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End of Term Report Part 1 15/05/2015

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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For the ninth summer running, a blow-by-blow breakdown of the ‘orns squad.  Moses Ashikodi was in the first one.  Yes, really.

1- Heurelho Gomes

When Manuel Almunia left last summer it was interesting that the club went for a similar blueprint in replacing him…. an experienced stopper with top flight pedigree who had perhaps fallen out of favour at their club and was out in the cold.  There was a degree of risk involved – the twelve months that we committed to initially more reflection of this than of his (then) 33 years.  Like Almunia, Gomes has been guilty of high-profile errors in the past;  unlike the Spaniard, Gomes’ forceful personality has appeared robust to such challenges.  Such doubts as there may have been have been blown away over the course of the season. Gomes seemed to immediately establish himself as a leader in the dressing room – lest we forget, we needed a few more of those – and his level of performance has risen throughout to the point where his contribution in the run in was as critical as anyone’s, including those of our vaunted forward line.  He’s never going to be one to hesitate in coming off his line and this might make life more… exciting than it need be on occasions but the number of occasions when he’s misjudged this has been small and we’re a much stronger side for the Brazilian’s presence.  His exuberant goal celebrations are also worthy of praise, lessening the distance to the incident when the critical development has been at the far side to an Watford away end.

Next Season:    The club have a year’s option on his contract and it seems inconceivable that we won’t exercise that clause.  Rumours suggest that a senior rival to Gomes may be brought in permitting Jonathan Bond to go out on loan – either way, you’d expect Gomes to be literally the first name on the teamsheet come August.

3- Gianni Munari

All things considered Gianni Munari can consider himself unfortunate, I think.  Signed on a year’s loan from Parma Munari quickly established himself in the first team squad, being involved in all but two of our games between our draw at Blackburn in late September and the hard-fought victory against the same side in early February.  No small statement that, in the context of our season and of our midfield options… and Munari gave us something a bit different.  6 foot 1 and built like a tank he was as close to a midfield enforcer as this current model has permitted, his physical presence invaluable in some of those winter scraps.  He’s more than that though… if not the deftest of our midfielders he nonetheless had enough about him to top our assists table at the end of the year as well as finding the net three times through knack for well-timed, bullish charges into the box.  So what did for Munari’s involvement was Ben Watson, a different type of weapon altogether.  Watson’s value in gluing our play together saw him start every game from his full debut against Bournemouth to the end of the season and Munari was the fall guy to the extent that he scarcely made it off the bench thereafter, even when it seemed that a bit of welly in the middle might be helpful.

Next Season:   Gianni’s lack of involvement in the latter half of the season doesn’t suggest that there will be moves to sign him permanently at the expiry of his one year loan.  Wouldn’t rule it out altogether, wouldn’t be upset if he did return – we still need physical presence and Munari has played 100-odd games in Serie A – but don’t think it’s very likely.  With home club Parma bankrupt, Munari’s future could lie elsewhere.

4- Gabriele Angella

A more quietly effective season for Gaby this time round.  That’s my impression anyway… perhaps I’ve just begun to take him for granted.  A regular in the side save for a two month absence with a knee injury in October/November that coincided with our run of defeats, Angella remains a reliable source of competent defending, raking long passes, set piece threat and flicks of the fringe.  He does have a mistake on him, although in suggesting as much it’s only fair to note that the formation we’ve played most often does rather lend itself to the defenders being pulled around a bit, but has coped effortlessly with switches between three- and four at the back looking equally comfortable in either set-up.  Looking back on what I’ve just written, it comes to something when  dogged competence is rewarded with mere acknowledgement rather than fulsome praise, but that’s where we are…

Next Season:   Angella’s initial reluctance to come to Watford in 2012 may have contributed to ongoing rumours about him not being happy in England, at one stage this season prompting denials from the club that he was set to return to Udinese.  It would, therefore, not be the biggest surprise in the world if he returned to the Stadio Friuli although you’d hope that having finally achieved top flight status Gaby might be tempted to hang around a while yet.  We’d be all the better for it.

5 (#1) – Keith Andrews

We should start by acknowledging that there really wasn’t an awful lot wrong with Andrews’ contribution on the pitch.  He was signed to tick a few boxes… experience of the Championship, a steadying influence in the midfield, someone to drop anchor, shield the defence and organise when such was our requirement.  All of this he did well enough, contributing a very fine assist in a rehearsed move against Millwall into the bargain.  The on the pitch stuff wasn’t really the problem and as such, being witness to only a snapshot of what happens off the pitch, it’s difficult to comment fully.  Suggestions of an abrasive character, however, are provided by Andrews’ track record.  It’s not unusual these days for a player to rack up a load of clubs but for someone with sufficient quality to have been picked for Ireland 35 times not to have managed more than 80 appearances for any of his twelve clubs suggests a problem; certainly he’d had “issues” at Wolves, West Brom and Bolton before signing for the Hornets on loan.  At times vocally proclaiming the quality of our squad, at others vocally questioning the inclusion and exclusion of players, the general “vocal” thing may have been at the core of it.  Either way, reports soon emerged of a falling out with Slav and Andrews was excluded from training as we tried to work our way out of a relatively expensive season-long loan.  Justified or not, the exclusion of Andrews and others coincided with a dramatic improvement in the team’s cohesion and spirit, so it’s impossible to criticise that call in retrospect.

Next Season:  Out of contract at Bolton, for whom he hadn’t turned out in two and a half years, Andrews has suggested that he will be joining the coaching staff at Franchise.

 

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Comments»

1. Martin Coupe - 15/05/2015

Any other season, Gomes would have been a shoe-in for POTY. Tremendous acquisition IMHO – must stay.

2. Keith catchpole - 15/05/2015

Can’t disagree with any of this Matt, Gabby may look even better next year…. Let’s hope so.


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