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End of Term Report Part 7 10/06/2016

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

25- José Holebas

This hadn’t started terribly well. Holebas’ signing was rumoured, then seemingly confirmed only for the player himself to deny all knowledge and publicly decry the possibility. And it’s hard not to sympathise if, as seems apparent, decisions about his future were being announced without his knowledge or consent but… not a positive first step. This suggestion of a sulky demeanour was exacerbated by reports suggesting that José rather felt he was slumming it in WD18, and by sulky outbursts on social media as he struggled for game time behind Nathan Aké.

All of which is rather a shame, if shedding a light on why Roma were prepared to get rid, since on the pitch his contribution has been largely excellent. Positive, aggressive, dynamic, direct… if he’d sustained that over more outings (and stopped looking like he was chewing a wasp for five minutes) he might have become a cult hero. Instead… we don’t really know where we are.

Next Season: It’s not a prerequisite that a Watford player should be a nice person, a good bloke, someone you’d share a drink with. But even obnoxious players can achieve popularity by focusing their character flaws on the opposition. We should at least be able to not actively dislike – perhaps distrust is a better word – one of our players. José has some PR work to do in this regard.
29- Étienne Capoue

Whilst many of our squad had ups and downs in 2015/16, few experienced as stark contrasts as Étienne Capoue – and nobody’s form fluctuated so rapidly. At his best Capoue was utterly magnificent, at a level above those floundering around him; thoroughly in control and simultaneously elegant, clever and hard as nails. On other days he was a passenger, and you can’t be a passenger in central midfield. Bournemouth (A) sticks in the memory for some reason… but that game was only a week or two after a strong showing at Newcastle, and a couple of weeks before a tour de force against West Ham.

There’s been more of the good than of the indifferent. Even when posted in an awkward wide left position, Capoue put in a stonking performance at Old Trafford and whilst Wembley was, once again, best forgotten it was Capoue limping off having threatened to propel us into the ascendancy single-handed that was a critical point in the game. Mazzarri inherits a very potent weapon.

Next Season: A player with the gumption to wrong-foot opponents simply by shifting the weight of his body will always be forgiven the odd off-day. His off-days, however, are what render his first season at Watford merely decent. More of the good stuff, please.


32- Alessandro Diamanti

No, I didn’t see much of him either. Indeed, Alessandro managed barely an hour of competitive action across three appearances off the bench before disappearing to Italy with a flick of his ample head of hair. So it’s difficult to comment on his ability or otherwise… certainly he did little in what little I saw of him (I missed the 45 minutes against Southampton…) to contribute to a judgement either way.

So the reason to include him in this review, really, is merely as a reflection on the inevitable consequences of our high management and player turnover. It stands to reason that when a new boss comes in he assesses what he’s got, decides what he wants/needs and proceeds accordingly. Thing is, when your whole strategy is based around high turnover of players and the team management changes frequently too you’re going to end up with situations like this… a player who may or may not have been good enough – he had been in Italy’s squad two years before signing after all – but who never looked like he had a role in the way Quique wanted to play. There just wasn’t a position for him. In that sense he was collateral damage, and much as there’s some inevitability about this sort of thing, and it was only a loan, and much as he will have been well paid, you can’t help but feel that a little more stability wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Next Season: Diamanti spent the latter half of the season with Atalanta, but still has a year left on his Guangzhou deal. Unlikely he’ll spend it in China you’d have thought. Watford less likely still.
Quique Sanchez Flores

Suddenly, it all seems very long ago.

Probably because we’ve all had to talk about it so much. Everyone you know who has ever heard of football has asked you about it. And depending on how annoying they are, they’ll have an opinion too, carefully formulated over half a second of considered thought on hearing Quique’s departure mentioned on the radio. Because, you know. Watford? Thirteenth? And a Cup Semi Final? And then you sack your manager?

I find my own opinion hardens against Quique the more often I try to explain the circumstances and provide balance to a discussion where none is invited; this tends to polarise your opinion in any circumstances. I’d probably smack Quique in the teeth if I passed him in the street at this stage, which isn’t entirely fair. He did, as your acquaintances expertly point out, an excellent job. We’ve gotten used to new coaches breezing in and inheriting players and recruitment power of unprecedented strength and, with varying degrees of speed and for varying lengths of time, make a decent fist of it. That shouldn’t lessen our appreciation of what Quique achieved… a new squad, a new country, a tough league competing against big names. Plenty of good managers haven’t been up to that task; Quique fashioned a winning way of playing very quickly.

I don’t think it’s too harsh to suggest that he got lucky too. That’s not a criticism, everyone needs a bit of luck and he was intelligent enough to realise that when Iggy, who started on the bench and didn’t look like having a role beyond that, began scoring he needed to accommodate him. The defence that Flores fashioned and the goals that Iggy provided were a great recipe.

And he’s a very nice bloke. That shouldn’t make a difference really, but I like our guys being easy to like. You didn’t begrudge him any of it.

But nor, as has been explained many times to many people, am I uncomfortable about his departure. Quite clearly things hadn’t been going as well since Christmas, and quite clearly Quique was upsetting and ostracising members of the squad. That’s not a disaster in itself, not a reason to get rid, but reason enough to be a little concerned. Had he not gone there would be no supporters’ campaign to dispose of him, we’d be talking about building on last season and going again. But enough concern, and enough trust of the judgement of those running the club based on the developments of the last few years, to back a call made by people with a track record of making pretty good, if bold, decisions.

Having suggested that Quique had perhaps chanced on a winning formula, it was concerning that he didn’t really have an answer when that stopped working. Nor, crucially, did he seem willing to experiment. As the results got worse he got more conservative, more careful, to the point where from a strong top half position we were clawing together enough points to stay up. The owners may also have been looking at his conservatism with young players… Amrabat and Suárez were surprising January signings in that they weren’t youngsters, ripe for improvement, at a time when our top flight status looked secure. Meanwhile the younger players on the fringes of the team – Berghuis, as we’ve mentioned in this series, the poster boy – weren’t getting a look in, even when our top flight status was secured. Admittedly the rumours of Quique’s departure were rife by that point, he may have known he was going and for what reason would he start to blood our youngsters in such circumstances? His reticence didn’t make us rue the decision though.

So in the end I find myself comfortable with Quique’s appointment, and with his season in charge, and comfortable with the suggestion that he was the right man to drop anchor but not to push on. Nobody in the Vicarage Road stands will begrudge him whatever success comes his way at Espanyol.

Next Season: Getting rid of Flores was defensible, whatever Joe Public might suggest, but it was certainly bold. There will, as ever, have been a plan. We watch on with fascination.

That’s all folks. We’ll be back with a season preview towards the end of July, and maybe the odd report from a pre-season friendly too (Ian loves those). In the meantime, enjoy the Euros and the rest of the summer. Yooorns.



1. Martin Coupe - 10/06/2016

A very fair assessment of the Quique situation. I’ll send the link to my Man City supporting mate who, unsurprisingly, took the global media view and insisted upon trying to convince me that the Pozzos are basket cases. Those on the outside just don’t get it.
Thanks again to you both for all your efforts this season, more of the same next year please!
Did you mean ENDURE the Euros by the way?

Matt Rowson - 10/06/2016

🙂 No.

2. Dave Jackson - 10/06/2016

Massive thank you to you both for another belting season of bhappy.
We are so lucky to have such articulate and entertaining stuff to read about our club.
Already looking forward to your thunks from next season🐝

Geoff Gaunt - 10/06/2016

Hear, hear!

3. Nick Corble - 10/06/2016

Spot on re. QSF, when he clearly needed to change and it was relatively safe to do so, he just couldn’t. Next season a fresh adventure, need the summer to take breath. Thanks for all the reports, much appreciated.

4. Harefield Hornet - 10/06/2016

I get the distinct impression when speaking to non-hornets that they harbour a deep sense of disappointment that the “project”, as it’s annoyingly referred to in some circles, didn’t crash and burn after Slav departed. This disappointment was only compounded when we were almost safe halfway through the season and so they have been looking for something to latch on to, anything they can throw at us. The QSF departure has provided them with just that and so we’ve had “how dare Watford sack a manager who kept them up!” etc and now today we’re getting “How dare Watford have the audacity to turn down £20M for Troy Deeney” etc etc. Tomorrow it will be something else – do we really care? – Absolutely not! You Horns!

5. Stuart Campbell - 10/06/2016

At least the Euros will keep most of the lazier ‘experts’ and pundits distracted for a bit. As a Scot I feel a bit detached myself from the summer excitement and not being able to watch Ikechi doing Roadrunner in a blue jersey. Still, seeing how Northern Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Rumania and even the Czech Republic do will certainly be interesting. Can’t think of another big tournament in the past when ‘Orns have been so well represented. Changed days indeed.

6. Jeremy Ward - 10/06/2016

Thanks for yours and Ian’s continuing enhancement to another season. It’s often been said but I’ll say it again, your time and efforts add such value to following the team that we do. It really is appreciated.

7. SteveG - 11/06/2016

There is a risk of tedium if everyone agrees with each other, but it would be churlish indeed not to echo the comments above and thank you both for the consistently interesting, measured, thoughtful and entertaining comments which have once again enhanced the season.

Many thanks – enjoy the summer and look forward to the resumption of activities next seaason.

8. HornetFez - 11/06/2016

Great stuff as always. Thanks to you both.

9. Sequel - 13/06/2016

With the demise of BSAD I was vsad. Vhappy with BHappy. Matt and Ian, we are lucky to have you. Thank you.

10. Old Git - 15/06/2016

Hi Matt, I completely agree with your verdict on Quique but there are many more candidates far more worthy of a smack in the teeth than him. What would you do to Aidy Boothroyd if you passed him in the street? He gave us a wonderful season and like Quique, it could be argued that he got lucky. But he had absolutely no Plan B, so would his dentist be looking at some serious reconstruction work if you saw him?
And dare I ask what might happen if you passed Harry Bassett in the street?

Matt Rowson - 15/06/2016

I think you’re taking a throwaway comment reflecting how irritating I’ve found repetitive discussions too literally… 🙂

11. Peter - 21/06/2016

thank you for your usual excellent summary, Matt. We are privileged to have such an insightful commentator on our club.However, I feel you have omitted a player of note. Surely Gabrielle Arlauskis was worth a review either for his memorable second and final performance in a Watford shirt or for this season becoming the first current Watford player since John Barnes to score a goal for the full England team.

Matt Rowson - 21/06/2016

Maybe. But all I saw of him was Wimbledon pre-season (and that might have only been a half)… so difficult to comment…

12. kentish Hornet - 02/07/2016

Thanks Matt and Ian for the wonderfully written BHappy, its invaluable. I was at Villa park when he came on and i have never seen a more nervous and butterfingered goalkeeper ever, even in U11s! He dropped absolutely everything, even with no Villa player within 30 yards. It was raining and the ball greasy but even so, the ball looked like a bar of soap .Feel sorry for him but something not right and QSF obviously thought “hang on a minute theres something seriously wrong here”, CP a big improvement.

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