchpin at the back of the midfield at any level is extraordinary, for us to be relying on a teenager as we pushed for promotion neither expected nor entirely desirable however good he is.  And if you’re in any doubt, watch that Leicester goal again.  He really is rather good.

Next Season:  Already in the U21s at the age of 18, one loanee that we won’t be seeing in yellow again next season.

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Comments»

1. John Blake - 21/06/2013

PLEASE stop with the John Eustace stuff. Please.

Matt Rowson - 21/06/2013

:)…. sorry, had I made that point before?

2. putajumperon - 21/06/2013

As wrong as it sounds – if I were a betting man (which I’m not) – I think Cristian Battocchio will be making your brother a very happy man.

Of last season’s acquisitions I think he, Pudil and Almunia will be first through the door.


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