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End of Term Report Part 7 19/06/2017

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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33 – Stefano Okaka

There’s something wonderfully uncomplicated about Stefano.  Whilst the cult status suggested by his marvellous cameo debut at West Ham was never quite fulfilled thereafter we’ve nonetheless been able to rely on him for bullying and battering duties throughout.

If he’s not yet convinced everybody, it’s worth bearing in mind that he’s a victim of circumstances to an extent.  We look at Troy’s season and allow for the lack of creativity and supply for much of the campaign;  Stefano was feeding off the same scraps.  Similarly, whilst he began the season as one of a number of attacking weapons the sale of Ighalo left us with few options – and little variety – up front.

Next Season: Okaka is strong with his back to goal and attacks the near post well;  as one of a range of options – or given a more reliable supply – he’ll be an asset.

37 – Roberto Pereyra

That was the “oh for f***’s sake” moment of the season.  There were lots of them, obviously… any number of injuries, goals conceded and flimsy defeats in the tail of the season.  But this was the one, on any number of levels.  You can look at it from the point of view of him being increasingly the component of the midfield that allowed everything to flow.  Or you can look at it from the point of view of, as a supporter of a club with short-term aspirations of mid-table at best, one of the reasons to get excited about coming to the game.  Either way the innocuous but costly injury at Man City in December was a downer.

He’s tougher than I expected.  You sign an midfielder from Juventus (Juventus!) for a record or close-to-record fee and you kind of expect the silky touch and the awareness.  They’re great, but they’re a given or should be.  The industry, the willingness to get a foot in were an attractive bonus… even if it was the loss of that touch and awareness that penalised the rest of our season.

Next Season: Omitting him from the squad despite his anticipated fitness in April was a no-brainer, but we can expect to see him ready to go on August 12th.  Like a new signing, as the saying goes.

Walter Mazzarri

I’m sure you’ve all had the jokes.  I try to get in first now… “well, it was about time.  I’m scheduled in for a turn in March I think…”.

But it was the right decision.  I don’t think those – the majority? – who thought that way are being blasé, educated to be callous about changes in head coach by the last few seasons.  Or rather… perhaps we are, but this isn’t evidence of it.  Mazzarri leaving was the right thing for the club anyway.

The connection with the supporters is one obvious thing.  It’s not enough on its own, clearly, nobody would have been complaining if his detached manner had been paired with exciting football and good results.  I’d argue that Slaviša Jokanović wasn’t significantly stronger in this department.  The difference was that firstly, he tried… this shows that unlike Mazzarri he either saw it as important and/or was sensible enough to be taking advice from those inside the club who would surely have been emphasising that this was a good idea. Neither was true of Mazzarri.  Secondly, Jokanović didn’t come out with complete bollocks after a defeat;  it helped that there weren’t many of them, obviously… but when we were poor he said we were poor.  Mazzarri was credited with all sorts of fanciful nonsense after a defeat and in doing so, inadvertently, echoed Gianluca Vialli. Not a good thing.

You can look at the fact that we stayed up and say “well that ought to be enough for Watford”.  Even if you accept that, however, retaining a head coach isn’t about what’s just happened, it’s about where it’s going.  The most telling damnation of Mazzarri’s management was the utter lack of buy in on the pitch from players who looked, to varying degrees, demoralised, unconvinced and frustrated.  Staying up last season didn’t come with a good feeling about how the next was going to go.

There were good results, obviously.  Moments that suggested that he had something… I don’t think he lost the majority until well after Christmas.  The thing is, those results… Manchester United, Leicester, West Ham, Arsenal…. betrayed something else, something that the vacuous, lazy commentary of pundits paid for unresearched opinions rarely acknowledged or suggested awareness of.  That this was the best squad Watford have ever had.  Yes, the benchmark has changed, it’s a competitive division and we’ve only rarely been in the top flight during the era when large multi-national squads have been the thing… nonetheless.  This was a squad that shouldn’t have been looking over its shoulder in April.

The injuries didn’t help, obviously.  We’ll never know quite what he might have achieved with a more reasonable hand – not just fewer injuries, but a less systematic targeting of areas of the squad simultaneously, culminating in the ludicrous Manchester City fiasco when six centre-backs were unavailable.  The flipside of that of course is the frequent suggestion that Mazzarri’s training regime was a root cause of these problems, and certainly the long list of strains and pulls are the sort of thing that are famously “preventable”.

One mark in Walter’s favour, as we’ve already highlighted in this series, was his willingness to involve young players, and not just when forced to pitch them into the first team but throughout the season.  Some welcome long-termness there, nobody’s going to argue against that as a strategy.  Ultimately however there was just much too much in the “against” column and not nearly enough reasons to believe.  Having seen the common purpose which Marco Silva had instilled into what ought to have been a basket case of a club when we went up to the KC Stadium in April, it’s difficult not to be positive about the coming season.  This wouldn’t have been the case had the change of management not happened.

Next Season: Mazzarri, it has been reported, wants to stay in England.  One can only hope that his interpreter has good interview style, for his sake.

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Comments»

1. Ian Lay - 10/07/2017

A wonderful read as always Matt. Thank you for all your hard work putting these end of season reviews together.

2. S. - 18/07/2017

I’d like to second what Ian said – always a great read with both feet planted firmly on the ground. I sincerely hope Watford never slip to the murky depths of Arsenal TV with their fans.

Matt Rowson - 18/07/2017

Many Thx Both


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