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End of Term Report Part 6 07/06/2018

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

25- José Holebas

There’s an undeniable charm about José Holebas.   Yes he’s hot-headed, furiously competitive, prone to throw his toys out of the pram to the point where you occasionally fear for his health (let alone that of those facing him), but there’s a charm nonetheless. Sometimes it manages to conceal itself quite deep admittedly such as during his lowest point this season, a gutless contribution to the miserable home defeat to Huddersfield.  Despite this, and other occasional lapses, there’s no failing to warm to his furious desire to win.

Beneath all the bluster he’s also been a very decent full back for us in a position which is as difficult to fill in the top flight as it was a division below when we signed Paul Mayo to replace Robbo fifteen years ago;  witness Ashley Young, Fabien Delph and James Milner all being shoe-horned, admittedly with some success, into this slot for the biggest clubs over the last year or two.  Not flawless, liable to occasionally be caught behind, but an experienced tick against an awkward box who has, for the most part, done us proud.  And only the nine bookings in 2018/19 too…

Next Season: That José is still here three years on would have been considered an unlikely outcome at several points during, and indeed prior to his Watford career.  However he turns 34 this month, and it seems inconceivable that some succession planning won’t be taking place.  Whether José will take kindly to being usurped I rather doubt…

27- Christian Kabasele

One of the quiet success stories of our year, Christian finished the campaign in the most solid looking central partnership we’d seen all season alongside the rejuvenated Craig Cathcart.  In actual fact, however, Christian had been a force for good throughout most of the campaign, quickly establishing himself as an automatic pick on the left side of the defence for the most part in the absence of the injured Britos – until Christian himself took his turn to sit out three months with a hamstring injury earlier this year.

It appears that this injury might have cost him a place in Belgium’s World Cup squad, a squad from which he was cut at the last… albeit that this is an area in which the Belgians appear well stocked.  For the Hornets he’s looked composed, confident, agile and strong, every inch a top defender… his worst fault, perhaps, that he occasionally loses himself as if distracted by an interesting passing beetle (to quote the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s advice on learning to fly).  This was most dramatically showcased at Wembley, when his brain freeze contributed to Karnezis’ aggravating error.  Increasingly the exception however, Kabasele one of the less celebrated jewels in our crown.

Next Season:  A solid defender and a likeable man, you’d hope that Kabasele is one of the bedrocks that the side will be built around.

28- André Carrillo

A player whose signing was clearly chased quite hard before his loan was secured in late August, he managed to the pull off the trick of looking like a talented, capable player without ever quite working out or convincing you that he would be worth the £20m-odd that was being touted for a permanent deal.  There was a lot to like…  an endearing directness about his play, a tendency to be the player that tried to drag some quality out of our less convincing performances.  However there were also too many games that passed him by, that he took part in without really influencing.

He was very much Marco Silva’s man, and equally transparently not Javi Gracia’s man.  Or rather… for whatever reason he was all but discarded.  Gracia only started him once in the Premier League, at home to West Brom.  Gerard Deulofeu had been injured the week before, but the returning Will Hughes replaced Carrillo from the bench and the Peruvian never got another look in.

In the fall-out of Silva’s dalliances with Everton it was widely rumoured that there were players in the squad angling to follow their manager to Goodison Park.   Whilst names weren’t named, it’s difficult not to associate Carrillo with this rumour, particularly given his standing in the squad after Silva left.

Next Season:  All but inconceivable that Carrillo will be returning to the Vic.  Inevitably rumours are linking him again with his ex-boss.  It is to be hoped that he’s the only member of Silva’s Watford squad that follows him to Merseyside.

29- Étienne Capoue

There are few starker indicators of How Much Stuff Has Changed than the fact that at various times over the last year or so you wouldn’t have had Étienne Capoue in your first choice Watford side.  Perhaps you still wouldn’t.  A far cry from as few as three years ago when Capoue was the marquee record signing of our first summer back in the top flight.

Nowhere in the side are our current riches more extravagantly laid out than in midfield, admittedly.  Nonetheless, it’s remarkable both that Étienne Capoue only started five of 24 league games under Marco Silva, or that this isn’t particularly remarkable.  What was more remarkable was Capoue’s response to being thrown back into the side under Javi Gracia as our midfield options gradually dissipated.  His prolific run at the start of last season had suggested that an advanced midfield role was Étienne’s best position but here he was back in one of the nominally “holding” roles alongside Abdoulaye Doucouré, and produced arguably his most consistent run of form since joining the Hornets.

The ability has always been there.  And… it’s not that he’s suddenly flawless, Dad’s ongoing objection to his tendency to dangle a foot half-heartedly in the direction of a tackle isn’t based on expectation alone.  Nonetheless, a stunning end to the season from the Frenchman, including my favourite moment of the season when his defiance of Chelsea’s equaliser at Vicarage Road, surging forward in denial of the way the match appeared to be turning changed the tone of the game again.

Next Season:  A very real and versatile option in a competitive area of the pitch.  All good.


1. Robert Hill - 07/06/2018

The time against Huddersfield at the Vic when Jose decided to sit down in our penalty area and let Huddersfield virtually walk the ball into the net was totally bazaar. But weirdly enough I still respect him. He has that fierce desire to win and I think him going on strike in that game was a message to the other players? The one thing you cannot insult Jose with is a burning passion to win. How he does that is sometimes very bazaar though.

Also, I believe Craig Cathcart has been very underrated. He is consistent and dependable. He never moans but just gets on with his job, which mostly is very applaudable. He’s one that you sort of ignore, at times because he is so dependable. He never throws a wobbly and very seldom gets involved in the dirty side of the game. But he is very determined and focused, and when he hasn’t played we have missed him hugely.

2. StevenFewster - 07/06/2018

Jose’s experience has been invaluable in that position and if they do decide to put him on the market, or bazaar, I hope it’s the end of next season with a decent transition period. I think given one more season, we can settle on how to spell that surname.

3. Vic Bait - 07/06/2018

Bit harsh to apportion blame to Kabasele for the Spurs goal. Karnezis called for it so he ducked out of the header.

Matt Rowson - 07/06/2018

Not how I saw it. I thought Karnezis expected Kabasele to clear it and was flummoxed when he ducked.

4. James - 07/06/2018

“There’s an undeniable charm about José Holebas”

You lost me here. He’s a good left-back, but he’s about as likeable as Ashley Cole. He’s probably the player I’ve found most difficult to support in all my time as a Watford fan. There’s others who were clearly bastards – King, Connelly, etc; but I liked them while they were actually playing for us. I like a lot of what Holebas does, but I can’t like [i]him[/i].

Yes, he has a will to win, but it’s focussed on winning the personal battle, on avenging any perceived slight, however small. If he could get his ego under control and remember there’s a match to win once in a while, he’d be a much better player. And, of course, not playing for us.

crisb - 08/06/2018

in terms of unlikeability Holebas is pipped to the post by Gray for me, but it’s a close run thing.

For some reason there’s something intensely annoying about a low scoring striker who gets a goal and then kind of acts like it’s the 25th of the season! I realise you need a certain amount of arrogance to play in that position – and lord knows it has been tough in terms of chances for the strikers this term – but it doesn’t need to be coupled with zero humility or sense of realism.

apart from those two the rest of the squad are pretty likeable 🙂

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