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End of Term Report Part 2 23/05/2016

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

5- Sebastian Prödl

Now that’s wat a centre-back is supposed to look like. Tall. Broad-shouldered. Could easily work as a panel beater, or a night-club bouncer. Seb was convincing from the moment he took to the field, and if he occasionally slipped up – the losing of Glenn Murray, drifting off his shoulder at Dean Court, provoked his losing his place at Stoke – then that only added to the air of authenticity. That’s what centre-backs are supposed to do.

He’s also the most Austrian looking man in the world. The centre-parting. The hairband. The goatee-thing. Put him in a denim jacket with soft-rock badges stitched on, or names scraped on in biro and he’d blend into the background on the Maria Hilfer Straße, no problem at all. That’s Seb all over. What you see is what you get. Sorted.

Next Season: More, please.

6- Joel Ekstrand

Yes, I know. But if nobody – not us, not the club – is going to commemorate departures when they happen then we take these opportunities when they arise.

There’s been no formal confirmation of Ekstrand’s departure… Quique had always sounded quite positive on the subject, reportedly keen to retain the Swede whose comfort on the ball was deemed well suited to the Premier League. But quotes attributed to Ekstrand himself sounded less convinced about his future being here, and with his contract expiring at the end of June you kinda feel that if he was going to stay a new deal would have been announced by now.

Joel’s form had it’s wobbles, particularly during his second season – “The Sannino season” – where he often looked nervous and hesitant and attracted some stick. Worth bearing in mind, though, that in a position where there’s often been serious competition for places (Hall, Cassetti, Hoban, Neuton, Angella, Doyley, Tamas, Bassong) Ekstrand was an all but automatic pick when fit. There were reasons for that… tough, mobile, elegant and confident with the ball at his feet, Joel was an asset, a fixed point around which much of the Pozzo turnover flowed. His Watford career probably won’t be remembered as one of the defining ones of the Pozzo regime, but it deserves better than being jeered off on a stretcher by bloody Ipswich.

Next Season: Having not played first team football for eighteen months, the chief hope is that Ekstrand is able to return to the level he left us at. Beyond that, you’d hope that he pitches up at a club where he can get some games and reignite his career. Best of luck Joel.

7- José Manuel Jurado

It should be borne in mind that Jurado’s task was not an easy one.  The expensive signing.  The midfield maestro, the creative spark.  The one that Quique wanted. All roles, mantles, that added expectation. And all of that aside… he was established at this level.  He knew how to do this.  Not one of last year’s crew, not someone who had to adjust to a higher level.  He was the higher level.  He was the one who was going to come in and make the difference, help us bridge the gap.

And in a way, he’s looked capable of doing so.  Persistently.  His control is flawless.  He rarely gives the ball away.  He finds space in an instinctive, effortless way, as if drawn by gravity. And yet you’d be hard pushed to find anyone who would describe Jurado’s first season in England as successful.  He got a shock early on, without doubt… at Everton he looked bewildered by the force and the pace of what was going on around him.  By his own admission he needed to toughen up and did so, visibly, but his impact never lived up to our lofty expectations.

One could argue that Jurado’s impact in terms of those key metrics, Goals Scored and Assists (statistics, pah) was no worse than that of Almen Abdi’s, say, often fielded in a comparable position on the other side of the pitch.  Difference was, Abdi had credit in the bank…  we’d seen him do what he can do, and we’d seen him dig in and work to adapt his game to the role he was being asked to play.  Crucially, he got stuck in too…  you don’t judge an attacking midfielder’s contribution predominantly on whether you track back or not  but if you’re not doing the defensive job, you’d better be doing the attacking one bloody well.  Jurado rarely ticked either box.

Next Season:  Difficult to see Jurado remaining at the club.

8- Valon Behrami

If Jurado looked surprised by the opening day draw with Everton, Valon Behrami went at it like an uncaged lion.  Snarling and combative, his experience had clearly taught him where the line was and for the most part he was disciplined and stayed on the right side of it.  Except when he didn’t…  and that red card against Swansea determined the trajectory of his season as Ben Watson seized his chance and never looked back.  From being a nailed-on starter, even a coup, Behrami became something of a bit-part player – five of his fourteen league starts came before mid-September – and whilst he rarely put a foot wrong when called upon he clearly wasn’t getting the game time he expected.  Nobody would have been surprised to see him move on in January – he didn’t start another game until the reverse against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.

I’m glad he didn’t leave.  It was commented on early on that it was good to have a bearded warrior charging around at number eight again.  That feels right.  And the cold, slightly detached glaze of his eyes would scare the hell out of you if you were lined up against him.  Like… this is someone a little bit disconnected who can’t be relied upon to behave in a predictable way.

Something, one suspects, went wrong beyond Valon simply losing his place in the side.  He’s an experienced enough player to know the score – you get sent off, the guy who comes in plays a blinder, you have to work your way back in whoever you are.  Instead of a central role, once 4-4-2 had been established, Valon was often fielded in a wide position – but it was back in the centre, at the Emirates, that he had his best game of the season.  Whatever… it was clear that Behrami was an unhappy bunny by the end of the season.  And an unhappy Behrami, one suspects, is not to be treated lightly.

Next Season: Mazzarri signed Behrami for Napoli, and the Swiss midfielder was virtually ever-present in a second-place finish in the season they spent together at the Stadio San Paolo.  Behrami, one suspects, has cancelled the removal vans.









1. petebradshaw - 23/05/2016

Looking forward to seeing Behrami at the Euros. Although the Swiss Airlines (or whatver they’re called) stunt of ‘famous person acting as cabin crew’ seemed a little bit odd. Maybe he is famous. Fluent in Italian too. That’ll help.

2. Goldenboy60 - 23/05/2016

Good thought provoking Matt.

Seb has been a model of consistency just as you described, and I never felt uncomfortable with him in the team. If i’m to be a tiny bit critical, then I would have liked him to have had a greater impact in the opposing penalty box, but a good season from him.

Joel has always been one of my favourites since that breathtaking impact of players in the summer of 2012. Sometimes caught sleeping a little but always fully committed, and composed. And it was that composure on the ball that perhaps suggested there was a budding Rio Ferdinand in him. If he leaves, I will be sorry to lose him, especially on the back of that horrific injury against Ipswich. A sad way for him to bow out of his Watford career, but always a favourite in my mind.

Jurado, quite easily the most gifted technician of a ball in the squad. He grew on me during the season, but the doubts about him affecting the game has always stayed with me. He got better after Xmas in my opinion, but with his quality, for me he didn’t affect games enough. I have always considered that players have to do one of 3 things very well, and some can do 2. Of those requirements, can you stop goals, create goals, or score goals? Yes its really quite simple. But I don’t think he does any of those, so why is he in the team? But technically he is a joy to watch, and maybe went down better in Spanish football where possession means so much more and play is a little slower. Perhaps he improved after Xmas because he was coming to terms with the frenetic pace of the Premier League? But very technically gifted, and no slouch. I get the comparison with Almen, but Almen always looks as if he might score, and the 2 he got were peaches. Jurado, for me never looked like scoring. I don’t have the number of assists, but I would describe him as a ‘joiner up of play’, who is generally trustworthy with the ball. Some would say he is a luxury.

Valon Behrami never let us down except that awful tackle against Swansea. But he is a warrior and throughout the season, whether he started or came on as a sub, I never felt he would let us or himself down. Very combative and committed, and a REAL team player. If he stays I will be very pleased, as he always give nothing less than 100%, and in actual fact he is gifted technically at times, if not a little head strong. And still playing at the top level for the Swiss national team. I have a lot of time for him. And I think his song is always in my head…. 🙂

Matt Rowson - 23/05/2016

I would suggest that there were one or two other Behrami tackles that might have had the same consequence as the one at Swansea… although I guess you could argue, in a Machiavellian way, that he didn’t let us down if he got away with them…

3. Old Git - 23/05/2016

Neuton. I’d forgotten about him. Completely slipped my mind that he existed. There’s quite a little number of these less-than-bit-part players. Fabbrini is another one…and like Jurado, he was often dubbed ‘the most. technically gifted player in the squad’. Well, phooey to that, says I, and give me a Behrami any day.
I look forward to Matt’s assessment of Vydra. There are many Vydra moments to treasure, not least the goal at Brighton. I’d be pleased to see him given another go alongside Deeney.

Harefield Hornet - 23/05/2016

Vydra – moments to treasure – Absolutely! – I’ve got a massive scar on my left shin from over-celebrating his first goal against Leicester in the POSF, courtesy of the back of the seat in front of me!

Matt Rowson - 23/05/2016

Must be something about home games with Leicester. I have a similar scar from a similar source after the winning goal in this one… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5CLrNEHcf4

(Loach’s attempt to stop the free kick was pathetic).

Roger Smith - 23/05/2016

My treasured Vydra moment is of him breaking out of defence away at Birmingham, with Anya going like a train outside him. An inch perfect pass, and Anya crosses first time for Troy to volley home.
On MOTD, the clip from the panel discussion (on Anya) is better than that from the game itself.
Mazzari is said to favour a defensive approach with quick breaks. He could be just the manager to get the best out of Vydra.

4. Stuart Campbell - 23/05/2016

Goodness… Neuton. I had to Google him to check he really existed. And apparently I saw him a few times, but still can’t remember a thing about him either. The sort of player who doesn’t have a number, just a question mark on his shirt.
On centre back pairings, Prodl/Cathcart would be my first pick. Big Seb is the sort of player that, when he does his thing, has you shouting ‘Yes!’ – not in a shrieky, yelly sort of way, but with a deep-as-you-can go gritty, growly way. Good big guy.

5. Smudger jnr - 23/05/2016

Ok, here comes the Jurado fan club! I think he’s shown enough to warrant some more support. Firstly, just look at the players many other clubs bought for twice the price and consider his value to us this season. He is not a Thauvin. He is a good player, that has influenced key games, purchased for a relatively small fee for the prem. Has more x-factor than Abdi and Amrabat (who as an aside i think we should convert into a WB).

He could be a very interesting option for the ‘Hamsik’ role (looking at The 3-4-3 Napoli formation favoured by Mazzarri). A forward dropping back to / floating AMC. The other current options being Doucoure/Abdi/Guedioura? So no real responsibility to track and more room to play. He works hard to make space to receive the ball and i think this is really undervalued. I say give him a chance.

The with Behrami, i actually think there is a hole in his workrate! Ok, fine he runs around when the oppo has the ball, harries and tackles. But when we have the ball he stands still hiding behind the opposition midfielders. I just don’t see him moving to make space to receive a pass. It’s like his tactic is to occupy one of the oppo mids and that is enough. Leaves us under pressure and exposes those that want to pass the ball to pressure and criticism (see above).

Nick B - 23/05/2016

One of the great things about this site is the courtesy extended to others to express whatever opinion they wish. Now I’ve got the disclaimer out of the way, may I just observe that I disagree with everything you say with every fibre of my being.
There, that’s better.

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