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End of Term Report Part 5 12/06/2017

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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21 – M’Baye Niang

The first thing to acknowledge is that this was ultimately a very successful loan. Niang impressed on his debut, that magnificent win at Arsenal, but was absolutely fundamental in two other big wins against Burnley and West Brom. Games that might very easily have been lost but for his vital, eye-catching contributions, a fine goal and a fine assist in each. So… he played a massive role in two crucial wins, and maybe that was the difference. Maybe, without those six points, we’d have been a more catchable target for Hull, say. We’ll never know.

The other regard in which the loan was successful is that both parties probably recognised that this wasn’t destined to be a long term partnership. Not that this was necessarily an option in January but… we could have bought him after all. Perhaps his attitude would have been… more convincing, more wholehearted had he made that commitment but as it was he never looked like he was sure he wanted to be here. The ability that he occasionally betrayed to shift up a gear and simply sizzle past a hapless marker, or whip in a vicious shot having cut inside only made his louche diffidence for the rest of the time more aggravating. Perhaps his heart was never in it, but media reports that he didn’t intend to stay came hot on the heels of those that suggested that we were only interested in a deal more favourable than the terms of the right-to-buy stipulated in the loan deal. Maybe we’re both better off out of it.

Next Season: Some reports link him to Premier League clubs, others suggest he doesn’t want to stay in England. At his best he is a top player, the sort of player who might play for Milan. But you’ve got to earn the right to do so, and its hard to see him recapturing those heights without a change in attitude.

22 – Daryl Janmaat

Daryl Janmaat was an exciting signing. Daryl Janmaat was a proper Premier League footballer. Yes, he’d been part of a relegated Newcastle side but no matter, he’d been a stand-out player. And he’d played in the World Cup and everything for, like, Holland. Big time.

He can’t defend for toffee, obviously. Had we stuck to the wing-back thing he’d have been absolutely fine; as a full-back, less convincing. And he seems incredibly brittle… not elastic popping hamstrings or anything concerning, just a creative ability to pick up different injuries… falling on his shoulder against Manchester United, colliding with Mapps in training.

But going forward he’s great. Bullish, direct, puts a decent ball in. Versatile enough to play right, left, even in a midfield role. I think he was always winning, and pretty comfortably, in that everyone saw the problems but wanted him in the side anyway. It was that goal at Stamford Bridge that sealed the deal for me. Brave, bloody minded and theatrical, a goal scored by force of personality. He’ll do.

Next Season: Would be good to see him injury free and a fixture in the side. But maybe not at full-back.

23 – Ben Watson

It started as it was to continue for Ben Watson. Ten minutes off the bench at Saints on the opening day curtailed by a last minute red card. Then… three more sub appearances in the League (one of which the hammering at Anfield), plus the cup humiliations against Gillingham and Millwall. Add a long spell injured – and being injured and having to work your way back to (merely) the sidelines would test anyone’s mettle – and you have a season to forget for Ben Watson.

Thing is, you’d still have him down as one of the strongest personalities in the squad. Solid, focused, professional. A player that makes other players play better, who keeps everything going. A stalwart under Quique Flores, will he get the chance to show us whether he’s still got it?

Next Season: You’ve got to fancy not. Home-grown or not, Ben is going to need to fight his way back in the context of a squad that’s constantly churning. A big ask.

24 – Odion Ighalo

Another one who seems so long ago simply because he spent so long leaving, on and off the pitch. The contrast is still extraordinary, between the Ighalo who looked so vivid and comfortable in his skin in the first half of last season and the tentative figure who spent far longer in the Watford side than his form might have warranted.

It’s not difficult to understand why we persevered. That ridiculous Ian Wright goal against Liverpool, the 15 goals in a first Premier League season and 20 in the blink of an eye the season before, the big offers from China unpursued last summer and the most mobile weapon in our attacking armoury was someone to be patient with as we waited for the goals to return.

It was a forlorn hope. His form this season seemed to desert him completely, his one goal in fourteen League starts a deflected effort at West Ham. The twisty turny run that preceded it suggested that this would kick things off for Iggy but that hope dissipated and accepting a £20m offer from China was a no-brainer in January.

Next Season: Iggy’s farewell was heartbreaking, his contribution massive; now at Changchun Yatai, struggling in the Chinese Super League, that goal and that song seem an awfully long way away.

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