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End of Term Report Part 3 28/05/2018

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

8- Tom Cleverley

In the latest of a series of many, yet another player to have their season knackered by injury – and, yes, another bloody hamstring that somehow ruled Tom out for half the season – he started two league games in 2018 and finished neither of them.

A crying shame since he looked every bit the part in almost every game he played;  continuation of that form would certainly have had him up there with Doucouré in contention for Player of the Season.  Indeed – and this is a subject we’ll return to at least once – if Doucouré does leave one can’t help but feel cheated at being deprived of a season of a magnificent midfield which briefly saw Doucs and Chalobah sitting behind the dynamic Cleverley. He looks so much more effective in an advanced central position than he did in the sitting or wide positions to which he was often relegated earlier in his career at bigger clubs with fancier squads.  He’s a leader too, and worth noting that one of the reasons for which we were criticised for a lack of on-pitch leaders late in the season was that they were all bloody injured. Again.

He could score more goals, admittedly.  His prolific loan season yielded 11 goals in 2009/10, he’s managed a further 13 in eight seasons since (though admittedly without Danny Graham charging around in front of him and dragging apart spaces between defenders).  If you’re going to score one though, a last minute winner thumped into the roof of the net against Arsenal and in front of the Rookery isn’t a bad way to do it.

Next Season: In an area of the pitch where competition is fierce, one of the first names on the teamsheet.

9- Troy Deeney

Amongst the list of summer discussons to keep us busy until August comes along, the “has Troy’s time finally come?” one is right up there.  And not without justification.  Troy’s eighth season with Watford saw him fail to reach double figures for the first time since his debut at the club, a year in which a lot of his appearances were off the bench.  This season, too, lack of game time played a part and this was often his doing;  a half-witted suspension picked up retrospectively against Stoke and a slightly harsher sending off against Huddersfield that was nonetheless borne of frustration yielded seven games of suspension between them, contributing to Deeney starting only one in three games under Marco Silva.  Used more frequently by Javi Gracia, Troy nonetheless failed to make his traditional impact, scoring only two Premier League goals from open play, in successive home wins over Everton and West Brom.

Perhaps his most dominant game was in the home win over Arsenal.  This came off the bench too, lest we forget, his half hour tour de force battering us back into the game and preceding his infamous “cojones” BT Sport interview.  You’ll have your own view on that;  for me, the two regrets are that this is probably what Troy’s season will be remembered for – which says a lot – and that he set up the inevitability of the defeat at the Emirates during which the witless element of the home support laughed and pointed as if somehow bumbling to a home win (and sixth place) proved him wrong.  That aside, fair play.  Direct, candid, accurate and very funny.

If what we’ve seen this season is a high water mark for what’s to follow, if it’s all downhill from here, then the argument that now might be the time looks a compelling one.  However I don’t believe that for a second.  The detail most easily forgotten about Troy’s season is the groin injury that wiped out his pre-season and opening month or so.  Many have been the players – Gavin Mahon springs to mind, Heidar too – who suffered badly when their pre-season was blighted and Troy appears no different.  You might not care to allow for this, and you might dispute that we owe him anything – Troy is, after all, very well paid for captaining the team (although as an aside I’d have to wonder what you’re here for if you’re not at least a little bit emotionally invested…).  But for me, even forgetting too the context of one striker likely to leave (Okaka) and one who is either being offered around or has his agent busy (Gray), even setting that aside, Troy is still a leader, a totem, an asset and has much too much going for him in terms of ability and personality to be discarded so recklessly.  To repeat Jonathan Lieuw’s observation in his post-Chelsea Independent report, “(Deeney was)….part battering ram, part talisman, like the carving on the bow of a warship”.

That’s priceless.

Next Season;  Captain.  Leader,  Still.  Yes.

10- Isaac Success

Here’s a much easier one to assess, since there’s very little mystery about this situation.  Isaac Success arrived the best part of two years ago as what was maybe, probably, roughly if perhaps only briefly our record signing (but who can tell?).  He looked young and raw but powerful, athletic, positive, exciting and full of character.  A bundle of fun to watch develop, the only frustration that he was let off the leash so rarely, since his brand of muscular chaos was something that Walter Mazzarri’s side could frankly have done with more of.

As this season has demonstrated however, in several different ways, there’s a fundamental problem.  Not with Isaac’s ability, which is breathtaking… local reports tell of a slaloming insane run in Málaga’s final doomed game of the season, albeit followed by a misjudged decision to lay the ball off.  So… there’s more than enough raw material there.  The problem,it seems, is that the man’s a bloody idiot.

It should be emphasised that being a bloody idiot doesn’t generally prohibit a successful career as a footballer.  Further, we were all bloody idiots at 22 – if I think back to that time I cringe, and if you’re telling me you do otherwise then you’re a liar.  And I wasn’t faced with the challenges of being extraordinarily well paid for playing football whilst living away from home on the edge of one of the liveliest cities in the world (though I never resorted to Baileys…).  Nonetheless… as my co-editor once said of a player whose career never did live up to its potential, “He’s so in love with the idea of being a playboy footballer that he’s forgotten you’ve got to be a footballer first”.

Next Season:  There’s still time for Isaac to sort his head out, and there’s a bloody wonderful footballer in there if he does.  Fingers crossed.

11- Richarlíson

The thing that’s easy to forget is quite how bloody frightening Richarlíson was at the stat of the season… perversely, since “that Richarlíson’s a bit good isn’t he” has been your half-interested mate at work’s opening gambit for long after the young Brazilian had really rather stopped being that good.  A flick through the highlights clips from those early games does wonders though…  the speed, the cleverness of feet, the aggression, the bloody-mindedness in response to the early softener that every opponent resorted to, as if that had never been tried before.  That was what was most impressive perhaps, the refusal to be bullied into submission.  He had tricks and pace and a bit of grit too (albeit, if we’re honest, his finishing was never all that even when everything else was going well).

So where did it all go?  Certainly his performances since before Christmas bear little comparison to the flaming torch that was so impossible to ignore earlier in the season.  The theories are manifold, the most popular being physical exhaustion given the duration of his length of playing time without a break.  This was high on the list of Marco Silva’s crimes for me;  Everton nonsense aside, Silva’s unwillingness to respond to what appeared to be fatigue of key players borne of over-reliance upon key individuals was most obviously manifested in Richarlíson.  On the other hand… perhaps the loss of a Portuguese-speaking coach who obviously got a lot out of the youngster for a short time might also be a factor;  certainly for a young lad away from home not speaking the language, a boss who can communicate with you efficiently must have been a big help.

A less palatable hypothesis is that Richarlíson rather thinks that his work here is done.  I can’t shake the irritation of his appearance off the bench against Palace when, with his side desperate for some impetus he offered precious little.  Being physically drained shouldn’t prohibit at least ten minutes of oomph as a second half substitute.  Then there’s the links to other clubs, which were inevitable given his early season form and reflect his success rather than his failings but…  players heads have been turned before.

Next Season:  If Richarlíson’s slump is due to a combination of fatigue and the pressures of being away from home then we owe him all the support we can give him; there’s a stellar talent there the likes of which we’ve rarely been treated to.  On the other hand if his head’s not here any more we’re better off getting rid for as much cash as someone’s willing to throw at us.  Except Everton, obvs.


1. Harefield Hornet - 28/05/2018

Great stuff Mat and love the assessment of Success and 22 year olds in general. I have to admit as a 22 year old I did resort to Baileys and can remember waking up in the old car park at the back on several occasions! Oh you meant the drink!

2. David Allen - 28/05/2018

Another well balanced resumé, Matt. Lots of food for thought.
May I offer another possible reason for Richarlison’s crashin performance? Basically, clubs found out how to counter his skill: by fouling him. He was statistically the most fouled player in the Premiership last season. If you know that every time you get the ball you’re going to be clobbered – and often painfully – it must put doubts in your still youthful mind. Perhaps he should learn from George Best who replied on how he dealt with defenders who tried to hurt him, “I humiliate them”.

Matt Rowson - 28/05/2018

That possibility hadn’t escaped me David, but he was having the crap kicked out of him earlier in the season and seemed to relish it…?

James - 28/05/2018

Another possibility is that missing all those sitters took its toll on his confidence. His response to fluffing one does seem to be more “Oh my god the world’s ended!”, rather than, “Sod it, I’ll score the next one.”

3. HornetFez - 28/05/2018

Spot on yet again. Yes the Ramage/Success comparison is also there, but Ramage did plenty (if not nearly enough during his time here) good stuff whereas Success has but one header to his name and not much else. Ho

Matt Rowson - 28/05/2018

Was plagiarising the words used to describe Ramage rather than draw direct comparison. Yes, Ramage did more but should have played at a higher level and joined us in his mid twenties, not at twenty. Jury still out on that comparison.

4. Ian Roullier - 24/07/2018

“On the other hand if his head’s not here any more we’re better off getting rid for as much cash as someone’s willing to throw at us.  Except Everton, obvs.”

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